A healthy diet for your mind
Did you know that sales of junk food have spiked since we all went into lockdown? That doesn’t surprise me. Everyone wants some comfort right now.
But I’m not going to talk about healthy eating today. You can keep the potato chips and consider a different kind of healthy diet.
What does it look like to feed a healthy diet to your mind?Bree Melanson
This writing prompt from Bree Melanson stopped me in my tracks. I have never considered a healthy diet for my mind. What does that even mean?
We all know what a healthy diet for the body looks like: drink more water and less soda, eat more vegetables and less meat, eat more fruit and less refined sugars, etc.
But what do you feed your mind?
What are you putting into your mind, and is it good for you?
If you were going to start a diet, one of the first things you would do is clean out your pantry, right? Get rid of the Oreos, toss the Cheezits.
In the imaginary pantry of your mind, what can be cleaned out? Well, you might be thinking, it’s a lot easier to throw a package of Oreos into the trash can than it is to remove a thought from our mind.
Or is it?
Maybe you are, in some way, feeding your negative thoughts. Maybe you have given them a comfortable place to hang out, where they go wild and invite over all their friends. When you do that, the negative thoughts form patterns, and these patterns can become entrenched.
Here are some suggestions for starting a healthy diet for your mind.
What do you hear?
Think for a moment about what you listen to. Because this is one way we feed our minds, right? Listening to the news, to fear mongers, worriers, complainers, and just downright negative people can contribute to our own negative thoughts.
Maybe a healthy diet for your mind includes curtailing news coverage. Set boundaries with negative people, so you can limit your exposure. Seek out conversations with people who make you feel good. Listen to music and nature sounds. Or just listen to the quiet.
What thoughts repeat in your head?
We have all gone down the proverbial rabbit hole of worry and what-if in our minds. It can become an entrenched habit. But it is possible to change this habit.
Here is a mindfulness practice that can help.
Become an objective observer of the thoughts in your mind. Simply sit back and watch the thoughts go by, as if you were watching a parade. Don’t get attached to anything, don’t push anything away. See what’s there.
When you notice that you’ve become distracted by a thought, gently bring yourself back to the place of observation and awareness.
This practice can point out negative thought patterns, as well as show us how often we allow ourselves to think these patterns. This practice can also help train our minds to let go of these thoughts and return to the present moment.
Seek the positive.
In his book Buddha’s Brain, Rick Hanson writes: “Our brains are teflon for positive experiences, and velcro for negative experiences.”
It’s normal to hang on to the negative. Like that time your report card showed all A’s and one B. Which one did you focus on? Or when you got 100 positive comments and 1 negative comment. Which one do you remember?
You can take active steps to hang on to the positive experiences, however. Think back over your day, and make a list of the positive events, the big ones and the little ones. Actively look for the good things. Savor those experiences. Focus on your emotions and body sensations as you recall these feel-good events. Absorb them into your body.
I hope this inspires you to consider a healthy diet for your mind.
What practices have you tried?
What does a healthy diet for your mind look like for you?
Leave me a note in the comments section — I love hearing from you!