How’s Your Mental Diet Supporting Your Mental Health?
A big part of your mental health is determined by your mental diet. But what’s a mental diet? Basically, it’s what you put in your mind. It includes social media, conversations, news, reading, gossip and more. And every day, there’s so much of it… In this post, you’ll learn how your mental diet can either feed or deplete your mental health, and identify what small changes you can make to get the best positive impacts on your life.
How do you feel, mentally? Good, free, inspired and feeling like life is full of potential, or heavy, overwhelmed, stressed and scared? It probably depends largely on your mental diet.
Your mental space belongs to you – maybe, or sometimes. Technically, it’s yours, but it’s also preyed upon by marketers who have invested a great deal to make sure you compare yourself so you compensate and try to feel better by buying whatever they sell. Marketing’s purpose is to make you feel vulnerable so you buy, and it’s so “normal” as to become unnoticeable.
How do you feel after you watch someone’s image of a perfect life? After you watch the news? Social media feed you an image of success, beauty, travel. As you compare your life with that image, you want that for yourself: that’s your vulnerability. The news feed you fear: war, disease, injustice, violence: that’s your vulnerability. Your image of the world, of success and fear, have become part of your mental landscape and probably guide quite a few of your choices.
Do you or I look amazing when we roll out of bed or after a frazzling workday? We don’t, and that’s normal. In the social media version we get fed, we look amazing. But here is this reality check: the image I show of myself image is the picture you see here: a photoshoot with an amazing photographer Nicole (you can find the link to her website below), which took over two hours to get me ready with makeup, hair, clothes, lighting and props. And this doesn’t include the shopping for the “look”. Then three hours posing and shooting pictures to get to that single image of me. In real life, we don’t have the time or the inclination for more than 10 minutes at best. It’s not a priority to look like this all the time. Social media/ movies/ TV personalities are paid to look good. The question is: how do you feel when when you compare yourself or your life with an influencer’s image?
In both instances (perfect image and scary newsfeed) you’ve become vulnerable. It’s now part of your mental space, and your reality has been distorted. You allow these external images to come into your life. I’m not saying you should never watch the news, or block all your social media, but you should be cautious and limit your intake of mental “junk food”. Watching over and over the latest on war zones and the next pandemic is not a healthy diet. It’s a depression diet. Comparing yourself with the most “successful” influencers is not a healthy diet either. Both make you feel anxious, stressed – vulnerable.
Anxiety impacts your mental health – and it sells. When you feel vulnerable, you buy. It’s an amazing marketing tool. You feed your mind images and you compare yourself. You wish you could be more successful, so buy the look of it: clothes, a new car… You wish your family could be protected, so you buy more security systems. Holding yourself prisoner of unrealistic images only makes you anxious, depressed, and never successful or safe enough.
Take control of your mental diet. It’s your choice. And as you decrease your image consumption, you’ll find you free up space for creativity, fun and less frantic days. Consider the time you spend watching news/social media every day – it builds up fast: an hour a day makes seven hours a week – the equivalent of almost a whole workday. What would this time open up for you?
So what can you do different? Choose what you feed your mind:
- Stop checking social media showing fakes images of perfection.
- Limit the feed of bad news in your days.
- Limit checking your phone when you have a moment. Instead, get up, stretch, breathe, have a glass of water, chat with your colleagues or kids. This is real life. Media is not.
- Start to focus on the reality of what you CAN do, instead of what you Could or Should do.
- Leave space in your mind for yourself, your choices, your life, and what you can do in the world.