Food for the Mind, Food for the Body

(Editor’s note: This article from David Driscoll is from the Spring 2016 issue of Brain World magazine.)

Do you live on a farm? More so than at any point in history, your answer is probably “No.” So, you’ll have to just imagine what it would be like living in a village or on a farm where you grow your own food. You would probably be eating comfortably even if you didn’t have too many menu options each day. But what if suddenly the majority of your food came from supermarkets and restaurants? Each meal would become a complicated event full of financial, emotional, social, and even moral implications. Do you eat something delicious? Do you know about and approve of the corporation that sold you your meal? Are you simply trying to save money?

When diet becomes entangled with these other factors, we can easily lose our natural sense of what is healthy. We become flooded with choices and conflicting information. Obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related illnesses have become increasingly prevalent in our modern-supermarket society. Even though we have a natural desire to eat, we become sick when we eat too much or the wrong things. So how are we trying to adapt and maintain our health in spite of this overwhelming array of food options?

There is currently another transition occurring in our world and it is every bit as dramatic and influential as the supermarket revolution. It’s the information revolution. Information is a lot like food. Everyone knows that human beings have a natural desire to eat. Fewer people may be aware that we also have a natural desire to “consume” information. And in the same way that we can get sick when our desire to eat is not managed based on healthy principles and practices, our desire to “consume” information can make us sick if not managed well.

Many people believe that serious mental illness is on the rise in modern society. Others suggest that it’s not mental illness necessarily but the effects of stress that we are witnessing. Either way, the challenges of being mentally healthy are more apparent than ever before. Why? Because we live in an “information age.”

There are nearly 1 billion registered websites on the Internet today. Google handles more than 40,000 Internet searches per second. This is not just an information supermarket. This is an information-Walmart multiplied by an information-Costco multiplied by infinity, accessible by the touch of a button. If the supermarket revolution challenged us to determine what a healthy diet looks like, the information revolution does the same for our mental diet. Do I want to consume this information? Is it healthy? Where did it come from? Who created it? How will it make me feel?

When determining what to consume, both in terms of food and information, it is helpful to have a standard with which to judge the effects of our choices. For food, it is helpful to have a sense of what it feels like to be truly healthy. It is possible to feel what the food you eat is doing to you when the senses of your body are restored to a natural equilibrium. But what kind of standard should we use for the mind?

“Feeding” the brain with positive, healthy information, in much the same way that you would feed your body healthy food, might well be the key to many of our problems. And as science is increasingly proving, the healthiest information for the brain is that which resonates with self-worth, self-respect, and an appreciation for our interconnectedness as human beings. This kind of natural state develops when we are awakened to our own value through our brains.

With this natural sense of self-worth we can start to determine which information is healthy. This can be similar to what happens when you awaken your sense of well-being. Your body will give you feedback naturally, separate from thoughts and emotions, regarding whether or not what you ate was healthy. In the same way, when we awaken our sense of healthy information, we can wisely decide what information we take in.

If we aren’t careful, we can find the better part of the day gone, spent surfing cyberspace. It’s not that we didn’t have good intentions starting out — it could have just been a routine we found ourselves spiraling into — looking up one thing and moving on to the next. If this sounds like you, maybe ask yourself why you keep going — is it something you need to do, or something that offers a bit of instant gratification? It’s the same type of thing that leads to overeating.

Perhaps what we need today is the ability to filter useful and healthy information from that which is not useful or healthy. Which of those 1 billion websites are you going to visit today? Ask your brain if what you are reading resonates with the feeling of inherent self-worth in you and in others. If it does, enjoy that tasty bit of information. If it doesn’t, skip it. Or, if you’re craving some sweet or salty info as a treat, even though it’s not healthy, just be aware and don’t overdo it. Your brain will thank you later. Bon appétit!

(Editor’s note: This article from David Driscoll is from the Spring 2016 issue of Brain World magazine.)

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