Mental Diet

There is a lot of mental activity that revolves around the articulation of the details of the theory that health is in part a function of diet. All the evidence indicates that this is the case. If you eat a clean diet of foods whose origin you know something about, it will likely help you avoid all kinds of health problems, and likely improve your everyday life by giving you more energy and making you feel better generally. People pay varying degrees of attention to their diet, but most accept that eating certain things every day or every week over a long period will have a certain effect, be it positive or negative, on their health.

Others will go further and emphasize that it is not enough that you consume certain foods – the source of the foods matters as well. Spinach is good, but spinach grown without the use of pesticides is better than spinach grown with the use of pesticides. These questions and the implied research can consume a lot of life energy in the individual and have become a sector of the economy in the aggregate, and rightfully so – it seems likely that eating the right food today often means not needing medicine of one kind or another tomorrow.

This points at the question of why we do not think of our mental diet with the same rigor or in the same terms. This question is particularly pressing given the prevalence of mental health problems in modern life, whether those problems have always been present and have only recently been discovered and diagnosed, or whether they have been provoked by our current circumstances. Clearly what we consume with our minds, that is, what we think about as provoked from an outside source, affects our mental life. Yet we do not think about what we consume mentally as though it could be informed by an awareness of certain needs that could be met or neglected in the short and long term.

Some people go for years consuming nothing but social media, Netflix, the intellectual content of their jobs, and what is colloquially known as “news.” Then they wonder why they feel bad. This may well be the mental equivalent of living on microwave ramen noodles, fast food, chips, and cookies. It is also possible that just as some people who are particularly concerned about the quality of what they ingest physically trust nearly nothing produced by large corporations, a similar principle could be applied to great benefit in guiding our choices about what we ingest mentally.

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