Not all toxins come in the shape of a Happy Meal. Not all poisons come with a skull and crossbones on the side of the bottle. And certainly not all bad habits come with a Surgeon’s General Warning across the box.
What enters our body matters. But sometimes what we allow in isn’t in solid form.
Toxins of the mind are prevalent in our society. Fear, willful ignorance, and scarcity run rampant. These can eat away at you and cause disease faster than any attack from an external living organism ever could.
There’s one major mental toxin that tends to get left off the list, though. I think it’s because this activity has become so ubiquitous to “normal”, modern life that we don’t recognize the grip it has on us.
That activity? Consumption.
You Are What You Consume
The rise of technology and digital platforms has spawned an avenue for consumption on the level we’ve never seen before as a species. The sheer volume of information and media available is mind-boggling.
We have been so consumed by consumption that we do it with muscle memory. Opening news apps, scrolling through social media, and flipping channels before we even consciously realize we’re doing it. Many of us spend more waking hours looking at a screen than we do getting fresh air in nature or interacting face-to-face with other people.
When we exist non-stop in this state of consumption, all of our ideas, thoughts, and feelings are being negotiated by someone else. We abdicate our energetic allotment as other people see fit. It’s like the old saying goes,
If you don’t choose your path, someone else will choose for you.
It’s not just TV and social media, either. Other mediums such as music, magazines, blogs, and podcasts contain other people’s energy and can become toxic sources of consumption. Song lyrics are notorious for getting stuck in your head, so make sure they’re words you want playing on repeat.
Fed By The Feed
How many times have you been scrolling your feed when a strong emotion hits you? Maybe you instantly take on someone else’s grief or outrage. Maybe you become jealous. The ambush strikes without warning right after we get a slot-machine style dopamine hit from refreshing the feed. Suddenly you’re sucked into someone else’s energy for an indefinite amount of time before something snaps you out of it.
We start bearing burdens that we were never meant to bear (or even know about). The things we consume stay with us after we close the app.
Oftentimes, the information that ambushes me on my feed are things I never would have known about otherwise. People I’ve never met, and probably will never meet living lives I can’t relate to. And yet, by getting on the app and scrolling, I’ve implicitly given my permission to take on their energy as my own.
(Let’s be real. Energetic sovereignty on social media is tough. Us humans can only take so much before leaks happen.)
Oh Be Careful Little Eyes
Endless scrolling isn’t the only consumption eating away at our culture. Streaming platforms have turned binge watching into a sport. There are more TV shows and movies available in any genre to fill many lifetimes of couch potato-ing.
I have to wonder sometimes as much as I love a good action movie with a handsome lead if my health isn’t taking a toll. The elevated heart rate and increase in cortisol I feel from the carefully constructed framing and music designed to create tension in and a visceral response from the viewer lingers long after the credits roll. It also means that I’ve allowed someone else to biomodulate my body for 2 hours without my having a say in it.
I’m sure you’ve felt it before, too. You get so absorbed in the suspense that the real world fades away and you don’t snap out of it and become aware of your body or surroundings until the screen goes black.
That’s not to say we should never watch movies or that all media is bad. It can be a lot of fun to watch the latest blockbuster. What I’m saying is that we need to bring awareness into what we choose to consume, why we consume it, and what affect it has on us.
If we’re watching movie after movie just to have something to do or letting the TV play in the background out of boredom or a need for constant entertainment, that’s a red flag.
Not to mention how common it is for a program to expose us to negativity, violent images, and indecent exposure to the extent that the shock factor is all but gone. Our brains register these scenes in a way that negatively impacts our biochemistry without ever throwing a red flag in our conscious minds.
Call For Revolution
What we meditate on determines our vibration. That doesn’t always look like sitting in lotus humming a mantra. Meditation is an active constant in our brains that turns to rumination when we allow the weeds to grow.
Allowing others at their own discretion to determine what goes into your brain and what you meditate on puts your health at great risk. We know that the body responds to thoughts, whether positive or negative. Our thoughts send signals to the rest of us about how to respond to the environment.
The stream of media we consume tends to leave us in a sympathetic state of high cortisol. The message? Our environment isn’t safe, and the body should respond accordingly. We begin to feel dis-ease that escalates with every hijacked second.
I suggest another path.
What would your life look like if you shut it down? Pulled the plug. Detached from the matrix.
I would argue that the most revolutionary thing we can do right now is live.
Being in nature is the antithesis of being attached to technology. Our healthy biological rhythms come back in tune and the body detoxes and releases inflammation merely from sunlight and soil contact. Meanwhile the blue light and radiation outpouring from any device distracts, disrupts, and inflames every system in the body.
There are simple ways to combat this, although simple doesn’t mean easy. We’re addicted to the dopamine hits from social media roulette and our muscle memory is wired to reach for tech any second we aren’t feeling immediately entertained. Unplugged life feels boring at first because it isn’t filled with adrenaline. Our brains are so used to the tech lifestyle that we don’t know what to do with ourselves without it.
Conscious consumption on our part changes the game. When we take ownership for what goes into our minds and bodies, we’re no longer the victim. It gives us control over our energy stream and makes energetic sovereignty easier to manage.
Short of severing all ties to the outside world, we can never fully avoid consumption — nor should we! There are brilliant ideas and art (even in media) that are beneficial to consume.
Conscious consumption is the practice of separating what serves us from what doesn’t, and acting accordingly with what we take in.
For me, I love consuming books. Sometimes it’s podcasts or other people’s blogs. These mediums are also far more predictable in content and energy than social media or streaming services. I try to stick to consuming things that are educational (without being information overload) or uplifting.
Breaking Up With Facebook
My current approach to adjusting my consumption has been somewhere between baby steps and cold turkey.
I deleted social media apps from my phone. I have to open Safari to get to Facebook or Instagram, which are my two primary platforms. Or I have to open my computer and go to the websites. It’s not a perfect solution since I still have easy access. But it’s a pattern interrupt for the unconscious, immediate reach for my phone where my thumb opens the app before I realize I’ve done it.
My husband and I have started leaving the TV off in the evenings. Unless there’s something we’ve been recommended and intentionally set out to watch something, watching just to watch is off the menu. It forces us to find other things to do that are more productive like reading books we’ve been “meaning to get around to”. Or better yet, actually having a conversion face-to-face that lasts for more than 5 minutes.
I’ve also unfollowed anyone who consistently brings up negative emotions when I see their content.
From influencers who consistently give their hundred thousand followers bad health advice (yes, this puts me in the vicinity of outrage) to acquaintances who put meaningless squabbles or willful ignorance on my feed on a regular basis. I know whose Stories to avoid watching because they’ll set me off. I even step away from people who aren’t in my immediate circle going through grief because that energy isn’t mine to process, but my empathetic nature easily absorbs it.
Creating Over Consuming
Reducing consumption allows for the flow of our own ideas and inspiration to come forward. We make space for our own life instead of living vicariously through others.
How many times have you watched a cooking show and envied the skills of the chefs creating amazing food? But then, say things like “I can’t cook.” or “I could never do that.” Well, you’re right. Because you’ve never turned off the TV, gotten off the couch, and gotten to work in the kitchen.
The expert craftsman we entertain ourselves with didn’t get good by watching someone else on TV do it. They used their precious time to practice creating their own work.
That’s not to say we can’t enjoy watching someone else do their art, especially if it’s not something we ever intend on mastering. But it’s the mindfulness and intention we bring into the consumption that matters.
When we stop consuming, we can start creating. We make more time to meditate, move, converse, and dream. Creation nurtures the soul and makes us more present. All good things for our health and wellness.
I also think that bringing our creation to consumption ratio into balance promotes those vacation vibrations in our day-to-day lives because we tend to consume less and be more present while on vacation.
Imagine what you could do with your life if you didn’t dedicate it to consuming other people’s lives and lived your own instead?
So next time you reach for a screen to entertain you, ask yourself what you’re looking for and why you think consuming someone else’s media will give it to you. It might just be that making a little more space for creation and presence in your own life is just what the doctor ordered.
Here’s to unplugging and getting back to nature.
What are you creating?