I think we all agree that it is important to consume healthy food to have a healthy life, but your diet is more than what you eat. Let’s look at how what we consume can impact whether or not we have healthy relationships.
Similar to the way nutrients from food fuel your body’s functions, the messages from the media and people you surround yourself with fuel your mental, emotional, and spiritual functions. Here are three examples, plus some questions to ask yourself to see if you might need to make some adjustments in your consumption.
Your diet is more than what you eat – it is the media you consume. Social media is the first part. Many studies have explored whether more frequent use of social media is associated with various mental health concerns, including depression, body image concerns / disordered eating, and externalizing problems. Reportedly almost half of teens admitted to using their mobile device within five minutes of going to sleep, and 36% report checking their devices at least once in the middle of the night. This does not lead to productive sleep.
Adults are not much better – when is the last time you went more than an hour without checking your device? Do you pick up your phone to greet the day before greeting your spouse? This pattern is not sustainable.
Healthy relationships are a component of Mental Well-being, a pillar of Sustainable Productivity. Connection is a key to healthy relationships and you cannot connect if you are buried in your device. Look up, look around, look your friends and family in the eye and have a conversation. You might be surprised at what you find and how things improve.
The second part is traditional media. Network and cable TV, podcasts, radio shows, streaming services, newspapers, tabloid magazine… not to mention the “news” channels. The amount of media content today is staggering. We complain about not having time for hobbies, self-care, or other priorities and healthy habits, yet we do seem to have time to spend on media. Especially as we age. The average American watches almost 4 1/2 hours of TV each day. This almost doubles in the 65+ age range.
Are you spending 270 minutes each day watching content that feeds your soul? Is that sustainable for you? Are you satisfied with how much media you are consuming in a day? How does that impact your mental health?
It might be time to make a list of what you could do instead. Read, sports/exercise, craft, garden, take online lectures or see what your library offers, organize your home, play games/cards – the list is really endless. Start with a literal list on paper (or your phone or computer) of a few ideas. As you hear about interesting classes / concerts / ideas – jot them down. You can create a menu of choices to pick from when you feel yourself turning to the TV.
Your diet is more than what you eat – it is who you spend your time with. As mentioned before, healthy relationships are a component of Mental Well-being, a pillar of Sustainable Productivity. But let me give you some tough love – some people in your world are energy vampires. There are other people you spend time with because you feel like you should, or you always have. It doesn’t have to be like that. If the people in your life are not feeding your soul, consider why it is that you feel you need to continue spending time with that person.
Do you feel drained when you come home from spending time with a certain person? Are there relationships where you feel like you are making more of an effort than the other person? During quarantine, have you been relieved you have not had to interact with certain people?
It might be time to let these relationships go. Different relationships are in our lives for different seasons. If the season has ended consider if this is time to move on.
What small adjustment are you willing to make today related to consumption?
McCrae N, Gettings S, Purssell E. Social media and depressive symptoms in childhood and adolescence: A systematic review. Ado-lesc Res Rev. 2017;2(4):315-330. 12.
Holland G, Tiggemann M. A systematic review of the impact of the use of social networking sites on body image and disordered eating outcomes. Body Image. 2016;17:100-110. doi: 10.1016/j.body-im.2016.02.008
Rideout V, Robb MB. Social Media, Social Life. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media; 2018. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/uploads/research/2018_cs_socialmedia-sociallife_executivesummary-final-release_3_lowres.pdf. Published 2018.