Let me know if this sounds familiar. You wake up and check your social media news feeds. A person who you would totally cross the street to avoid posted a rant about their unpleasant morning. Then, you’re bombarded with news of suffering and tragedy from around the globe. You feel drained, and your day hasn’t even started!
What if you could wake up feeling inspired? How would you live differently if you could start your day by focusing on what you’re ready to create and tuning into your own feelings?
In an age where we are exposed to a constant stream of information, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. The emotional experience around the barrage of advertisements, articles and images that we see each day is significant. Your state of mind can have debilitating impacts on your health. Research has shown that the emotion of fear alone, “triggers more than 1,400 known physical and chemical responses and activates more than 30 different hormones.” [link]
How can we experience less stress and more joy, while still participating in modern society? I invite you to join me in a practice that has greatly improved my emotional and physical health – an info cleanse.
Cleanses are about conscious consumption. The goal isn’t to deprive ourselves of anything nourishing, the goal is to fuel ourselves with nutrient-rich content that makes us feel good! An info cleanse is essentially about being mindful of the media you consume and how it makes you feel. Then, adjust your intake accordingly.
When I first tell my clients or friends about going on an info cleanse, they have many valid concerns, such as:
- How will I stay in touch with my family and friends?
- But I love looking at memes, they are funny!
- I have to be on social media for my business. (No worries, so do I!)
- I have to know about what is going on in the world to be a responsible citizen. #FOMO
- I can’t stop watching my favorite series.
- Filtering my feed will limit my perspective.
My initial response is, I feel you! These are important things to process. The key is to navigate information in an attentive and intentional way. One way to do this is to make a note of the physical sensations or feelings you have when you are consuming information.
Questions to ask while you browse:
- Does this content enrich me and affirm my sense of self and purpose in the world?
- Does seeing this content affect my body image or sense of self-worth?
- Do I exalt how much I love my life at the end of this info-binge?
- Does being informed about global or local politics inspire me to take positive action?
Reflect on these questions throughout your day, and consider which sources you truly “need” in your life in order to stay informed.
Out of sight, out of mind
We are becoming a global society of informed consumers. People care about what ingredients are in their food, what chemicals are used in household cleaning products, what fibers are in the fabrics they wear. We have begun to understand the correlation between what we put in and on our bodies, and how we feel. It’s time to apply this conscious consumption to our minds! What ideas and values are you putting into your mind every day?
Recently, there has been raised awareness about how media is formulated to be addictive. Social media platforms, by their very nature, present a warped version of reality. Only seeing the shiny, superficial aspects of people’s milestones gives us an unrealistic perspective of our community. Think about how media may affect how you view the world around you.
Just as someone with lactose intolerance or gluten sensitivity can decide to change their diet after their diagnosis in order to improve their health, we can identify our information allergens and make a plan to optimize our emotional well-being by limiting our consumption of upsetting media.
It’s important to note that by no means should we block every person we disagree with or stop consuming media entirely. Polarization is a serious issue, none of us wants to live in a divided society where each individual lives in an echo chamber of their own opinions. Nor do we want to live under a rock. It is possible to find balance. For example, avoiding fear-mongering news sites but still engaging real-life friends with different perspectives on important issues, and truly listening, even if we have differing opinions.
How to do an info cleanse
There are four phases to a successful info cleanse that will leave you with a stronger, healthier connection to yourself and the world around you:
DETOX Eliminate all social media/news apps on your phone or turn off the wifi connection for an hour (or a day). Take a social media break, for any length of time. Start with something that feels doable.
WITNESS Journal about how you are feeling. Do you feel like you are missing something? Attune to the reactions you have to the shows that you regularly watch, the news sources you follow, etc. It is like allergy testing. You are looking for signs of irritation. Identify what doesn’t sit right. What doesn’t support your learning and living path?
What information do you ingest? List all the ideas you are exposed to in a day, as well as their sources. This includes people.
What are you ingesting that clogs your system? What makes you feel depressed, hopeless, angry? Pay attention to these feelings.
FILTER Take time to unfollow or mute every person whose posts don’t enrich you. Consider unfollowing folks you no longer recognize or relate to, and unsubscribe from feeds that you consider to be toxic. Unsubscribe from newsletters, subscriptions, and alerts that use fear-mongering, or no longer inspire you. You are welcome to follow me (if that thrills you and feeds you).
CURATE Make a list of all your interests and aspirations, then follow the people that are doing those things! Think of how you want to feel when reading a book, watching a film or engaging in social media or the news.
Allow for content that feeds your mind and feels right for you. This will ensure that every time you do decide to pick up your device, you’ll be mindfully consuming exactly what you want to, not passively scrolling through whatever is thrown your way.
Once you’ve completed the steps of detoxing, witnessing, filtering and curating, you’ll be prepared to discern what builds you up and what brings you down. Transforming how you consume media can be life-changing! By connecting intentionally instead of based on old acquaintances and algorithms, you’ll begin to form a stronger, more authentic network. And, hopefully, have a more peaceful, enriching experience of the information era.
Just as we are an amalgamation of the five people we spend the most time with, we are also the sum of the ideas we consume on a daily basis. Build yourself up and nourish your mind as well as you feed your body. With intention and discernment, select sources of ideas that feed your soul so that you can live your best life.