Balance Your Mental Diet

Angst by John Hain

Dear Son,

Just like your body, your mind will be shaped by what you put into it.  The world is full of junk, physical and mental, and you have to be careful just how much you consume.  Unfortunately, while we know junk food when we see it, junk information is so much harder to identify.

Part of the key to maintaining a healthy mental diet is critical thinking.  If you learn how to examine the ideas being presented to you for logical flaws, potentially bad outcomes, and factuality, it will be harder for bad ideas to slip under your radar.  Another part of that will be to make sure that you treat big ideas and popular narratives with skepticism.  This is why I will keep coming back to ideology and how untrustworthy it is in these narratives.

But beyond skepticism and critical thought, if you want a healthy mind, you must control your exposure to junk in general.  Even if you are sharp, and manage to see through every stupid idea that comes your way, the sheer weight of all the bad ideas can be exasperating.  It takes mental effort to separate the chaff from the wheat, and if you are dealing with a lot of chaff, you are going to be emotionally exhausted.

Here is my program for making sure I keep my mental health in order:

  • I avoid watching television.
  • I use an advertisement filter when I surf the web.
  • I meditate to keep my mental reserves strong.
  • I choose one or two news sources I trust, and try to make sure they are politically moderate.
  • I try to read or write something uplifting every day before I read news or professional blogs.
  • If I watch television series I do so through a streaming service or DVD where they are mostly advertisement free.
  • For every couple of modern books I read, I try to read an important foundational work from our history to understand where the ideas are coming from.
  • I limit myself to two magazine subscriptions at once.
  • I avoid conspiracy theory, or anything that looks too much like propaganda.

Junk food makes you pudgy and unhealthy, but junk information will make you pudgy, depressed, anxious, or angry.  Plan how you consume it just as you plan your meals.

With Love,


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