Break the Cycle

July 7, 2020

Our bodies are eavesdropping on our minds and the external world in every moment. Every bit of raw data we perceive, either consciously or unconsciously alters our mind, our body, and our perceptions of reality.

And this is where a steady diet of negative news or media content can become problematic.

Note – I’m not bashing all media as bad. It’s become vogue to lump all media sources into one untrustworthy bucket of “lamestream media.” That’s not what I’m talking about here. It’s important to be properly informed by reputable and objective sources, be they mainstream outlets, or smaller, equally qualified channels that maintain neutrality in their reporting of the facts.

What I am talking about is the quality of the information we allow into our minds. With so much data flooding our senses, it’s vital to mindfully curate the content of our awareness. It’s too easy to turn on the television or scroll through a social media feed with no concern or filter on the quality of the content we’re absorbing. This unending stimulus washes over us causing a direct and measurable change in our thoughts, emotions, and physical well-being.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell: Any incoming information makes its way into your awareness through the gateways of one of your 5 senses. In the case of a news report, you receive a combination of visual images coupled along with the sounds of spoken words or background noise. That input is perceived and triggers your brain to release neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that send signals between brain cells) and activate neural networks that code for specific thoughts, interpretations or beliefs about the information you’ve just consumed.

Those thoughts then causes the release of certain neuropeptides (chemical messengers that cascade throughout your body to various tissues and glands). Those glands then release specific hormones that ultimately influences the way you feel physically.

So now we’re feeling differently because of the information we just let into our minds.

But it doesn’t stop there. Our brain notices how we’re feeling differently and then we start to think the way we’re feeling. It’s a feedback loop – we absorb negative information, signaling our body to feel the way we think, and then our mind notices we’ve begun to feel bad and we start thinking the way we feel.

Rinse and repeat.

Run this cycle for a few hours or days, that state becomes a mood.

Continue it for a few weeks or months, it becomes part of your temperament.

After years, that negatively or fear becomes a personality trait, or state of being.

See the problem here?

So how do we escape this trap? In a word, awareness.

Understanding how this happens is a good start. But you have to be vigilant. Notice what you mind has settled on and recognize that what you are attending to is changing your neurology and biology moment by moment. Then make the commitment to be skillful, conscious, and mindful when it comes to the data you consume. Your attention is a precious resource and it shouldn’t be squandered on toxic, negative, hateful, or fear-generating news. Focus on the positive, the good, the uplifting stories and aspects of life and relish the way those make your body feel. Create a feel-good feedback loop.

(This would also be a good time to talk about the power of gratitude, but I’ll save that for a future post.)

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

Most of us may not have given it much thought, but we each get to decide what goes into our mind. Sometimes rising above life’s negativity can be as simple as consciously deciding where we put our attention.

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