Diet: An Expanded View

Greg Tilden MFT Trainee (supervised by Renee Beck MFC21060)

In a 2014 interview, poet and hip-hop artist Saul Williams discussed the idea of how one’s “musical diet” affects the music that one creates. It’s no question that eating healthy foods affects one’s mindset and overall mental health. But could it be that the media we consume, whether it be news, music, movies or television, affects our state of being as well?

Lately, I’ve found it useful to pay attention to the things I “eat” throughout my everyday experience. Paying attention to how certain songs, movie plots, and news articles affect our mood is a simple way to take our emotions into our own hands. There can be value in staying up-to-date on the latest news, but it’s important to create a space in one’s mind to store it, so as to not create anxiety or distress throughout one’s day. As I read my facebook feed, I sometimes notice my breath growing shallow when I read an overabundance of discouraging news articles. Simply noticing one’s breath while scrolling facebook can be enough to know when to stop.
I believe there is value to be found in both freeing oneself from media that affects one negatively, and in consciously exploring new emotions. Try experimenting with listening to a genre you don’t normally encounter: free jazz, death metal, avant-garde electronic, Swedish hip-hop, bluegrass… How do the lyrics and melodies affect your body? What images or memories come to mind?
If you wish, you could even experiment with listening to the music of silence, or the music of nature. Do the birdcalls and the cars passing by create musical patterns? What melodies attract you and draw you in, and which deter you? It can be grounding to remember that there is a symphony of sound taking place during each passing moment.

Though I personally choose to limit my intake of television and movies, I believe there can be a lot of value in paying attention to the plots, characters, dialogues and morals that strike you. Which characters resonate with you, and how do you carry their personalities with you throughout the day? Which actors just turn you off, and how does their energy affect your mood or your values? How does a horror movie affect you differently than a romantic comedy? Which premises and plots add the most depth or value to your life experience?
It can be easy for media to be consumed without thought about how it forms another aspect of our diet. Yet in some ways, the results of unconsciously over-eating or unconsciously over-consuming media have a similar effect. While various foods can fill you up in satisfying or regretful ways, (and have the material to show for it), music, news, television, movies and the internet can have a less visible, immaterial effect on your diet. To be truly holistic, I think it is important to observe our material and immaterial diets and make changes as necessary. Though this may take patience and work, it is crucial to remember that eating, in all its forms, is a process of enjoyment and rejuvenation at its core.