Mindful Consumption and That Which Nourishes You

Have you ever had a box arrive from Amazon and you’ve forgotten what you even ordered in the first place? Ever started a bag of chips, then suddenly found yourself at the bottom of it? Have you ever started scrolling social media, then looked up at it was 45 minutes later? Have you ever found yourself watching a string of YouTube videos with no real intention? Ever found yourself letting Netflix go from one episode to the next of a show, even if you just found it so-so?

What I’m talking about here is mindless consumption. We’ve all done it. We all do it. Some of us do it in most areas of our lives, others have their points of weakness, shall we say.

mindful consumption

When we use the term consumption, it’s most commonly referred to when talking about what we buy. Consumer products – we consume. But, truly, we are consumers of everything: food, media, relationships, conversations, and yes, consumer products. If it enters your mind or your body, you’re consuming it.

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Once upon a time our options for that which we consumed were pretty limited. Back in ‘the day’ we only had so many channels on television, so you got your news from specific sources at specific times. Now you can get your news from so many different sources, 24/7, that our challenge is what is credible news and what is not.

It was the same with TV and movies. There were only so many options, and yes, you had to leave your house, peruse the video library of your choosing, then bring the tape home for a likely planned night of viewing. Now we can turn on the TV, Netflix, YouTube, you name it, and again, our choices are endless. As a result, many people end up clicking through option after option, saying that there’s nothing to watch. Or, you pick something, then you end up scrolling on your phone not even properly watching what you’ve chosen.

Choice is great, but with the amount of choices available to us, we’re left in this rising state of mindless consumption. We’re programmed to want, want, want, and buy, buy, buy. It’s good for the economy, or so we’re told, but is it good for our health, both physical and mental?

I’d argue that it’s not.

With so many options, the people that I talk to are getting easily overwhelmed, burnt out, and you actually see people paying their hard earned money to disconnect. Those of us that can’t afford yoga or meditation retreats turn to free or five dollar apps to guide us through mindful thinking, yet we struggle to quiet our thoughts.

For myself, I’ve had to challenge myself to go out for walks WITHOUT headphones so that I couldn’t listen to music or podcasts or audiobooks. We have this insatiable appetite for consumption, because the more you consume, the more we want to consume. It’s an addiction, and it’s taking over our lives.

But if you’re still reading this post, you know that I’m not going to leave you hanging and say that the sky is falling, have fun! No. Here’s the thing. Yes, mindless consumption is an addiction, but we have the ability to make choices. The first step is awareness.

I want you to start by picking one area of your life that you feel you mindlessly consume in. That could be media, food, toxic relationships, you name it. Pick that area, then I want you, for a week, to start identifying what your average mindless consumption looks like. Note, I’m not asking you to change your behaviour. Not yet, anyways. I’m asking you to get curious about what scenarios lead you to that mindless consumption. For myself, when I’m bored, I turn to YouTube. It’s a bad habit, and I click from one video to the next without any real entertainment happening. Boredom is my cue.

So, if you identify your cue, or common cues, the next step is to think about what’s an alternative behaviour that will give you the same type of reward.

We’ve talked on the podcast before about the book, The Power of Habit. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it! The key takeaway is that habits have a clear loop. Cue – Behaviour/Action – Reward. So, when I’m bored (cue), I’m looking for entertainment (reward). How I choose to do that is the behaviour or action.

Fun fact – the cue is never going to change. I’m going to get bored, again and again and again. I’m going to crave the reward of entertainment, again and again and again. Where I have the control and the choice is over what behaviour or action I take.

We reach for that which we’re comfortable with. We reach for what we know. I have often reached for YouTube.

So, now that you know your cues and what reward you’re seeking, regardless of what mindless consumption we’re talking about, I want you to think about some alternative behaviours that could be used to respond to the same cues and deliver the same rewards.

For instance, when I’m bored, I could choose to go for a walk. I could pick up a book. I could listen to a podcast while cooking dinner. I could call a friend that I haven’t talked to in ages. I could do something creative. All of those will serve my desire for entertainment in moments of boredom. Some are easier than others, depending on the moment that I’m in. If I have five minutes, I need something different versus if I have an hour free, right? Same goes for you.

The same as when we talk about meal prepping, if you don’t plan for those moments, for those cues to arise, you’re allowing your regular behaviour to take over, versus making a mindful decision. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been grocery shopping hungry and found our basket is suddenly full of something we can actually rip open in the car, am I right? It’s okay to admit it – nobody can see you. Whereas, if you know you’re grocery shopping at the end of the day, planning for a healthy snack in advance means you’re less likely to inhale food that you don’t even taste, but that provides the reward of instant hunger satisfaction, if not flavour satisfaction.

The same goes for media. Or shopping.

How can we plan ahead?

Unsubscribe is one of the best things that you can do in this digital age. For the online shoppers among us, unsubscribe from email lists, from following brands on social media, etc. Those emails that arrive in your inbox or the photos that show up on your Instagram are literally there to tempt you. It’s a business. The brand isn’t thinking about you and your wellbeing, they’re thinking about your wallet.

Same goes for media. In the age of Trump (however you choose to vote), it is ALL OVER THE MEDIA, and there is only so much of any one topic that I should be subjected to. I’ve had to unsubscribe from things on YouTube, or make sure to sign out of my account on the regular so that the algorithms aren’t making suggestions for me.

Some people might even take a brief social media detox to cleanse their media palette.

So, the title of the post is mindful consumption and that which nourishes you. So, not only are we looking at strategies to decrease mindLESS consumption, but at how to replace it with mindful behaviours (a.k.a. decisions that you’re making consciously), but also with things that nourish you. Yes, we could be talking physically nourish you, but I’m also talking about things that nourish your soul, your spirit, your creativity, your mind.

It doesn’t have to be hoighty-toighty, not at all, but what things, experiences or media nourish you so that you’re ensuring that value is being added to your life as opposed to value taken away?

So, again, my challenge for you is as follows:

  1. Identify your current area of mindLESS consumption that you want to work on.
  2. For one week, observe the cues that trigger that consumption and what reward you’re actually aiming for.
  3. Mindfully make a list of alternative behaviours or actions that you can take that will respond to that cue and deliver the same reward.
  4. Practice it! Put it to the test and see how you feel.

It might feel a little odd at first. It might even feel like a gentle stretch out of your comfort zone. That’s okay! Stretching is good for us!

Lastly, I’d ask that you either share in the comments below or on social media by tagging me @girltrieslife so that we can all benefit from ideas. I guarantee that if you’re struggling with a particular area of mindless consumption, so is another reader or listener. By sharing your new action to reach the same reward, you might just inspire someone else, or vice versa.

Until next week, remember, it’s just about putting one foot in front of the other.

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