How is Email Like Junk Food For Your Mind?

I scan my inbox and delete several emails before opening them. It’s my morning ritual because our work email system doesn’t allow on-campus addresses to be tagged as spam. It seems that everyone’s entitled to be exposed to my coworkers’ opinions.

I sound like a grouch. Perhaps some days I am. But I’m not inclined to read every email that clutters my inbox just because someone on campus pressed “send to all.”  I also no longer subscribe to the newspaper or cable television. And I avoid the news like dieters avoid carbs.

You see, when I’m inundated with negative things, I become negative. And then I complain and spread that negativity to others.

I don’t intend to. But it happens nonetheless.

You don’t need to be stronger

I used to put my efforts toward being a stronger person. As a responsible citizen and a good employee, I felt it was my duty to take in the information our culture throws at us, to read every email that comes across my desk.

For me, that’s very much like trying to be stronger about not eating potato chips. How many times have I told myself I’m going to open a bag and eat just a few? Many, many times.

And whether I finish the bag in one sitting or keep returning to the cupboard to retrieve a handful at a time, the end result is the same. I can’t be trusted with potato chips in the house. It’s easier not to put the blasted things in the cart.

The same is true for the information that I allow into my brain. Opening just one email, taking a peek at just one news story opens the floodgates of negativity and gloom.

I know which topics build me up and which topics get me worked up. Politics and anything from my union make me more prone to complain. Email from friends and Christian blog posts make me smile. Just as what I feed my body affects how I feel, what I feed my mind affects my attitude.

What junk food are you feeding your mind? And how can you eliminate some of it to stop fueling your negative thoughts?

14 Comments

  1. childofaslan

    “Sorry, but I just can’t hear about this.” <–I like that, Kendra. As to emails, there's just not enough time in they day. However, I have to balance it out with my penchant for information and for staying informed. Self knowledge is good, and giving oneself permission to sit this one (or these ones) out is good. Thanks for the post. –Ros

    Reply
    • Kendra Burrows

      You’re right on, Ros! It’s ultimately about making sure you’re filling your world with things that are good for you or necessary, and eliminating the extraneous noise.

      Reply
  2. Melinda Lancaster

    You make me feel so much better! People get upset with me because I don’t read “forwards.” I’ve made it clear so that they won’t be disappointed. It

    It is not about them, but rather about me. I too do my best to make the choice to fill my mind with healthy things rather than a bunch of junk. The intentional changes are worth it especially when I stay the course.

    As for potato chips…I have to leave them at the store most of the time. The old saying “You can’t eat just one” is definitely true in my case.

    I’m really enjoying your writing. The way you merge every day issues with emotional and spiritual health is great! Potent yet practical.

    Reply
    • Kendra Burrows

      Thanks for your encouragement, Melinda! I’ve had to cut people off from telling me things because images stick with me long after the conversation ends. Glad to know I’m not the only one.

      Reply
  3. Rebecca Waters

    I love this post. As the family’s designated Pollyanna…ok, not designated, just recognized, I learned early on those triggers that lead to negativity. Then I married a man who gets riled up every morning as he reads the news on-line. When he had to wait for the paper or buy it on his way to work, I was protected. Now? Oh I need to hit share on this post! No, maybe I should have it framed. Thanks for the great post. I love your writing and perspective.

    Reply
    • Kendra Burrows

      It always surprises me that people do differ in their triggers and tolerance for these kinds of things. It’s great when spouses match in this or at least can find a compromise like you guys do, Rebecca. In our house we have permission to say, “Sorry, but I just can’t hear about this.”

      Reply
  4. Laura Hile

    Kendra, I’m the same way about watching news programs. I want to be informed, but bad situations pelt me like body blows. And what can I do about those terrible stories on the news? Nothing! I am that way with intense violence on television and in movies, too. I have a vivid imagination. I take images in and can’t shrug them off.

    Imagine my dismay when I was chosen to be on a jury for a murder trial. But I listened carefully to the testimonies, and I did not shrink from the photos of the victim (multiple stab wounds). Why was this? Why was I so clear-headed and unflinching?

    It finally dawned on me that this crime was real, and that it was within my sphere of influence. In other words, I was in the position to do something about it. The decision whether or not to convict the accused was mine. And that made a tremendous difference.

    I don’t feel as guilty for skipping out on bad news anymore. It’s not because we’re cowards, but enough is enough.

    Reply
    • Kendra Burrows

      What an interesting insight, Laura! You are right that being able to do something about a situation makes a huge difference!

      Reply
  5. Denise Jackson

    I had to put my inbox on a diet…no more junk mail. My internet time is so much more enjoyable without the steady supply of advertising I no longer wish to see. Fundraising, handsoaps, alumnae…I feel lighter already! It’s always nice to hear from a friend. From a mass mailing to a million of my closest friends? Not so much.

    Reply
    • Kendra Burrows

      Email is just a different kind of clutter but affects us just as much as the household kind. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  6. Tonia Hurst

    Kendra, I totally agree with you. I have a very limited tolerance for negativity before I find my way back to despair and clinical depression, and so one of my jobs is to be my best gatekeeper. I know life is rough and want exceeds resources, but if I fall, so does my whole house of cards so to speak. Thank you for this very well written reminder to manage within one’s own healthy limitations.

    Reply
    • Kendra Burrows

      You’re right, Tonia – we are our best gatekeepers! Thanks for that.

      Reply
  7. Debbie Simorte

    Great post, Kendra. I love “I know which topics build me up and which topics get me worked up.” I also delete many emails without reading and avoid cable news and anyone who spreads nonsense and negativity online. No time for that! However, I still have a potato chip problem : )

    Reply
    • Kendra Burrows

      I do GREAT with potato chips when I leave them at the grocery store. It’s those other times I have a problem! 😉 Glad you stopped by.

      Reply

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Hi, I’m Kendra

I help bright, successful over-thinkers change their negative thoughts using Scripture and the science of how God made you.

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