Thursday, July 28, 2011

Checking Your Mental Nutrition

Fruit & Vegetable Box by karimian
Fruit & Vegetable Box, a photo by karimian on Flickr.
Current USDA nutritional advice says that half of your plate should be comprised of fruits and vegetables, and the balance divided between lean meats and grains (preferably whole grains.)  On Sesame Street your long-time friend Bert raps about the benefits of eating your colors.  From the very beginning of childhood, diligent moms and dads work to instill healthy habits of food consumption so their kids can grow healthy and strong.  Even the fast food behemoth McDonald's is succumbing to pressure and starting to modify its menu (and striving to improve its reputation) by offering healthier choices.
So assuming that you're paying attention to your food intake, here's the question for today - how is your mental nutrition?  Are you paying as much attention to what's going into your brain as you are to the items that are going into your mouth? 
Your brain stores the things that it hears - it doesn't evaluate them.  Are you sitting in front of sensational TV or reading scandal magazines?  Are you a news addict and find yourself having a hard time falling asleep at night after hearing about the most recent disaster in vivid detail?  Are you reading, and if so is it bubblegum or cantaloupe that you're consuming?
The old computer data phrase "garbage in, garbage out" applies to your brain.  If you are storing information about what "normal" behavior is at the Jersey Shore, how is it influencing your clothing choices and your behavior in Anytown, USA?  Over time you become acculturated to the things to which you are exposed.  After a steady diet of crime shows on TV you can start to believe (as some of my foreign friends believed) that everyone in America walks the streets carrying a firearm and willing to use it.  You can start to assume that every woman in the world except you (or yours) is 5 feet 10 inches tall, weights 115 pounds and has long, beautiful hair.  The usual, the typical, isn't interesting enough (I suppose) to put on TV.  Most reality shows aren't representative of the reality that most people live.
If you want your child to understand our society and its history, you put history into his or her brain.  It might not only be through books - movies, family vacations, plays, games, etc. can help the information sink in.  Your child won't learn history by reading Spiderman comics or by watching Scooby-Doo on television. Well, they might see Nazi villians on Scooby-Doo, but that's beside the point.  Scooby-Doo villians aren't history.
This is not to say that there is no place for mental chocolate chip cookies.  Fun is good.  Actually, fun can create the disarmed mental state that allows good mental nutrition to sneak in, even when you're not paying attention.  A healthy mental nutrition plan doesn't have to smell like cooked cabbage or have the slimy texture of canned asparagus.  But just as the FDA now recommends for your body, you need to choose your plate.  The food you put into your brain can help you grow, or it can simply make you fat. 

1 comment:

Jim Poland said...

Woweeee! Right on target for America summertime living.

"Mental chocolate chips" . . .