It seems impossible these days to skim the news and not see one article pertaining to happiness. Headlines professing the secret to a happy marriage or tips on how to get want you want are one in a million. In these times when a fast paced, high stressed lifestyle is the norm, all anyone really wants is a little happiness. The irony of the quest for happiness lies in the simplicity of the solution. Often the most difficult tasks to accomplish are the ones that require simple and basic adjustments to attain.
I discovered this simple adjustment, so to speak, a couple of years ago as I listened to a story of a pastor that discovered his attitude toward life and himself was at an all-time low. He noticed that in the recent months, he had spent many hours engulfed in media and TV. After much prayer and deliberation, the pastor decided to dedicate one year to carefully monitoring and intentionally choosing what he allowed into his mind. He decided if he read, listened, or watched anything within that year, it would be scripturally sound. I loved the idea that someone could be so disciplined, but the thought of myself attempting something so extreme was far from realistic. I have a hard enough time winning the weekly battle of will I eat the pepperoni pizza or not. For the record, the answer is yes, I will, consistently. Still, I was too intrigued to ignore the challenge, so I opted for a shorter version. For one week, I set out to do just as this crazy pastor had done. I would carefully monitor my mental intake.
For one week, I watched zero TV. I stayed away from social media and the news. I only read spiritually sound articles and books. I watched motivating and challenging speakers and listened to podcasts. I even limited the music I listened to on my morning commutes. Best of all, the entire week was easy peazy. Not! It was hard. It was incredibly challenging. Making it through a Monday night without the Bachelor, was downright torturous. Yet, somewhere deep down inside me I knew that this task was bigger than just a week of no junk TV, and I was right. This week opened my eyes to how so much of my own beliefs about myself and others is warped by the media and our broken society.
My chiropractor recently introduced me to the concept of the boiling a frog effect. Stay with me. I promise you, there were no boiled frogs in the making of this blog. The boiling frog effect points to the idea that if you drop a frog into boiling water, it will immediately jump out. Of course! It’s too hot! However, if you put a frog in water and gradually increase the water temperature to boiling, it will stay. The frog adjusts to the cruel temperatures without even knowing it. My chiropractor used this reference to make a point about our bodies being subjected to the chemicals in our food and environment. It also applies here in the way that our minds are constantly being subjected to unhealthy and immoral behaviors and words through media and society. We make light of it, because it’s “the norm,” but it wasn’t always to norm. We’ve allowed it to become the norm. Unfortunately, the norm is telling our women that they are not beautiful unless they look a certain way, and worse, their value is in their appearance alone. The norm is telling our men that their value is in their wallet and they should never be allowed to feel. The norm is telling us that sex is as casual as a handshake, and love is selfish. It’s telling us that marriage is about finding the right person, and when you’ve had enough of them, divorce them, because they clearly weren’t the right person. The norm is telling us to avoid ourselves, our thoughts, our feelings at all costs and look for our identity in others. The norm is wrong.
We know the norm is wrong, but when we allow these messages access to our minds daily, we allow temptation into our hearts. We begin to compare ourselves to others. We begin to move those boundaries that we’ve placed in our lives. We allow the norm to influence our everyday thoughts and decisions without being conscientious of it.
I choose to be conscious of it. Now, I still watch the Bachelor, and I listen to secular music and watch secular movies and shows. I’m on this journey just like the rest you. It’s going to take time to continue to grow and mature, but I have found that I am very aware of my attitude toward myself and others in relation to what I’m putting into my mind. I’m careful to understand the movies and shows that I subject myself to, before watching them. Most of all, when I start to feel down on myself or the world around me, I know exactly what I need. I need a mind diet. One day, I hope that diet will turn into a life commitment, but in the meantime, I continue to grow.