Starting with junk

This morning is going to be a good morning. Why? Because last night I had a Dominos, and I didn’t eat it all. Usually, I have yoghurt, nuts and berries for breakfast. Not today. Not this morning. After getting up, I head downstairs, open the fridge, grab the leftover pizza and cheesy garlic bread, and put it in the microwave.

What a way to start the day.

Breakfast is a big deal. Physically, and psychologically, it sets a precedent for the day ahead. A crappy breakfast increases the likelihood of having a crappy day. A great breakfast increases the chances that today is going to be awesome. We all understand this on some level, so we take care to try and have a good morning meal. Some go for eggs, some go for fruit, some go for a protein shake, some go for yoghurt, some go for wholegrain toast or cereal. Few go for junk food because we all know that junk food is not a good thing to have for breakfast.

We live in a consumer-driven society, where demand determines supply. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of media. Articles, blogs, videos, news: these are all things we consume. And the allusions to consumption of media have brought into being terms like “information diet”. Your information diet is the unique mix of media and content that you consume on a day-to-day basis. It’s the people you follow, the status updates you see, the songs and features you hear on the radio, the podcasts and the newsletters you subscribe to. 

People seeking to increase their health or fitness typically start with nutritional habits. One of the most important nutritional habits is what you have for breakfast. And if we’re trying to increase the depth, breadth and density of our thought, one of the simplest things to do is to assess and adapt your information diet. And like a real life diet, the best place to start is breakfast.

I used to get up in the morning, shuffle downstairs like a zombie, sit at my desk, open up my laptop and begin clicking. Facebook, Twitter, email, Quora, Instagram. Then, after twenty or thirty minutes, I’d begin writing. Usually, those writing sessions were hard and I’d produce barely usable work. 

See, checking social media and email accounts as soon as I wake up is like eating leftover pizza and garlic bread for breakfast. It’s a bad idea and an awful way to start the day. It means that as I soon as I wake up, I’m already playing to catch up. I’m already comparing myself to others. I’m already being exposed to noise and bullshit. I’ve already lost my equilibrium and polluted my mood. It means that the first part of my day is spent trying to recover what I lost by shooting up with online media.

Here’s what I do now: I get up, make a cup of tea, meditate, write my morning pages, and begin writing. Several hours after I’ve woken up I’ll check out email and social media. And you know what? It makes a monumental difference.

I’ve drunk alcohol maybe three times in the past year, and I can’t remember the last time I had a carbonated drink. So when I do, I notice. If I drink Coke, I feel it in my belly, I hear my stomach saying “WTF is this crap?!” It’s the same with online media. I’ve gone out of my way to eradicate noise in my life. So when I’m exposed to it, I know. I feel it infiltrating my train of thought and dulling my thinking. 

Deprivation increases sensitivity. Ask a heavy smoker who only manages to give up for six months what their first cigarette after the break was like. I bet they’ll tell you it was great. And if you ask me what it feels like when I come back online for the first time in the morning, or the day after a technology sabbath, I’ll tell you that I more readily notice the effect exposure to media has. Sometimes, it’s positive, other times, it inhibits my judgement and mood.

So, as well as not having junk food for breakfast, I now won’t consume junk information. Both things are bad habits that force me to begin the day in a less than ideal way.