I think we’re all pretty clear on the fact that junk food can kill you. I mean, I don’t hear any doctors advocating a steady diet of Big Macs and super sized fries.
But despite this, folks still load up their bellies with double Whoppers, Twinkies (if you can find them), and all manner of junk (uh, guilty). But they do so knowing that they’re waistline will likely expand, and they may need a few more trips to the doctor when they get older.
But what about our minds?
Though we know the risks of a steady junk food diet and many of us are opting to live healthier, more balanced lives, a lot of folks don’t know or care about the risks of feeding our minds over-processed, harmful crap.
We happily read ratchet blogs, consume hours of “hilarious” videos of people behaving badly, tune into political pundits argue it out, watch hours reality shows that do little but make us shake our heads and feel superior to the idiots on the TV, and reading…what’s that?
According to a 2007 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), we have almost all abandoned reading for pleasure for quick bits of information like blogs, twitter, and TV.
- On average, Americans ages 15 to 24 spend almost two hours a day watching TV, and only seven minutes of their daily leisure time on reading.
- Reading scores for American adults of almost all education levels have deteriorated, notably among the best-educated groups. From 1992 to 2003, the percentage of adults with graduate school experience who were rated proficient in prose reading dropped by 10 points, a 20 percent rate of decline.
- In 2002, only 52 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24, the college years, read a book voluntarily, down from 59 percent in 1992.
- American 15-year-olds ranked fifteenth in average reading scores for 31 industrialized nations, behind Poland, Korea, France, and Canada, among others.
Pretty scary, right?
As someone who has always loved words, I’m a little ashamed to say that until recently, I was one of those folks reading just 7-minutes a day for pleasure (yes, yes, judge), while watching a jillion hours of TV, and combing Facebook, Twitter, and other blogs for writing material (or just killing time).
Recently, though, I inadvertently flipped an internal switch. Perhaps it was brought on by my birthday, or maybe my mind just got tired of being stuffed with junk, but I’ve been reading like a fiend lately….and I love it.
Over the past two month I’ve devoursed novels, business books, self-help books, books about writing, books about love (my fav), and I’m still going strong.
This return to nourishing my brain has not only left me feeling calmer and more introspective, but also more creative as well.
I wonder what I could have created had I kicked off this book binge sooner?
At any rate, this time has been eye-opening on a few levels. Over the past few weeks I’ve come to grips with the fact that:
1) It’s ok if I’m not OUTRAGED at every, little stupid or mildly racist thing that bubbles up on social media (this is lowkey huge because this was a big part of my life before).
2) It’s ok if I don’t know what happened on the last episode of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta (or *insert show here*)…and don’t care.
3) It’s ok if I feel like staying home and reading on a Friday night instead of going to a party.
4) It’s ok if I put myself to sleep by telling my own made-up stories. Who knows, I may write them down one day.
Along with helping me be more a more patient and happier person, reading improves our health. It can increase our attention spans, empathy for others, and exercises your entire brain. And I don’t know about you, but I plan on being a hot, brillant mama well into my 80s, so if reading can keep my brain as fierce as I plan to look, I’m IN!
While I’ve been enjoying my time with books, I’m not trading in ALLLLLL of my guilty pleasures.
Don’t get it twisted, I’m not a reality TV basher, and at times, I indulge in a little bit of ratchet entertainment. All things in moderation, after all.
But going forward, I will adopt the 80/20 (ok, maybe 60/40) rule for my mind.
Mostly good shit in, hopefully mostly good shit out.
And as a writer, what more can I ask for than that?
What kind of diet is your brain on? Leave a comment below and let me know how you’re feeding your brain.
BTW, what are you reading now? I’m reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s amazing novel, ‘Americanah.’
*photo cred: Yeah Writers