spring cleaning | what’s getting in?

This week’s Spring Cleaning episode is all about filtering what gets in through our five senses. Especially through our eyes.

Some of my favorite emojis are the little see / hear / speak no evil monkeys. If you don’t know what I’m talking about: 🙈🙉🙊. Although there are some conflicting interpretations of the origin and real meaning of them.

“Well,” my stepfather used to say, pushing back his chair from the breakfast table hours after others had already left it, “I’ve read the whole paper. And there’s no good news.”

Without fail, five o’clock would find him on the couch, martini in hand and 11 (not 10, not 12) Cheez-Its nearby. And an hour and a half later, the conclusions was, “There’s no good news.”

It became a game in which my next line was always, “So why do you read / watch it?”

what the senses take in

We’re about half way through my April 2023 Spring Cleaning program, which is all about a new way to think about detoxing—and not just our diets.

One of the most important topics we cover is not only what we remove from our bodies but what we put in—and not only through our mouths. Because toxins get in through our skin and our nose—as well as our eyes and our ears.

I don’t mean just the various “wee beasties” of Claire Fraser’s world. (Yes, June 16 will find me on the couch for Outlander Season 7 despite the fact that I’m still mourning Dougal. Spoiler alert—he’s baaack! I might have a martini and 11 Cheez-Its to celebrate or, more likely, some whisky and … peanuts? But I digress.)

Our food, our beauty and personal care products, our home cleaning products and furnishings, even our clothing can introduce undesirable substances that can affect our physical health. And true wellness goes beyond physical health to encompass mental, emotional, and spiritual / energetic health.

Those “toxins” are perhaps a lot more difficult to identify—and they’re still getting in through our senses, especially our eyes and ears.

I’m talking about most of the news media—old and new and especially social—and a lot of our entertainment. (Yes, I know, Outlander has some pretty horrific scenes, both in book and series form. But stick with me.)

My favorite question to ask people who are addicted to news, social media, and entertainment—going to especially pick on reality TV here—is, “How is this serving you?” It’s the coach’s version of Marie Kondo’s “Does this spark joy?”

what’s the attraction?

Full disclosure: I had a pretty serious Days of Our Lives addiction once upon a time, and I have watched (and, yes, enjoyed) a few seasons of Love Island and one of Love Is Blind. And I get that in some ways, watching people plot and scheme to get what they want and behave badly when they don’t get it has its attractions.

Perhaps it’s a way to see that the drama in your own life is pretty minimal?

Or that you can vicariously be the mean girl / bad boy and nobody in your life gets harmed in the process?

After several years of watching Days, I finally got sick of the drama, realizing that just about every situation could have been prevented if people could communicate better. And yes, I do often think, “Claire, if you would just listen to Jamie, you wouldn’t cause all this trouble.” But it hasn’t reached the point where I will stop watching Outlander. Yet. It sure would help if Diana Gabaldon would quit writing. (Spoiler alert: in case you’re wondering, book 9 ends with a cliff hanger. Of course I’ve read it!)

Today’s reality TV shows—at least most of the ones I’ve seen—seem to lack even the basic trope of miscommunication. They’re more about putting people in situations where they can be awful to each other without any long-term consequences. And I always wonder how much psychological damage they cause in the participants and the audience.

(Oh wait—it kinda feels like that’s what the news is about, too?)

media + anxiety

Please know that I am not judging you if you love reality TV or soap operas or the news. I am suggesting that—especially if you suspect you’re addicted to them—you may want to take a step back and consider how they serve you. Or don’t serve you.

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted a lot of issues for us, one of them being the presence of anxiety for a lot of people, especially young ones.

I know I’m going to sound like an old person when I say this. I’m going to say it anyway. I cannot believe there is no correlation between the rise of social media and the rise in anxiety diagnoses in this country.

(Just like there has got to be some correlation between the increase in microwave usage involving plastic and increased ADHD diagnoses. Different topic, different day.)

And irrespective of age, I think that obsessive consumption of news media and the early days of Covid-19 data tracking really did a number on us in the last three years.

I’m not an expert on anxiety, and I’ve experienced it. When I’ve felt it myself, it’s been about feeling that something (or everything) is beyond my control. And let’s face it: control is an illusion. The secret is not to feel in control: it’s to feel comfortable with ambiguity.

reducing your anxiety

One of my favorite expressions I’ve learned from my kids in recent years is, “That cannot be unseen.” That’s when you feel like a scene is burned into your retinas and you’ll never get it out.

You might suspect that your sight—and your other senses—may have been damaged by what you’re taking in. If you find your anxiety rising when you read the paper, watch the news, scroll through your feed, it’s a pretty good sign that practice is not serving you.

Some people do a “media detox”—and like many other detoxes, the outcomes are not long lasting. So I think it’s better to make some adjustments to input rather than quitting cold turkey. Unless you’re a person who thrives on that approach—sustainably.

I gave up social media and reading the news around the time of the 2016 election. No, I’m not suggesting you stick your head in the sand. Of course, it’s important to know what’s going on in the world—the larger one and your smaller circle.

I make a practice of reading just the headlines of a trusted news source. (Yes—the source you trust may not be the source I choose, and that’s okay.)

Scan the headlines and then ask, “Will reading this article uplift me or drag me down?” If it’s likely to be positive and you need to know details, read it; if not, skip it.

I admit it’s sort of like scrolling through social media just for the cute puppies and kittens. (Yes, I’ve seen the Alaskan puppy bus, and I highly recommend you watch it, too. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we humans acted this way on public transportation?)

And it sure provokes less anxiety and frees up time and brain space for more important things.

make the connection

Spend some time thinking about what is getting into your body—through any / all of your senses! If you find anything anxiety-provoking in there, think about how you can reduce your exposure to it. And try it out!