Want to be Happier? Boundaries

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Let's talk guarding your mind and mental health. In our modern society, we are consuming more content than ever. And these things we consume have a profound effect on us, whether we realize it at the time or not. Of course, we can't control other people or the type of content they put out, but we can control ourselves and monitor what we consume. It's called boundaries, and we should be making more of them. And for that matter, we should be making them offline, with the people in our lives too.


I've talked before about guarding this content you consume. It's not about being in a bubble and being totally unaware of what's going on in the world. (Though I admit, were that possible, I would be highly tempted to try it.) It's about actively working against this modern way of consuming without regard, just accepting everything that comes your way without acknowledging how it affects you.

Consuming content takes energy and we have a finite amount of energy in our day just like a finite amount of time. If you spend it all on watching 8 hours of news coverage and Facebook, you're not going to have anything left for actual important tasks like laundry and walking the dog, or even fun tasks like reading a book or having a nice dinner with your husband. Because social media and television programming is not just a time suck but an energy vampire as well.

Sitting down to 'relax' by turning on a screen is a myth. We tend to mistake entertainment for rest, and they are not the same thing. Even in watching a Netflix show, you're putting energy in by passively engaging with ideas and images whether you realize it or not. Real rest involves being away from information and screens.

Everything you consume educates, informs, and shapes your mind to value certain things. It impacts the way you see the word and your life in general. To think that it wouldn't also impact your mood and your happiness is ludicrous, which is why it's so important to put boundaries around what comes in.

Because it's very easy to consume negative content without realizing immediately that it even is negative. You may need to ask yourself, often, how something makes you feel after you consume it. The news will always make you feel terrible but there are much sneakier ways that negative content finds us, in the form of Instagram models that make you feel bad about your body or that one relative that always flaunts fancy vacations and expensive material things. It's not life-giving to follow these things, it serves no purpose.

There are so many negative things in a day that we can't avoid but there are also so many that can be removed from your life. And to be frank, it's a very wise idea to remove them from your offline life as well.

We all realize the importance of this when it comes to things like, oh I don't know, the election. There's no upside in arguing with someone on Facebook about it and there's no point in arguing with people in real life about it either. I like to remind people of this as we head into a family-centric time of year. You're not going to convince great uncle Milton about your progressive world views if you've already tried the last 15 years.

But there's more to it than just not bringing it up and/or not arguing back. You absolutely must draw a boundary. It's easier to manage expectations from the outset than it is to escape an argument you've been mired in for the last 20 minutes. If it's been a particular problem in the past, then contact people even before you attend a dinner with them and let them know that, in order to preserve your own mental health and energy, you won't be engaging so please don't bring it up. Excuse yourself immediately from any conversation taking a turn to a place you don't want to go. People figure out pretty quickly that you mean business.

Of course, you may be one of those families that enjoys the back and forth fight. This post is for people who aren't.