Your mind is your greatest asset, and this challenge will help you to have greater clarity, joy, peace, creativity, ease, and fulfillment in your life.
This challenge is about freedom, not restriction. You have goals and dreams you’re pursuing. You want to feel joy and peace. You want happiness. This challenge is a pathway to getting those things and more. This challenge is about learning who and what you are through direct experience.
It works by removing the bad and adding in the good
- Removing mental junk from the outside world
- Taking in only good, healthy things
- Avoiding negative thought patterns
- Creating & contributing to the world
This challenge may sound “extreme” at first. The seeming extreme nature of this challenge is only extreme to the untrained mind. Go into the challenge with an open heart and mind, and give it the full 30 days. Judge it by the results you get. Rate the following on a 1-10 scale on day 1 and again on day 30.
Some Ways to Measure the Benefits
- Emotional health
- Physical health
- Spiritual connection
- Daily fulfillment
- Meaningful contribution &/or creative expression
The Challenge Rules
- Give up ALL junk content. This means any non-nutritive content, tv shows, movies, distracting websites, drama and gossip sites, forums, and all social media.
- Choose a hobby, restorative practice, fun activity, or quality time to replace the junk content you’re giving up.
- During activities that you’d normally distract yourself from, be present for them. This includes all housework, walking, workouts (music is fine), etc. Notice the boredom, anxiety, depression, or any other emotion. Be with the sensations in your body and accept them. Allow them to be there without having an opinion on them, and simply notice them. Even the most uncomfortable ones.
- Meditate for 20 minutes each morning
- Walk for 1 hour each day, without any technology
- No complaining internally or externally
- No gossip, “ain’t it awful”, “the economy is terrible”, or any other negative talking or thinking. When you catch yourself, notice it and shift to a higher thought.
- If you have friends or family that are primarily negative focused, love them as usual and shift the conversations to what’s good, what you’re loving right now, what you look forward to etc. Without a sense of judgement (we’re all doing our best), but while honoring your choice to elevate your mind and life.
- Follow your “Yes”. When something feels like a “Yes” do that activity.
- Follow your “No”. When something feels like a “No”, avoid doing that thing.
Defining Mind-Junk/Junk Content
Here’s how I define junk…. Any non-nutritive content.
If the answer is NO to ANY of these questions, it’s junk.
- Will this grow me
- Will this elevate my mind?
- Will this improve my life?
If the answer is YES to ANY of these questions, it’s junk
- Is it a news site or news forum?
- Is there negativity, doom and gloom being conveyed?
- Is there gossip of any kind?
- Is this site an endless-scrolling-time-suck-of-random-and-unpredictable-posts, that leave me feeling empty and frustrated that I just wasted precious minutes of my life?
“But Don’t I Need to Watch The News?”
No. Your life will be so much better without the news. Don’t hesitate to give it up. Think back to every minute of news you’ve watched, and notice the complete lack of return on time investment. In fact, The news never adds anything to your life, except for fear, frustration, anxiety, and “handsome husband kills wife” headlines.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about what’s happening in the world. If there’s something important to know, you’ll find out about it one way or another. If there’s any important cause you want to get behind, by all means, get behind it! But knowing about every morbid tragedy is toxic. You will be a greater asset to this world if your head is clear, positive, and you’re delivering your gifts and talents.
For all other sites, you know the ones that are junk. Be ruthless and cut them out.
Consume Stuff That Makes You Better
I’m very careful of the types of content I consume, but I still enjoy plenty of authors and content. Here’s my criteria for things that I allow into my mind. Your list may differ slightly, but the following are universally nutritious things to consume.
- Teachers from the past or present who align with your values and fields of interest
- Creators and colleagues who align with your values and fields of interest
- Experts who can help you to learn something important
- Art of any kind that inspires you
- Writing of any kind that inspires you
- Books that grow you
- Recipe, Cooking, & Food Content (of course)
- PubMed Scientific Articles & Studies
- Anything that will help you help other people
- Anything that helps you to do your meaningful work in the world
- Anything that feels “right” to your soul, and doesn’t leave you feeling drained afterwards.
I still go on YouTube, because it is an incredible resource. I love being able to listen to Eckhart Tolle, or watch a video on how to fix a broken vacuum cord to save myself $200, or practice yoga nidra. The way I use YouTube is to have my handful of channels and teachers, and use it as a resource to better myself. Or watch a clip of something from a different platform.
“What About Podcasts?”
Use your discretion. I don’t listen to podcasts anymore. Part of my personal journey to greater peace and joy is being as present as possible, especially when I’m walking, and doing housework. So if I’m not sitting at my desk, I’m completely unplugged.
This is a personal choice, and what works for you may differ. You might find great value in certain podcasts.
Create your own list of criteria of the type of content you’re going to allow into your mind. When in doubt go by the way things make you feel.
How I Started
I haven’t owned a TV in thirteen years. During a terrible stretch of seasonal depression in 2013, I realized TV made me feel worse. In one of my many life overhaul moments, I got rid of it, and immediately felt a blissful wave of relief. Since then, I’ve always put something nice where a tv would go. A painting, or flowers, or a chalk board. I love the way my living room looks without a tv.
I was never a couch potato, but even a few hours of tv time here and there added up to be too much. I knew deep down getting rid of tv was the right step.
But chucking my tv didn’t free me from screens….
Sure, I watched a little less “TV”, but I wasn’t free from fruitless distractions. You don’t need a TV to escape into mind-junk. The internet has everything a TV has, plus more.
Before quitting junk sites completely twenty months ago, I probably spent anywhere from 15-60 minutes a day on things like….
- Honestly can’t remember, but there’s more I’m sure.
Most people would say there was nothing wrong with the amount of junk I took in. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that
- I didn’t want to be doing it,
- I wanted to use that time differently,
- All the little distractions were holding me back. Something inside told me that if I wanted to grow, I had to let go of modern distractions.
Eventually, my desire to grow and be more joyful overtook all desire for distraction. Shows and junk sites stopped being interesting, especially compared to real life. The more I let go of distractions on a screen, the more my mind was able to unwind and really think. The clearer my mind became, the clearer my life became.
One day, while eating dinner, I was about to watch a little something, but found I couldn’t stand it. It was like chewing flavorless bubblegum. I took my dinner on the patio and watched the pink and orange sunset, the barn swallows soar, the tall oaks blowing in the wind. My dinner tasted better than it ever had. My mind felt free. This is now my new normal.
How to Succeed at This Challenge
Your journey will look different from mine, no doubt. But my hope is that you don’t overthink this process, and just get started as quickly as possible. The state of your mind is your most precious commodity, and being free of mental clutter will help you to feel so good. Once you get over ripping off the band-aid, you’ll much prefer life without the distractions and noise.
To get you started, here’s the quickest, most straightforward steps to quitting succeeding at this 30 Day Mental Diet. These steps worked for me, and they will work for you too.
- Want Mental Freedom More Than Distractions.
- Eliminate all the silly stories and excuses
- Meditate and sit with the uncomfortable feelings you’re normally trying to avoid with screens
- Have New Habits Lined Up
- Look for events, courses, workshops etc.
- Get a Library Card
- Setup your environment
- Be Ruthless and Follow Your Rules
How This Mental Diet Changed My Life
The changes that have happened to me since completely giving up mind-junk are nothing short of miraculous…
- I’m finally an early riser. For the first time in my adult life
- My sleep quality is much better.
- I’m reading more
- I started meditating consistently
- I made new friends
- Accomplished more goals
- Started a daily creative practice
- My mood is consistently good
Most importantly, I’m able to be in the present moment. I’m free of that annoying sense that I should be “doing something else” no matter what I’m doing. Getting rid of that nagging feeling that “I should be doing something else” happened as a result of all the things I started doing, in addition to not leaning on mental distractions. And I’m grateful to be free of it.
What To Expect
The first few days, you’ll have an uncomfortable feeling from not visiting junk sites. But you’ll also feel a wave of relief that you’re finally doing this. The greater the resistance, the more you probably needed to do this.
Eventually, this will become a new normal for you. You’ll also experience one or a combination of the following.
- Better focus
- Better mood
- Increased creativity
- Deeper connection with yourself and loved ones
- New hobbies
- More time to do old hobbies
- New adventures
- You’ll probably spend less because you’ll see less ads
- Better sleep
- You’ll do more of what matters to you
- You’ll remember (even more) what matters to you
PLUS THE BIGGIES….
You’ll release trapped emotions – The primary reason we use these distractions is to avoid our feelings. The feelings of stress, overwhelm, sadness, emptiness, boredom, and anxiety. When you ignore feelings, they get trapped. Then they grow and cause all kind of problems, like anxiety and depression. When you feel your feelings instead of distract yourself, they eventually pass.
You’ll enjoy your own company – When you don’t have distractions, your leisure time will be rich with things that expand you. This might be learning something new, going to your favorite places, reading a book, relaxing, or any number of things. You’ll be doing what you truly want to do. This is part of building a healthy relationship with yourself.
You’ll Feel Better – Junk distractions get your brain in the habit of being anywhere but here. When you’re not in the present, you can’t be truly joyful. But when you let go of mind-junk, your mind gets back to its natural, peaceful, clear state.
You’ll get more time – If you typically spend one hour on distracting sites per day, you’ll get a whopping 15 extra days back per year when you quit. You could take a two week vacation with that time. You could learn a new skill with that time. You could start and finish a home decor project. You could do SO MUCH with 15 days.
Magic Will Happen – There’s something really big that will happen for you when you quit junk sites. I’m not sure what it’ll be, but I am certain it will be miraculous. You might meet someone special, or start a project that will change your life. You might accomplish a goal you’ve been dreaming of for years. I can’t say for sure what will happen, but I promise it’ll be good.
Can I still watch movies with loved ones?
Treat movies like an occasional glass of wine. A great movie isn’t the worst way to spend time with a loved one. But when it’s all you do together, that time isn’t exactly quality time. I challenge you to see what other things you and your loved ones can do together. Going for a walk, board games, crafts, reading together, playing music, or just talking about your day are a few other ideas. The list of ways to spend time with a loved one is infinite, and most things that don’t involve Netflix are so much better.
Bottom line, do what makes you happy. If watching movies every night with your loved one makes you happy (not just comfortably numb), then go for it! Just be honest with yourself.
I have to do social media for my job. How can I go Junk-Free?
This comes down to setting boundaries for yourself. When you’re on social media for work, focus on work. Just post what needs posting and get off. And if you need to have your fingers on the pulse of every social media app for your job, you can get the gist of trends with a few minutes of research.
Is it ok if I consume mind-junk sometimes?
Do what feels right for you. Be honest with yourself, with the results you’re getting in life, and with how you feel afterwards. I don’t enjoy the way mind-junk makes me feel in the long run, so I don’t do it. Life is short and precious, and should be spent doing things that make your heart sing.
You deserve peace. You deserve joy. And you deserve the fruits that living junk-free is bound to give you. Commit and take the leap today!