Hopefully most of us wash our hands after we've used the bathroom. We have squirt bottles of germicide sitting in our offices and stay clear of homes that have someone with a contagious illness. We'll go to great lengths from washing our food and the tops of aluminum cans to wiping down computer keyboards, steering wheels and doorknobs - and no, I'm not a germ-a-phoebe.
Why is it that we don't go to these lengths to avoid mind germs? Why do we willingly allow networks to fill our brains with useless, negative news, real life stories full of misery and programs of fiction that reflect some of the worst of human behavior: sexual assaults, drug deals, murder, abandonment, cheating and so on - I bet you can name a TV show, fiction or nonfiction, for almost any awful scenario you can think of. It's contagious!
When do we take the time to clean away the filth and horrors fed to us and the poison of gossip that we drink by the gallons? If you could, would you wash your mind of these infectious germs? Do you have a method that duplicates spritzing antibacterial gel on your hands?
There are methods and they begin with choosing to be aware of what you are asking your mind to digest. First and foremost, PAY ATTENTION to the shows you consume, books you devour and the conversations you participate in. None of these are requirements. We don't "have to" watch a show that features a brutal murder every episode. We don't have to watch a news program that features one negative story after another, each with NO relevance to our life. . . and we don't have to rationalize this behavior by telling ourselves that we won't have anything in common with our friends if we don't. Your friends like YOU, not what programs you watch.
Homework: watch a network morning news program and count how many stories they share with you that are by their own admission "sad", "so sad", "disturbing" or "frightening."
Consider "the purpose" of what you consume more than the product. When you question your own motives, it becomes simple to make a decision.
"What is the purpose of spending my (precious) time on this?"
"Why am I really doing this?"
When the answer comes back, "I don't know", "Because I've always watched this", "Because my friends do", "Because I get a kick out of hearing gossip", "Because I'm bored and there's nothing else to do"- that's the proof you have been unconsciously consuming mind germs and because you don't realize you're consuming mind germs, you don't even bothering WASHING! (insert an "Ewww" here)
Mindfulness takes practice, but it's worth it. Meditate, begin a spiritual practice (qigong, yoga, tai chi, prayer), promise yourself some germ free programing and see if you start to feel better, less stressed, and better rested. You'll find that you are able to keep your own thoughts on positive solutions to challenges, rather than defaulting to irrational fears and chronic worry . . . now why might that be happening, hmmm?
Keeping the mind germs away takes the same daily, even hourly practice that developing a hand washing habit took when we were younger. Eventually you won't go out in public without taking care of washing and that's best for you and everyone else too!