“I think your generation is bored, so that’s why you all are obsessed with food.”
While I may be grocery shopping, my ears are always perked up and my writer’s brain is always active. This mother’s response to her daughter at Trader Joe’s felt like the perfect way to start a commentary about "this" generation.
A very wise therapist once told me, boredom is suppressed anger. At the time, I felt bored living alone in Connecticut and was missing the fun social life I had in Tulsa. When she pointed out the correlation, it was obvious: I was absolutely angry about being back in CT, which meant I whined about feeling bored. Once I came to grips with the fact that I was the one who made the choice to move home, I needed to find a way to cope. This was precisely when I joined a local yoga studio and everything changed. BAM, fast-forward past a spiritual awakening to present day, when I hear anyone say they’re “bored” I think of what they might be angry about...or better yet, what they are not allowing themselves to feel.
Avoiding our thoughts and feelings is where numbing agents come into play. For some, this may be alcohol, drugs, working out, running, shopping, TV, scrolling through social media, and for many of us, it becomes FOOD. The best part about the 21st century, is that you can binge on food, as you binge on Netflix/wine/beer/drugs/social media or even online shopping!! Perhaps working out or running is the only habit I’ve listed above that cannot be immediately combined with the consumption of food, but oftentimes people justify what they eat or feel it’s okay to have 4 slices of pizza, simply because they exercised earlier that day. Food is comforting, a way to celebrate, and a way to help us literally, and figuratively, feel full.
So, why don’t we feel full, otherwise?
While the Trader Joe’s mother quoted above, who I must say, was dressed in head-to-toe Patagonia gear, looked very active and outdoorsy, her daughter was a healthy, bouncy teenager who seemed thrilled about picking out the not-so-healthy snacks Trader Joe’s has to offer. Is it possible that because so much of our life now happens through an iPhone, that we simply don’t know how to have fun outdoors, be still, or sit without any sort of entertainment? I personally never close out of Instagram or Facebook and think “WOW! Scrolling through everyone else’s updates and posts made me feel really good about myself!!” I typically close out of social media and think: “I just lost 15 minutes of my life and now I feel bad about myself.” I am definitely sensitive, so you may not always feel this way, but we all must admit, social media doesn’t typically build us up and has some sort of numbing effect. It is a source of entertainment, information, and ultimately can be a very large distraction from our present condition. I know, social media has it’s benefits and is useful for networking, outreach, and it makes spreading a message easier. It however has become an extension of our consciousness, and a norm that over-sharing the happenings of our life to receive comments/likes from other people will somehow make us feel loved, and fill a void.
Now that I’ve let out all of my opinions and observations around consumption in the 21st century, let me share some encouragement about what we can do to overcome this boredom, or habit to reach for things outside of ourselves. First, and as always, I recommend we meditate. Here is meditation simplified: What are you thinking? How does it make you feel? Why? Now, focus on your breath. Bring your awareness to your physical body, and observe yourself, your mind, and your feelings with curiosity. Try to silence the ego. Let it all go, and breathe. Sometimes, the only thing we can control is our breath.
To further this self-reflection, think about this definition by Dr. Henry Grayson: (https://henrygrayson.com/your-power-to-heal/)
"Responsibility is your ability to respond."
When distressing moments arise and you desire to numb a feeling, a thought, or something that is troubling, see if you could break the unconscious pattern of grabbing for (beer/drugs/food/cellphone/TV/anything outside of yourself) and respond differently. Maybe you’re able to take a deep breath, maybe you’re able to dive-in to understand why you have certain habits. Maybe you need a coach, a mentor, or someone to talk to objectively to see the patterns we develop; I know this helps me a lot. Another trick I use to achieve a clearer state of mind is an Energy Medicine neurovascular hold. This technique helps you detach from an emotional response such as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, or anything that causes you stress. This is your “panic button” to help avoid sheer panic!
Place one hand across your forehead as if you’re checking your temperature
Place your other hand on the back of the head, in a similar position
That’s all you have to do. Simply breathe; you can even think about what stressed you out, and keep your hands in this position for as long as necessary. You will feel when you’ve begun to let go of the stress and will feel a sense of “release” or detachment from the distress you previously experienced. There is no prescribed amount of breaths to take, but I would say 2-3 minutes should do the trick. In some cases, it may be longer! Listen to your body and see if you can feel the change in your mind and emotional being. [Why does this work? By placing your hand over the front of your head, you are stimulating the frontal cortex, meaning blood is rushing to meet the hand. This pulls you out of your fight or flight response which originates in the brain stem and brings you to a clearer state of mind.]
To circle back to the Trader Joe’s mom, I would like to say: No, we aren’t bored. We are angry and frustrated by the overwhelming influx of information and stimulation in our daily lives. We might not even be aware of how much the over-consumption of things has made it hard to feel full or satisfied. It’s difficult to feel like you need to constantly keep up or conform to a certain social standard. Food is comfort, it’s distraction, it’s numbing. But you’re right, I should spend more time in stillness to tap into how I’m really feeling and not look anywhere but WITHIN to feel comforted, content, and happy! Let's try this neurovascular hold I learned so we can both feel clearer in our thinking.
And a note to you: We all have times when we need to blow off steam and perhaps "turn off" our brains. I get it and I do that too. I think rather than being consumed by different ways to numb our emotions, we need to practice self-awareness to understand what or why we want a distraction from what is really going on within. As you identify what your numbing agents or habits may be, practice compassion with yourself, self-love, and know that this journey to true health continues to evolve and get deeper. Transformation happens in time.