Overplugged: Can a Mental Food Plate Give Us Better Perspective?

The food plate offers us a simple yet powerful visual to conceive of our daily consumption. Instead of viewing every dietary action by itself, we are thinking of each food item as part of a whole. The whole is our conception of a healthy diet.

Each day, according to the food plate, I should be eating fruits, vegetables, proteins, and grains. By listing out each of these categories, I am made aware of what’s required for a healthy physical diet. The food plate is geared towards creating a healthy body. But what have we created towards ensuring a healthy brain?

The mental food plate is based on the premise that information, like food, has become nearly unlimited in first-world countries. Similar to our struggles with maintaining a healthy weight for us and our kids, we also struggle with maintaining tech balance in our always-on culture.

Approach Your Brain the Same Way You Approach Your Body

The simple visualization of the mental food plate can serve as a template for tech balance. Right now we are reading articles about unplugging, digital diets, digital detoxes, distraction-blocking software, brain-training apps, and more. But we lack a simple visualization that ties it all together. What we are striving for, and for that of our kids, is to achieve better thinking and balance. We are trying to be healthy.

The mental food plate considers the issue of our tech consumption from a holistic viewpoint. Unplugging for the weekend may promote clarity and a change of lifestyle, but it is merely part of the whole. Downloading a brain-training game may work your mental muscles, likewise, should be viewed alongside your entire approach to the brain.

When you are trying to maintaining a healthy body, you don’t think of your diet without also considering your exercise. The two work hand-in-hand together because they both promote a healthier body. In a similar fashion, the mental food plate incorporates all the parts, diet and exercise, that go into maximizing our brain.

The Mental Food Plate

If we can improve our bodies by incorporating a food plate, perhaps we can do the same with a mental food plate. It is a holistic approach to improving our thinking by incorporating cognitive assessments, mindful consumption, time for reflection, and adequate amounts of brain training. Reflection, in particular, has been an area greatly reduced by the current climate of constant digital consumption.

Mental Assessment: How is your thinking? Is a constant barrage of media consumption getting in the way of reflecting? What would you change about your tech use or that of your family’s?

Mindful Consumption: All content is not equal in terms of its beneficial value. We should be mindful of both the quality and quantity of media we consume.

Reflection: Deep thinking requires adequate time to reflect on the information you are consuming. How often do reflect? What about your child?

Brain Training: How often are you working out your mental muscles? Are there ways to reduce their passive consumption of media and increase their active use of your brain?

Similar to the food plate, the mental food plate offers a quick way to determine if there is an important aspect of our diet being overlooked. While the food plate highlights an area often lacking in a family’s diet, fruits and vegetables, the mental food plate elevates reflection.

What we currently lack right now is is an easy-to-understand visual that allows us to better talk about and debate how we treat our brain. Actual tech use is going to be unique to every family, but we require a simple way to understand how our tech use may be impacting us.

That’s where the mental food plate comes in.

How would you describe your “digital diet?”

Published on: April 08, 2015
About the Author
Photo of David Ryan Polgar

David Ryan Polgar is trying to change our relationship with technology. He brings his background as an attorney and college professor to the task. He is a contributor to the Family Online Safety Institute, iKeepSafe, and The Good Men Project, along with Copilot Family —a startup offering parents better control of their child’s tech use.

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