Let’s Talk About… Moderation

By Jeremy Godwin

What is moderation? How does it help your mental health? And how do you enjoy moderation without being bored to tears? That’s what I’m talking about this week on… Let’s Talk About Mental Health — the weekly podcast about looking after your mental health, with simple ideas you can put into practice immediately.

So, get comfortable, and Let’s Talk About Mental Health…

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This podcast episode was originally released on 24 April, 2022.

Hello and welcome to Episode 128, and thanks so much for joining me!

I’m Jeremy Godwin and I talk about looking after your mental health. I had a breakdown in 2011 which led me into a period of severe anxiety and depression, and that took me on a journey of learning more about my mental health. So I went and did a degree in psychology and sociology, and now I focus on delivering what I couldn’t find: simple advice on how to look after and improve your mental wellbeing, from someone who actually understands what it’s like to go through mental health challenges. Each episode I look at one specific topic and explore how to improve that aspect of your wellbeing.

This episode is all about moderation and I’ll be talking about what moderation is (and what it isn’t), why healthy moderation matters, and how to embrace moderation in all things. So, let’s talk!

Introduction

I’ve been talking about moderation and balance for ages in this podcast, and I do so because it helps you to lay a solid foundation for your mental and emotional wellbeing. Having or experiencing more and more in your life is not necessarily better; it’s just more, and it comes with its own set of problems (which I’ll discuss shortly). This isn’t a new idea; the Stoics of Ancient Greece talked about four virtues as being moderation, courage, justice and wisdom (source: https://iep.utm.edu/stoiceth/) and the idea of moderation has been a core part of Buddhism for thousands of years (so much so that the idea of ‘The Middle Way’ is a principle  teaching of the belief system, and it’s both a philosophical idea and a practical one in terms of how you approach your day-to-day life).

In more recent times, modern-day philosophers like the Spice Girls have stated that too much of something is bad enough, but… too much of nothing is just as tough. But just like Baby, Ginger, Posh, Scary and Sporty, we all just need to know the way to feel to keep me satisfied (and by ‘me’ I mean you, not me, but it didn’t sound right if I messed with the lyrics of the song!).

I know a lot of people hear the word ‘moderation’ and cringe, because it seems so incredibly dull… there’s an episode of Futurama that I love (actually, I love them all) where the Neutral Planet, which is (of course) in the Neutral Zone, is under attack, and the Neutral President says one of my favourite lines of all-time:“If I don’t survive, tell my wife ‘hello’”. We make fun of boring, bland and beige things because they seem less exciting than the alternatives that we believe are more fun… like partying and overeating and dancing until dawn. But do you know what happens when you party all night? You’re wrecked all day. The band Kiss might have declared that they wanted to rock and roll all night and party every day, but that’s the fastest way to look 82 when you’re only 25. 

So what’s the solution then? Sit at home doing crochet all day and avoiding fun entirely? No! Moderation doesn’t have to be boring, and it is absolutely possible to have your cake and eat it too (in moderation, of course). You do that by consciously looking to create balance in your life and being thoughtful about the choices you make, and it’s the intersection of ‘fun’ and ‘stability’ where moderation steps in to help you find greater peace of mind.

So let’s explore some definitions and let’s talk about…

What is moderation?

‘Moderation’ means avoiding excess or extremes, especially when it comes to the way you behave. I will note that it also has another meaning which is political in nature, however I won’t be touching that with a ten-foot barge pole today because I make it a point not to discuss politics in this show — but I will note (again) that moderation is the opposite of extremism… whether we’re talking about your behaviours or your political beliefs. 

Extremes of any kind are not great. Physical, mental, spiritual, political, financial extremes… it’s probably no real surprise to hear me say that extremes of anything tend to lead to conflict and drama. Unfortunately, most of what we’re exposed to every day is on the more extreme end of the scale… for example, think about the number of influencers showing their supposedly ‘aspirational’ lifestyle on social media, full of private jets and luxury brands, and you begin to have an idea of what I mean in terms of some of the extremes we’re exposed to in relation to consumption and social pressure (I mean, hey, if that’s what you want then go for it, but let’s be honest here: most people can only afford to fly economy, maybe premium economy at a stretch, and yet we’re constantly being sold a dream of luxury air travel which creates unrealistic expectations). It’s the reason why I talk openly about the benefits of working with a professional, like a counsellor or therapist, and yet at the same time I also point out that I know what it’s like to have trouble paying for that type of help (when I went through my breakdown, I could only afford a few sessions and had to drop them when the money ran out because it was either that or pay my rent — so, you know, choices!). Anyway, I think I’m on a bit of a tangent so let me get back to my point…

‘Moderation’ doesn’t mean that you don’t have fun or that you don’t treat yourself every now and then; it means that you make smart choices in your life and that means considering how your decisions will affect you today and tomorrow. Why? Because restricting yourself or, on the other end of the scale, over-indulging, on a regular basis throws you out of balance and it can make it very hard to find an even footing — mentally, physically and emotionally. 

Moderation is about finding balance, because that plays a huge role in finding greater peace of mind. And peace of mind helps you to feel more calm and more in control of your physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Like Goldilocks, you’re looking to find the porridge that is just right (although if you break into a bear’s house to do it, then you’re a criminal — and yes, I’ve made that joke before; I believe in recycling instead of wasting resources!). So, with that in mind, let’s move on to the next part of this topic and let’s talk about… 

Why healthy moderation matters

And it matters because this is about having a solid foundation for how you approach your wellbeing. Let’s face facts: extreme approaches to your wellbeing just do not work, like crash diets or staying up for three days and then trying to sleep for three days. Sooner or later you will crash (whether it’s physically, mentally or emotionally — or all of the above!) and when that happens, you will inevitably find yourself having to work ten times as hard to get yourself back on track. Laying a solid foundation of daily choices that are based on a balanced approach to your wellbeing allows you to reduce your exposure to extremes; for example, having a healthy and balanced diet, and taking some moderate exercise every day, means that the odd indulgence will have little to no impact on your overall wellbeing, whereas if your entire eating plan is pizza and jellybeans then, sooner or later, that will bite you in the backside (and trust me when I tell you that eating that way seems perfectly fine when you’re 22, but when your metabolism shifts in a few years and you begin to gain weight just by looking at food, you’ll wish you had listened to your Uncle Jeremy when he kept banging on about moderation!). 

If you’re dealing with mental health challenges or struggling with the weight of your emotions, a good place to start is to look at where you might be able to create more balance in your life by practicing moderation. I say that because sometimes our choices can throw us out of alignment and we can end up creating more stress than is necessary or healthy. 

Stress is often associated with our attempts to have more, do more and be more. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with striving to improve your circumstances, there’s a point at which it moves beyond wanting a better life and it becomes about trying to achieve certain unrealistic standards. It’s the thing at work where we’re constantly encouraged to want more and more out of our careers even if it’s not really the thing that brings us the greatest satisfaction in life (which, for most of us, is actually more about the people we care for rather than what we do to pay the bills). It’s the same cycle that keeps many of us thinking that we should be upgrading our phones every year, even though this year’s model looks the same as last year (except now it’s available in green… wow, what a revolutionary step forward!). It’s the thing that happens when we feel pressured to look a certain way so that we can be worthy of admiration by others, even if we feel like garbage on the inside. It’s the belief that we need to wear particular labels or act a certain way to be accepted by others, even if that might go against what actually matters. 

I know it sounds like I’m doing a lot of verbal bashing of certain lifestyle choices, and that’s not my intention; I say all of this with respect because it’s very much an “each to their own” thing (as in, you make the choices for your life that feel right to you, and it’s not for anyone to judge)… however, I want you to be conscious of the ongoing costs of lifestyle choices that require more and more out of you. I’m talking about long working hours that drain you of your energy. I’m talking about the monetary cost of things, which can drain you of your bank account. I’m talking about taking on more and more commitments in your life, which can drain you of your time and which can lead you to experience more and more stress. Stress is a topic I’ve covered before (all the way back in Episode 8) and it’s not a totally bad thing; a little bit of stress is necessary to push us to get up off the couch and do something with our lives… however too much stress can lead us to compromise our peace of mind and it can result in making choices that are not in our best long-term interests. One of the core messages of this show is that ‘prevention is better than cure’ and if you consciously create a foundation for yourself of balance and moderation, it can support you to manage stress better and it can lead you to find greater satisfaction and meaning in your life. 

How do you do that? Well, it’s time to get into the how-to part of today’s topic; so, let’s talk about… 

How to embrace moderation in all things

So, today I’m sharing a bunch of different ideas for you to consider rather than a step-by-step process; I think the best way to tackle this is to identify one or two ideas that resonate with you, try them for a few weeks and integrate them into your life, and then come back and pick another couple to add on (or to try instead, if some of them don’t feel right for you). And a quick reminder that the full transcript for this episode is available on my website at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au/episodes in both English and Spanish (and if you sign up to my free mailing list there, then you’ll receive the transcript in your inbox each Sunday when the new episode is released). Alright, so let’s begin with…

Define what moderation looks and feels like for you — because it’s going to be different for each of us based on our wants and needs, so be really clear on what it is (and what it isn’t) for you. For example, maybe it’s having a couple of social activities a week but deciding to do so in a way that doesn’t involve excessive drinking or anything after a particular time of day. Take some time to sit and reflect on what I’ve been talking about today, and come up with a clear idea of what ‘moderation’ means to you. OK, next… 

Decide what is more important in your life: happiness or satisfaction? Because happiness tends to be fleeting, meaning that you have to work harder and harder to chase it, whereas when you are generally satisfied with your life and the way you’ve created it, you tend to have less of the ups and downs that come when you’re chasing after brief moments of happiness. For example, when I lived in the city I was unhappy with my work which led me to constantly fill my time with activities (many of which involved drinking too much), and so then I was in a constant cycle of having to do more and more to try and get some sort of buzz. Now I live a quieter life in the countryside and I feel a lot more satisfied because I’m off the hamster wheel of trying to keep up with everyone else. Of course, the way I live isn’t for everyone, but the message remains the same: when you focus more on creating a life for yourself that feels satisfying, you spend less time chasing things that might only make you happy for a short while. I’ve talked about this before on my podcast; I discussed happiness in Episode 61 and satisfaction in Episode 110 if you’d like to explore these ideas more. Alright, next…  

Treat the idea of moderation with respect — because, as I mentioned earlier, there’s a bit of a general perception that ‘moderation’ must mean ‘dull’ but really, is it? No. See it as less of a chore and more of a choice, one that sets you up for better wellbeing and greater peace of mind. I mean, I hate to sound like a parent here, but it actually is possible to have fun without writing yourself off or creating absolute carnage! And that leads to my next point…

Decide what matters most to you — because you cannot always have your cake and eat it too; sometimes you have to choose between your wellbeing and everything else going on around you. If you feel out of alignment then it comes down to what matters more to you: your wellbeing or partying… because you cannot always have both. The same applies for whatever your version of ‘excess’ might be; if you’re struggling mentally or emotionally (or both), then going back to basics and laying a foundation for yourself based on moderation is going to be far more effective than continuing to overindulge and then wondering why nothing changes for the better. All things in moderation. Understand your priorities and focus on them (for example, working to live instead of living to work; same with eating to live instead of living to eat); Alright, next… 

Know that moderation doesn’t have to mean ‘ordinary’ — and this is another point that’s based on trying to encourage you to put aside the way that society tends to look down on moderation or make fun of it (and I’ll say two things here: first, most of the examples we’re given of bland moderation are actually people going to the opposite extreme of excess, not actually true and healthy moderation, and, second, it’s no coincidence that most of the messages we get in the media about moderation also go hand in hand with advertising trying to sell us things we don’t actually need!). You can practice moderation without being dull; I live what I would call a moderate life however I spend my time doing work that is far from ordinary or boring… I mean, taking the risk of working for yourself while also sharing your darkest secrets with people around the world every week could hardly be described as playing it safe! You don’t have to be Evel Kinevil to live an exciting life (and for the younger listeners out there, Evel Kinevil was a stunt performer who used to do crazy motorcycle jumps over things because… well, I have no idea why, but he did and it was nuts; safety first, kids!). OK, next…

Focus on healthy mindset and habits rather than trying to chase specific outcomes — and this is a sort-of main foundation of moderation because it involves looking at your wellbeing in a more holistic way and understanding how the choices you make influence every area of your life. You are in full control of what you do and say, as well as what you choose to do with your feelings, so instead of getting hung up on a particular outcome you can instead find balance by doing the work on your inner self. For example, if you’re looking to lose weight then you can work on improving your relationship with food and feeling better about how your clothes fit you rather than measuring your success purely by numbers on a scale. I talked about mindset in Episode 31 and habits in Episode 29, along with wellbeing in Episode 60, so check those out for more specific ideas on those topics. Alright, speaking of mindset, my next point is…

Focus on one step at a time — and you might be wondering what this has to do with moderation, so let me explain. When we find ourselves thinking too many steps into the future (or being stuck on things from the past), we’re taking ourselves out of the present moment and that’s the only place we can really truly find peace of mind. When you consciously remind yourself to simply break things down into their steps and then just focus on the current one (plus maybe the next one, but that’s it!), it makes it easier to remain grounded and that leads you to make choices that are more balanced and less erratic or emotional. Whatever you’re dealing with, whether good or challenging, all you need to do is take one step at a time and focus on what is within your direct control — that’s how you practice moderation in your approach to the chaos of life! OK, next…

Create a daily wellbeing routine that works for you — and by this I mean being thoughtful about all aspects of your wellbeing, including having a consistent sleep pattern and eating well, and also making time to slow down and savour the moment more often. This is something I discussed in Episode 60, about wellbeing, so check that out for more on the subject. OK, next…

Give yourself permission to make mistakes — because one rough day isn’t going to ruin everything! If you drop the ball, be honest with yourself in a judgment free way and learn from it so you can modify your approach in future. If you find yourself being triggered by particular situations then identify that and address the triggers (and I talked about how to do that in Episode 91, about triggers). I also talked about mistakes all the way back in Episode 2

Alright, so now I have a few more quick-fire tips about moderation to share, starting with: 

  • If you struggle with moderation, especially if it’s related to things like food or alcohol consumption, plan ahead and minimise your exposure to temptation — because prevention is better than having to clean up a mess afterwards, whether that’s a figurative mess or a literal mess! Next…  
  • Never make a decision when you’re under the influence of any substance or heightened emotional state — because it will almost always create an absolute nightmare of drama and conflama that you have to deal with later! Next…
  • If you struggle with moderation when it comes to food, never ever shop on an empty stomach — because you’re much more likely to make poor choices that aren’t in line with how you want to live. And next…
  • Be mindful of your technology usage and social media time — you need time away from these tools to actually experience life and this is very much about setting boundaries for yourself so that you can have a healthy sense of moderation about how you use them (for example, I only allow myself to go on Instagram twice a day — once for work and once for relaxation and inspiration)… don’t live your life online when the real world is waiting for your attention! And that leads to my next tip…
  • Know that less really is more — because you don’t need to fill your house, or your life, with so much crap that you can’t see anything else… focus on what you actually need, rather than what you think you want. And if you do have physical stuff or excess emotional stuff, let go of the stuff you really don’t need… you don’t have to be a minimalist and get rid of everything except for two spoons and a plate, because that’s another form of extremism — and I can tell you right now that if you try to take my things away from me, then I will probably bite — but do you really need those 16 mugs in the cupboard when there are just two of you in the house? And by ‘you’ I mean ‘me’, so my local charity shop can expect another donation shortly…! OK, next… 
  • Give yourself regular breaks and rest periods throughout the day to just be — because you really don’t have to fill every second of every day with things on your to-do list; I’ve shared a quote in an earlier episode (no idea which one) by Etty Hillesum that said, “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths” (and I talked about how to do that in Episode 83, about being present, and Episode 42, about mindfulness).
  • And then, if you struggle with moderation get support — because it can be easy to think you have to deal with this stuff on your own, but you don’t and by talking to someone you trust you can begin to find ways to address any challenges that you might be facing, especially if moderation is becoming more and more difficult. And I know this won’t apply to everyone listening, but let me say that I discussed support in Episode 33 and addiction in Episode 34, so if you’re having a tough time of it then please know there are plenty of support services out there to help you find a path towards greater peace of mind; all you need to do is take the first step. No matter your circumstances, you do not have to go through things alone and nor should you!

Summary and Close-Out

Because when it comes to moderation and mental health, what it all boils down to is this: For a long time we’ve been taught that moderation is boring and dull, but the fact is that it’s actually the thing that helps you find stability and peace of mind. You can still have fun while focusing on creating a solid foundation for yourself where all things are enjoyed in moderation and where you don’t push yourself into doing or saying things that create unnecessary stress in your life.   

The choice is yours, as it is with all things related to your wellbeing… so, what choice will YOU make today? 

Each week I like to finish up by sharing a quote about the week’s topic, and I encourage you to take a few moments to really reflect on it and consider what it means to you. This week’s quote is by the ancient philosopher Seneca the Younger, and it is:

“Everything that exceeds the bounds of moderation has an unstable foundation.”

Seneca the Younger

Alright… that’s nearly it for this week.

Next week I’ll be talking about procrastination. This is a subject I’ve been meaning to cover for a while now, but I just kept on putting it off… and that’s the type of comedy gold you can expect next week, combined with some actual practical advice about what procrastination is, why understanding it matters, and how to deal with procrastination in a healthy way. 

I hope you’ll join me for that episode, which will be released on Sunday the 1st of May, 2022. 

If you found this episode helpful then I’d love it if you left a five-star review on the platform you’re listening to me on, or head over to my Instagram @ltamentalhealth and let me know. And if you’d like to support me and my work then I have a Patreon where I offer exclusive benefits for my supporters; you’ll find the link in the episode description, plus it’s linked on my website at letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au (where you can also sign up for my free newsletter, where I share a quick dose of mental health inspiration every Thursday).

And I also have a YouTube channel where I publish new videos every Wednesday… so, if you’d like even more content about looking after your mental health, join me over there (and that’s linked in the episode description as well)!

Thank you very much for joining me today — look after yourself and make a conscious effort to share positivity and kindness in the world, because you get back what you put out. Take care and talk to you next time!

Jeremy 🙂

Let’s Talk About Mental Health is proudly produced by Reconnaissance Media, helping you find gratitude and meaning. For more information visit reconnaissancemedia.com

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Find more content at www.letstalkaboutmentalhealth.com.au

Let’s Talk About Mental Health.
Simple ideas for better mental health.

Let’s Talk About Mental Health. © 2022 Jeremy Godwin.

The information provided in this episode is for general awareness on the topic and does not constitute advice. You should consult a doctor and/or a mental health professional if you are struggling with your mental health and wellbeing. You’ll find additional information on the Resources page of this website.

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