If you want a healthy body, then you probably know that it’s a good idea not to fill it with junkfood. But when it comes to having a healthy mind, do you pay much attention to what you’re allowing in?
If you suffer from anxiety, you’re likely to be blessed with a very powerful imagination. You use that imagination to create all kinds of worrying scenarios that keep you in a constant state of ‘fight or flight’.
So when it comes to external stimulus, you may want to keep a watchful eye on what you’re allowing into your fertile mind.
TV programmes and movies may seem fun to watch, with cool attractive characters doing interesting and exciting stuff, but look at bit closer and it’s not always the case.
A lot of TV shows and movies are really just sugar-coated fear.
What I mean by this, is that when you look beyond the beautiful people, the cool outfits, and the engrossing storylines, what you’re really seeing is destruction, aggression, and death.
For example, take many popular TV shows (or video game, for that matter) aimed at teenage guys. These shows often depict mindless violence from start to finish. Yes, there can be some funny, entertaining, or dramatic parts as well – but the bloodshed is never far behind.
These shows can be looked on as a kind of junkfood for the mind. They’re the same as a bag of M&Ms: when they go in, they’re sweet and tasty. However, when all that sugar is stripped away, we’re left with a concoction of artificial flavours and additives that don’t provide any nourishment to the body.
Just like the sweets, these programmes have to be as appealing and ‘moreish’ as possible to get people hooked on taking in more and more.
The storyline will feature good guys and bad guys and some kind of dilemma. But look beyond that and no matter what the outcome, what you’re left with is a couple of hours of watching people fighting and killing each other.
Our subconscious mind will react to this, no matter if it’s a real or an imagined story. This is easy to check: next time you’re watching this kind of movie, check out what’s happening to your body. Are you jumping at the scary bits? Breathing more rapidly? Feeling empathic towards the characters? As you watch, your body is creating chemicals to match what’s happening onscreen.
Now, you might be thinking ‘I don’t watch any of that rubbish’ – but there are plenty of other ‘mental junkfood’ examples. What about soap operas, for instance? You’ve got to admit, those storylines can be pretty depressing, with all that fighting and feuding. And yet we get addicted to them just like we do to chocolate or ice-cream.
And let’s not forget The News – that nightly round-up of all the most horrific things that happened in the world that day. I’m not suggesting you should hide yourself away from everything that’s happening in the world. But you could try reading about it in the newspapers instead of exposing yourself to all the disturbing images and footage that are shown in graphic detail on TV. If you have an anxious mind, that input is like adding fuel to the fire.
For some really interesting information about how television affects the watcher, I highly recommend the book ‘Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television‘ by Jerry Mandor.
There are many ways to help yourself start to think in a more calm and rational way. And switching off the TV is a great place to start. Start to be more choosy about the information you allow into your mind.
If you’d like some support in clearing out any unwanted thoughts and feelings, get in touch. As a therapist, I can help you start to use your powerful imagination to create positive change in your life.
Lisa Murphy is a counsellor and hypnotherapist based in Glasgow who specialises in anxiety, anger management, and weight loss.