Recall the last episode of Game of Thrones (GoT) where you see the blood of a human being squirting out from their dying body as it sprays across the face of the killer. Try to remember how you felt seeing the life pulled out of someone right in front of you. Really put yourself back there as you remember the emotions you were experiencing inside of your body. If you don’t watch GoT, try to recall the last murder in a movie you watched. Did you wince? Did you stomach knot up? Did your hairs stand on end? Did you look away? Did it make you cry? Perhaps you got an adrenaline rush?
Get ready to read how the simple act of watching TV could be holding you back from becoming all you can be.
How much TV do we watch?
We spend, on average, 7.5 years of our lives watching television. Yes, 7.5 years. When I first read this, I said to myself there and then I am no longer wasting any more time watching TV. I don’t want to look back and realise I spent 10% of my life sat in front of a box, watching other people do more interesting things than me.
That being said, this isn’t a time management lecture. We are all grown ups and we each have the choice to decide how we spend our time.
“So, Jamie, why are you telling us this? Just to get on your moral high ground?”
I was in a lecture by a gentleman called John Grinder, who introduced me mirror neurons. Mirror neurons fire off in our brains as if we are performing the task we are observing. Confused? Imagine, you are sat down at a game of football and you are really really into the match. Watching the players move around the pitch, kicking the ball and sliding in for tackles causes these neurons are firing off in your brain as if you are doing the act yourself.
When I heard this phrase I began to think how it might tie into why we love watching sports as a species. I’ve never really understood why some people get so much pleasure from watching others play, but when you think of mirror neurons this really begins to make sense. If you watch Cristiano Ronaldo (I assume he is still playing football?!) score a goal in the last 90 minutes and you have been so focussed and emotionally invested in the game, you are likely to get the same adrenaline rush as if you yourself scored the goal.
I believe this is why we react so passionately and intensely when we watch others perform to a high standard. As far as our mind is concerned, we are out there on the pitch.
What’s so bad then about feeling this rush?
Mirror neurons certainly have its positives. If you have recently taken up a new sport, art or hobby then watching experts in that field can only be a positive. I believe this is the reason top level athletes and executes engage in visualisation practices. By visualising or observing the desired act, one is conditioning the brain on improving this new skill or habit.
However, mirror neurons have a dark side. Cast your memories back to the start of this article where I asked you to re-live those tense moments in GoT. Perhaps now you can understand why you felt so lousy. Your brain was technically carrying out the same act as it observed. Yes, you killed that person.
Perhaps as a one off it is ok. But spending 7.5 years watching the same style of television is only going to condition your brain more and more on these negative states. By which point, you have a chronic case of negativity in your mind. Can you picture someone who spends a lot of time watching thrill seeking action movies, depressing news channels or nerve racking tv shows? Can you describe their personalities? Are you seeing any patterns evolve?
How your environment shapes you
I used to have a chronic state of anger all through my life. I also used to watch a copious amount of TV shows, often dark-themed and depressing. I watched 100s of movies, many of which I repeated. I was always drawn to films on the darker side of life. Do I believe my character was partly shaped by what I feeding my mind? Absolutely.
Our minds are so sensitive and precious. Our prehistoric brains that go back 100,000s of years cannot distinguish between real life and what it sees on an artificially created tv show. We need to be aware of how our environment has the ability to radically shape our mind and thoughts. We’ve all heard ‘you are an average of the 5 people you surround yourself with’, but I want to extend this and say you are an average of your environment, period.
Who here wants to pick a life they create, rather than one that is being created for them by the tv network, Hollywood studio, Sky News or Facebook Inc? Summer is nearly here, why don’t you try giving up TV for 30 days and see how it changes your life? We have the ability to choose our lives. The question is, are you willing to step outside the box?