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Watching TV is a favorite past time for many people. Studies show that the average adult watches more than 4 hours of television per day. While so much time is spent viewing television programs, much less time is spent reading; although reading is much more beneficial to the health of your brain. Studies show that while watching TV, your brain switches over from the left side to the right side. The right side of the brain is primarily a source of emotional responses, whereas the left side controls intellectual responses. When you read, your brain is exercising the left side of your brain, which is used for logic, reasoning, creative thinking and language.
Within thirty seconds to three minutes of watching TV, your brain goes into “alpha” mode. This is caused by the constant screen flicker, which lowers the brainwaves. The alpha state is a highly suggestible, sleep-like hypnotic state. During this time, the information that you are exposed to is downloaded into your unconscious mind. Being in this hypnotic state of mind, you are susceptible to marketing and advertising techniques, which have been strategically placed so that the viewer’s unconscious mind will replace existing beliefs with new ones. This is how advertising companies make much of their profit.
Our brains have three different layers that control instinct, emotions and the way that we think. The outer layer of your brain, the neocortex, controls logic, reasoning, creative thinking, language and integration of sensory information. The neocortex is an important part of the brain; however, it can easily be overpowered by the inner layers of the brain. Below the neocortex is the limbic portion, which controls your emotional responses and your behavior. Underneath the limbic portion is the R-Complex, also referred to as the reptilian brain. The R-Complex is responsible for your instincts, such as survival, mating and feeding. The limbic and R-Complex portions are part of your unconscious mind; which are switched on during television viewing. However, while reading, the neocortex portion of your brain is in control and you are fully conscious of what you are reading. Because of this alpha state, your brain is actually more active while you are sleeping!
Watching television is not only bad for the health of your brain, but it is bad for the health of your body as well. While watching TV increases the risk of premature death; Scientists claim that for every hour of television you watch per day, your risk of heart disease increases by almost a fifth. It is no wonder, considering the lack of exercise your heart is getting, due to long periods of sitting. Along with increased risk of heart disease, studies also show that you put yourself at a higher risk for developing cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, dementia and becoming obese. The reason for the increase of these diseases could very well be linked to the lack of physical activity that is involved in watching television. Spending much time in a sitting position, whether it is in front of a television, a computer or at your office desk can be detrimental to your health.
Because of the endorphins your body releases while viewing, television can become addicting. Even those who watch less TV than average can become dependent on it. Some depend on television for relaxation or companionship, while others become dependent on it merely to ward off boredom. The addiction to watching TV has similar effects of other behavioral addictions, such as drugs, alcohol and gambling. This compulsion to watch TV stems from what researchers call the orienting reflex. When the TV is on, you are drawn to watch it because of the rapid movement and noise. Your animal instincts put you on alert, where your body will freeze and blood rushes to your brain, so that you can scope out what is going on. This is a defense mechanism that is found in the R-Complex of the brain. This is also how the TV sucks you into it.
Relational issues can stem from watching television, as well. While you are sucked into watching television for hours a day, your relationships suffer greatly. Instead of spending quality time talking, you are sucked in to merely sit side by side without any real communication. Besides the lack of communication, we also tend to act out what we view on television. If we spend hours watching violence, we are prone to more aggressive behavior. Watching shows that promote sex and adultery, like the show “Desperate Housewives,” our own marriages and relationships can be affected. Because we find ourselves relating to the characters in the show, we are more likely to act in the same manner.