This is your brain on TV

08 Jul


Confession: I am a former junkie of Mexican telenovelas. I started watching these syrupy melodramatic soap operas in college when I was learning Spanish for the first time.

My best friend (a Brazilian) and I would watch them at her apartment in the evenings after class.

Mexican soap operas are very different from American ones. They last about 6-9 months. Every evening on TV there will be a 7pm, 8pm, and 9pm telenovela. The same actors will pop up on different series over the years.

I gave up watching those years ago.

When I began my journey with laying down sugar and excess eating a few months ago, I found that my TV habits changed as well. I used to be in the habit of watching movies or multiple episodes of TV shows if I had a day off without the kids.

I found it difficult to stay glued to the TV for long periods as I changed my eating habits. I felt the conviction that if I was not going to use sugar to deal with my anxieties or woes, I could not use TV either. I had made a decision to cast all my cares and anxieties on Him. How could I lay down sugar but continue the binge watching?

I have a very important Spanish test this week to maintain my qualifications as a Spanish speaker for my job. I decided that while my husband was at class last night I would find something to watch on TV in Spanish to give my ears some practice

I was able to find some old episodes of my very favorite telenovela from the 1990s. Someone had spliced together scenes that only included the romantic heroes of the story, leaving the other boring parts out.

I felt an excited anticipation to watching these episodes. The story was romantic and it would only be about the building of their relationship.

I watched scene after scene of them meeting in secret (because of course their love was forbidden) by a waterfall to talk and share an occasional stolen kiss.

After watching one hour of these scenes, I realized something. I still wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to keep watching more to get more romance.

I realized in that moment that watching these soap operas for me was like a drug. It was addictive, yet never satisfying. The great deception about drugs is that you want more and more while gaining less and less from it.

The same thing would happen to me if I would go on a sugar binge in the past. No matter how much sugar I ate, I still wanted more, however I wasn’t satisfied.

With DVD’s and on demand streaming now available, people are able to pick a show they like and watch an entire season in one setting. I have done this a few times. (Well, maybe not a whole season, but a few episodes).

I recently read an article in Psychology Today about TV watching. It turns out that excessive TV watching will actually make you less happy than engaging in social interaction or reading.

In my own life, I have noticed that spending hours watching TV seems to make me grumpier, less social, less alert, and less thankful. I notice the same pattern in my kids.

We seem to have become a very passive society where it’s easier to just “chill out” and “veg” rather than to engage socially. However, all this chilling out seems to be leaving us more tired and less happy.

Of course the internet has become a substitute for TV for many people (I am guilty of this many times).

Although I was tempted to go on watching scene after romantic scene last night, I found the strength to turn it off after an hour and focused on engaging in conversation with my husband who had arrived home.

Honestly, it feels good to be free of the old addiction I had to those soap operas.

I am finding every day that I have to be intentional about choosing life and choosing to engage with God, my family, and other people. If I don’t, I won’t bear much fruit in this short time I have here on earth.

Click here to check out a fascinating sermon series on the affects of television watching on the brain (based on scientific studies).

Image: Courtesy Aaron Escobar Flckr

1 Comment

Posted by on July 8, 2014 in Christian Living


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