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You are what you watch

You are what you watch

With Seattle still feeling the high after smoking Denver at the Super Bowl two weeks ago I thought now might be a good time to share my perspective on the big game, from a health perspective of course. While you may have been expecting another recipe from this preventive medicine blog, I want to change the subject material on occasion to reflect the major current events happening around us. More specifically I want to draw the connections between our lifestyles and our health, especially with subjects where that connection may not be so obvious.

Like most young men growing up in the US I watched the NFL. I could tell you all the rules of the game just as well as the next guy, and had no problem identifying the star players. However, I rarely watch football anymore. Perhaps it is my distaste for all the commercials, the recent revelations of brain injuries to the players, or maybe I’m just too busy floating in sensory deprivation pods. Regardless, as a Washington resident I felt compelled to watch my first game of the season in the playoff game against San Francisco. I couldn’t ignore this team anymore as the buzz around me grew louder, quite literally as they were measured during home games to be the loudest fans in the league. After a thrilling victory in that game, there was no doubt that I would be watching Seattle attempt to win their first championship in team history.

The Super Bowl was excellent, if you were a Seattle fan, as the Seahawks completely dominated the Broncos. It really was fun to watch, but in between all the Seahawks touchdowns I was exposed to a barrage of commercials, and reminded why I rarely watch TV anymore. Now I know that many people enjoy the commercials almost as much as the game. At a cost of $4 million per 30 second advertisement, corporations are certainly going to put a lot of effort into making those 30 seconds as funny, exciting, heartwarming, and memorable as possible. While the Super Bowl ads may be considered entertaining to some, I couldn’t stop thinking about the tens of thousands of commercials people watch throughout their lives.

In Ayurveda the term ahara refers to anything that we consume and includes some obvious materials such as food, water and air. It may come as a surprise to learn that emotions and information that we perceive through our sense organs are also considered as ahara. This means that we are consuming sights through our eyes and sounds through our ears, in other words not only are we consuming food, but we are also consuming TV commercials. You probably think that I smoked a super bowl before writing this, but before you judge think about what happens when you watch a comedy versus a drama. You feel different right? Watching two types of movies can make you feel different in the same way that eating deep fried onion rings makes you feel different than eating a kale smoothie. If you were trying to practice a healthy lifestyle you wouldn’t consume junk food, so why would you ever consume junk information? Everyone has heard the saying “you are what you eat”, but in this case I would ask you to consider the possibility that “you are what you watch”. Just as the food that we eat requires digestion from our gastrointestinal tract, the information we perceive requires digestion from our mind, and just as eating food improperly causes indigestion, I would argue that watching excessive TV commercials causes mental indigestion. The problem as I see it is that corporations care only about making money. They don’t care about your health, and if you don’t believe me then look at all the Super Bowl commercials for junk food and beer, and don’t forget about the car and technology advertisements telling you that you don’t have enough already. If you want style, and if you want happiness then you need to buy more, more, more. Profits are made, your health suffers, and the planet suffers from resource extraction and waste generation.

In summary, what I’m recommending is to reduce or eliminate your exposure to commercials and mindless junk information in general, from radio to magazines to TV to internet. Replace the time you spend consuming this information with silence, see my post Today I floated in a sensory deprivation pod for details. If silence is not what you’re looking for then try other beneficial activities like cooking, exercise or gathering knowledge that will make you a better person. Listen to an educational podcast, read a good book, or watch a revealing documentary. What you should really be doing is reading Sattvic Planet more often, though I am slightly biased.