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Your brain has essentially 3 different types of waves, or electrical impulses that can be detected on an EEG instrument: Beta, Alpha, and Delta. Think of them as college sororities of the mind. We all strive to join the Betas because they are the most active group – it’s the kind of brain wave that occurs when we are engaged in logical and critical thinking. The Alphas are not bad either; they are a chill group of waves that occur whenever we’re daydreaming, sedative and relaxed. Delta is one step below Alpha, which happens in our brains when we are sleeping. So what kind of brain wave action do we have when we come home from a hard day at work and watch television? Suffice it to say, no matter how invested we are in the plot of Big Bang Theory, research shows that television viewing produces Alpha and Delta waves. That’s right… when you say you’re going to zone out for a while and watch the tube, you are actually zoned out.
Consider the amount of time you watch television to relax from a stressful day. For most Americans, the average is four to five hours a day. There’s no such thing as relaxing too much, right? Wrong. Studies show there is a link between your ADHD and when your brain is in the Alpha and Delta range for long periods of time. Couple that with the study that shows watching television actually releases endorphins into your body (that happy feeling you have after a good workout) so your chances of plopping back to the couch in front of the tube again and again go up dramatically. Watching television can be physically habit-forming. Conversely, if your body is used to this endorphin-fix and you were to suddenly stop watching television, your source of endorphins would stop as well. You can actually experience withdrawal and sadness, and feel like you’ve lost a friend.
So, we’ve all heard it before: too much of anything can be a bad thing. Is there anything you are putting off because you’re watching television instead? Do you find it difficult to concentrate on simple tasks? Constantly searching for a forgotten word/name when you’re engaged in a conversation with someone? And for those that refrain from watching too much television… do you spend exorbitant amounts of time on the internet or on your smartphone, and still experience problems with concentration and a feeling of anxiety about things you really should be doing instead?
If you and your family have a long-standing relationship with the TV set, or have a habit of sitting around with your iPhones out, it might be hard to implement sudden changes. Consider the following changes:
- Treat TV as a reward. “If I finish that painting/chapter in the novel/the bills, I can watch the latest Nashville episode on Hulu.”
- Put a tech-bowl next to the front door. The minute anyone steps into the house, their mobile phones go into the bowl. This will create a habit of real communication between family members, rather than a family of cyborgs sitting around the dinner table playing Angry Birds.
- Old-fashion limits. Put the kibosh on TV watching… admittedly, this one is hard to do. Remember those endorphins? Self-control is not easy, especially when those addictive endorphins are involved. So consider getting your ‘fix’ another way — go for a run outside, join a bowling league, or volunteer.
- Tech-free Saturday. Or Sunday, or whatever day is more convenient for you and your family. The idea here is to turn the television set and computer monitors off, and to put the mobile phones away for one day. It could be an interesting experiment, because when was the last time you didn’t have something distracting you for one whole day? It might be a beautiful and jolting realization to find out what you might have been distracted from for a long, long time.