TV – Junk Food For Your Mind

“TV is junk food for your brain”  “I think its wonderful that so many people are making a real effort nowadays, to take better care of their bodies.  But how much more important is it, that they take care of their minds ……. of the very essence of who and what they are”


You know, it amazes me that people can be so particular about the foods they eat.  They’ll avoid fat and salt, like its the plague.  Sugar has somehow achieved the status of a poison and folks will insist on the ‘diet’ version of their beverages, no matter how toxic-sounding the artificial sweetener used.  I have a friend who I’ve watched painstakingly removing every shred of fat from sliced ham, before considering  it fit for human consumption..  So many people insist on wholemeal and multi-grain, high fibre, low fat, low salt, low sugar, low cholesterol etc etc etc.

People spend hours in supermarket aisles, staring at the list of ingredients in every product that they buy …. ever watchful for the fat/salt/sugar/cholesterol or other nasties that the manufacturers might have snuck in to their products.

And then there are the health food supplements …. vitamins and minerals, omega this and antioxidant that …….. even (Good) bacteria by the tubful!  People are spending a fortune, supplementing their already over-generous diets with an avalanche of supplements, all in the interest of staying at the peak of physical perfection.

And people seem more aware of their physical health nowadays.  Young people are hanging out at the gym like never before.  City people go jogging at lunchtime and the really cool ones hire a personal trainer to help them achieve a zen level of physical wellness.  Apparently, you can’t learn to be physically fit by yourself now; its become a specialist profession!

Its good to see people taking a greater interest in their well being.  The recent shift in attitudes regarding non healthy practices like cigarette smoking is probably a great thing too, although I will never condone the methods that have been employed in ‘encouraging’ smokers to quit.  And the obvious insanity of pursuing the poor old smokers ……. while completely ignoring society’s major substance abuse problem (alcohol) is food for a whole ‘nother article.

There’s one thing that really bothers me though, about society’s attitude to well being.  Just like our ability to lash ourselves into a righteous frenzy to stamp out the dreaded cigarette, while completely ignoring the (far worse!) scourge that is booze ….. we are becoming obsessed with our physical selves while all the while completely ignoring the real essence of who we are …. our minds.

While we obsess endlessly about our bodily needs for good food, appropriate exercise and adequate rest, barely a thought is given to the needs of our personal essence.  People will spend an age studying food labels and take endless care over their grocery selections … but never stop to think about the needs of their minds.

Seems that most  people agree that you are made up of a sort of trinity of your mind, your body and your soul.  Personally, the jury is still out on the soul notion. I think its more a subset of one’s mind.  It looks like western society understands the need to look after the body.  But it strikes me, there’s a sad lack of concern for the wellness of the mind.  As for the soul, there’s already plenty of professional experts vying for possession and oversight of that part of you.  I don’t plan to join them.

I do believe though, that your mind has needs that are quite the same as those of your body …. albeit of a different nature.  If your body thrives best on an appropriate mix of nutrition, exercise and rest, I don’t think its much of a stretch to realise that your mind does as well.  The minds of most folks living in today’s world are probably getting more than enough exercise  … If one considers the number of decisions that have to be made and thought processes that must be engaged in a day … even just from waking to the moment when you arrive at the office or workplace, its really mind boggling.  Unlike the bodies of many modern city dwellers, I think that most minds are probably exercised to the point of exhaustion.  For the mental exercise junky though, there is simply no end of mental challenges to engage in ….. games and puzzles and mental exercises of all kinds!

Rest is, I expect, what happens when we are asleep and, if you aren’t suffering from sleep deprivation, I reckon its a fair bet that your mind is as rested as your body each day.

So that leaves just diet; the entire point to this article.  So let me ask you, what are YOU feeding your mind …. that amazing essence of who you are.   Your brain feeds on input; on information.  And its astonishing to me that people who actually put considerable effort into maximising their chances for good physical health, pay little or no attention to the health of their mind.

There are almost unlimited ways to feed your mind (and some would claim your soul as well) …. like listening to music, communicating with others, reading a good book, pursuing a craft or hobby or art form, studying an area of personal interest or immersing yourself in social interaction.   So what do most of us do in western society?  We get all or most of the fodder for our brains by the simple expedient of switching on the television!  Its amazing how many people haven’t read a book in years and who’s greatest intellectual stimulation of the day comes from watching a TV news broadcast.  Having already sold the bulk of their time (i.e. their LIFE)  to their employer, they will squander that part of the day still left to them, in  watching endless sitcoms, soap operas and so-called reality TV shows!

I don’t think you have to be Einstein to know that a person who exists on a diet of junk food and who pays no regard for their body’s need of a healthy diet, will end up unhealthy and obese …. (Yeah, I know … obese is the new beautiful and I see we have some new sitcoms to help you slip into that mindset too!).  But if you can understand that a diet of only junk food is bad for your body, then why can society not understand that television (as dished up to the masses) is junk food to the mind.  Watching the occasional documentary, squeezed in between the endless mind-numbing garbage that is today’s TV simply won’t save you.

I think its wonderful that so many people are making a real effort nowadays, to take better care of their bodies.  But how much more important is it, that they take care of their minds ……. of the very essence of who and what they are ….. of that very thing that sets humans apart from the rest of life here on earth?  Do yourself a favour.  Try setting aside one night each week when you simply don’t turn on the TV … no matter what.  Treat yourself to something nicer …. like reading a book, listening to music that moves you, spending some time DOING something that you enjoy (like cooking or woodcarving or hell … whatever does it for you ….. or best of all, try talking with your loved ones!  If you can get into the habit of skipping one night a week, you just might find that you will enjoy two and then who knows?  Maybe even three.  One thing I can guarantee you is that if you waste all of your precious personal time sitting in front of the (aptly named) idiot box, your mind will be bloated, unfit and unhealthy.  TV is junk food for your brain.  So do you really want to end up, the mental equivalent of all those fat people at the fast food outlet?  Your call!

I fear that a day will come when some historian will write “Twenty first century man. What can you say of him?  He fornicated and watched the Tellie.”

Andrew Caddle 20130802


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