We live surrounded by an increasingly complex matrix of impulses (transmitted via TV, media and the internet) that allow strangers of all sorts to interfere in our mental, emotional and spiritual development. Understanding this intricate network and how the human brain interacts with it is becoming our door to happiness and health.
Our interaction with the Net, with TV and with computers has replaced our interaction with nature which in its magical way nurtures our cognitive,emotional, physical and psychological well-being
The self or the personality is a bundle of socially-influenced traits that emerges and is formed gradually. We are shaped by our parents and neighbours, by our religion, the media, by various marketing agendas of major corporations, by our state’s politics, by the way we behave or misbehave towards our own body, our mind, the environment, animals and plants, and our planet Earth.
So, what would we need to do to understand the importance of a healthy body, to manage our emotions and nurture love for our friends and family, to become aware of how we can make a positive impact on our society or the environment, or discover the purpose of life and ways to be happy?
A great deal is known about the links between our behaviour and TV, and between our emotions and computer games, because there have been thousands of studies on these subjects. Researchers have all asked the same question – whether there is a link between exposure to violence (on TV or in a game) and violent behaviour.
Most of the studies found that there is a link. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behaviour, desensitisation to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed”. An average American child will see 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders on TV by age 18.
No one wants to see our children or loved ones depressed, obese, in front of computers or TV screens at all times, having behavioural problems, being sick, or experiencing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. However, the rhythm of our lives and our day-to-day habits might have an adverse effect on our mental health.
The human brain does some very sophisticated ordering of its incoming nerve impulses. Any information we are exposed to becomes knowledge when it is translated and related to the personal experience, to feelings or desires.
When we look at an image, our perception of the image is coloured by our emotions. There is a reciprocal relationship between the area of the brain responsible for logical thinking and the area that is the seat of our emotion.
In the world of technology, numbers, letters and adverts the human brain has to con-stantly perform little miracles of decoding, detachment, de-stressing, and detoxing to keep us sane.
As we grow older and stronger in our wish to stay healthy and happy, our need for creativity grows but we constantly lack time to be physically active, to read and reflect, to play, and above all, we lack quality time with our friends and family.
Our interaction with the Net, with TV and with computers has replaced our interaction with nature which in its magical way nurtures our cognitive, emotional, physical and psychological well-being.
A group of friends socialising will keep their mobiles on the table or within easy reach to check Facebook updates, text messages and e-mails, to show off photos or to answer calls. This invisible ‘best friend’ and inseparable ‘commodity’ could prove to be our ‘worst enemy’.
A recent study by Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein of the University of Essex, UK, observed pairs of strangers discussing a meaningful topic for 10 minutes with or without a mobile phone nearby. The pairs who tried to ‘connect’ in the presence of a phone repeatedly reported lower relationship quality and less closeness with the assigned ‘chatting’ partner.
The studies suggest that because of the many ‘entertainment’ options phones give us they distort our ability to connect with the people right next to us.
“The presence of a mobile phone may orient individuals to thinking of other people and events outside their immediate social context. In doing so, they divert attention away from a presently occurring interpersonal experience to focus on a multitude of other concerns and interests,” said lead researcher Przybylski.
A study for the Journal of Behavioural Addictions in the US analysed data from 191 business students from two universities which revealed that they send on average 110 text messages a day, or approximately 3,200 messages a month, and check their phones 60 times in a typical day. Nomophobia is the term for people who experience anxiety when they have no access to their mobiles.
Electronic ‘connections’ interfere with our human relationships. Saying ‘I love you’ or texting ‘I love you’ could have completely different connotations based on body language. Discounting the value of non-verbal cues leads to an amazing amount of misunderstandings.
Text messages are being used in our romantic and sexual correspondence instead of wonderful, romantic love letters. Texting is quick, easy, and convenient, and notwithstanding its 160-character limitation, some people use it to exchange important information with their romantic partner.
Messages are often misinterpreted, edited, forwarded, or written by somebody else. The stress caused by the response expectation is unique for this type of communication. A lack of response to a text message from a potential romantic partner is often deciphered as a form of rejection.
So how can we help our minds stay inspired and enthusiastic, and keep our relationships healthy?
• Limit your time with TV, mobiles and computers;
• If you are spending time with people you really care about, you might want to reconsider the habit of reaching for your phone to reply to a text message or checking your e-mail;
• Spend quality time with your loved ones, reinvent your time to-gether: sing, dance, do art together, or explore learning a new language;
• Experiment, challenge the existent, and stay curious;
• Stay in constant contact with nature.
Nataša Pantovic is a researcher on self-development and higher states of consciousness.