Television is kind of designed to be the anti-mindfulness. The whole idea of television is an escape from the present moment and into whatever it is the programming is about.
Meditation is not about escape from this life, rather quite the opposite. Meditation is immersing yourself completely in this life. Meditation is to stop running away from your life, to stop filling in the existential angst with mindless fluff and start filling it with our actual, in-this-moment human life.
So why is watching TV relaxing?
Studies have shown that watching television induces low alpha waves in the human brain. Alpha waves are brainwaves between 8 to 12 HZ. and are commonly associated with relaxed meditative states as well as brain states associated with suggestibility.
While Alpha waves achieved through meditation are beneficial (they promote relaxation and insight), too much time spent in the low Alpha wave state caused by TV can cause unfocused daydreaming and inability to concentrate. Researchers have said that watching television is similar to staring at a blank wall for several hours..
We all like to watch TV from time to time, and this is not meant to suggest that people should never watch TV again. However, it is only fair that people understand what happens to the brain each time it is exposed to television.
In an experiment in 1969, Herbert Krugman monitored a person through many trials and found that in less than one minute of television viewing, the person’s brainwaves switched from Beta waves– brainwaves associated with active, logical thought– to primarily Alpha waves. When the subject stopped watching television and began reading a magazine, the brainwaves reverted to Beta waves.
Research indicates that most parts of the brain, including parts responsible for logical thought, tune out during television viewing. The impact of television viewing on one person’s brain state is obviously not enough to conclude that the same consequences apply to everyone, but research has repeatedly shown that watching television produces brainwaves in the low Alpha range.
Advertisers have known about this for a long time and they know how to take advantage of this passive, suggestible, brain state of the TV viewer. There is no need for an advertiser to use subliminal messages. The brain is already in a receptive state, ready to absorb suggestions, within just a few seconds of the television being turned on. All advertisers have to do is flash a brand across the screen, and then attempt to make the viewer associate the product with something positive.
Reading (a book or magazine, for instance– not televised text. It is the radiant light from a television set that is believed to induce the slower brainwaves ) and writing both require higher brain wave states. If you want to keep your brain focused and your attention strong, it is a good idea to cut your television time. Sitting quietly for a few minutes,watching the fire or a candle , painting, singing, reading, or going for a walk, woodturning are better for you in all ways.