During my time off from work around Christmas, I ended up going down the black hole of YouTube. I don’t quite know how I got there, but I watched a few short films on domestic abuse and emotional manipulation within relationships. I was drawn into the plot, desperately hoping for the victim to stand up for themselves and escape!
The next day, I had to talk with one of my friends about something I thought had the potential to hurt his feelings. Suddenly, I found myself worrying about his reaction. I grew anxious, my emotions spiraling. What if he got really upset?
I ended up talking with him, and it was a wonderful conversation. He was completely kind, gracious, and agreed with what I had to say – he was not upset in the least! I felt silly for being worried.
My friend has always been kind and compassionate towards me and is a very chill person. Why in the world would I even be anxious about him getting his feelings hurt and reacting strongly? That made no sense WHATSOEVER!!!
Then I realized – I had just watched several films on domestic abuse and emotional manipulation. And I hadn’t been watching these films for research purposes. I had been watching them for entertainment, and my imagination was gripped by them. I started to filter my world and my reality through what I had seen in those films! That’s why I suddenly feared my friend would act angrily – because I had seen people react angrily and hurtfully in those films! Instead of being grounded on the truth of my friend’s history of compassion and kindness, I allowed a YouTube film to shake my thoughts.
My imagination had spiraled out of control – and all my worries were completely based on lies.
Thankfully, I didn’t let those lies stop me from talking to my friend. But that made me wonder. How often have I let something I watched or listened to impact my emotions and eventually change my behavior?
What we watch and listen to has a tremendous impact on our thoughts and emotions, and our thoughts and emotions guide our behavior and shape our relationships.What we watch and listen to has a tremendous impact on our thoughts and emotions, and our thoughts and emotions guide our behavior and shape our relationships. Click To Tweet
What We Watch Influences Our Mood and Even Our Immunity
I started digging into the science behind what we watch and how it influences us.
According to Dr. Elaine Shpungin, “People who watch as little as 15 minutes of ‘negative TV news’ have shown increases in depressed mood, anxiety, and tendency to be more ‘catastrophic’ about their personal worries.” This would explain why I grew more anxious after watching those YouTube videos about domestic abuse! It’s the same phenomenon as someone watching a horror film, then feeling afraid afterwards (even though nothing is threatening them).
Since negative content impacts our mental health and our reactions to the world around us, then surely positive video content would have the opposite impact. Dr. Shpungin continues, “On the other hand, watching TV shows and video clips with pro-social themes (like people helping others, problem solving, cooperating and being generous) can lead to more cooperation, more positive attitudes, less aggression, and more altruism.”
Dr. Shpungin also discussed the impact of our media choices on our immune system. When people watch violent or negative video content, they experience a decline in their antibodies, whereas people who watch video content that models positive relationships, people caring for others, and funny content experience elevated levels of immunoglobulin A in their bodies, which builds up the body’s ability to destroy invading sickness.
We must choose carefully what we watch because it not only affects our mood and emotions, but also our ability to fight off disease!
So, What Are We Supposed to Watch?
Since we need to be intentional with our entertainment choices, how are we supposed to make the best media choices? While the Apostle Paul did not have to make decisions about what to watch, he still had to make choices about what he would think about, just like we do!
In Philippians 4:8, Paul writes, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”
Philippians 4:8 makes an excellent list for our media choices. Before we watch something, we should ask ourselves, is it true, noble, just, pure, and lovely? Is it of good report? Is there any virtue or anything praiseworthy in it?
We can honor God and protect our minds and immunity with our media choices! Everything we watch impacts us, either for our benefit or for our harm. As we start 2022, let’s be on the mission to be intentional about what we watch!
I’ve become more and more aware of this lately! It applies to music, too – I have to be careful not to listen to moody songs often or I feel depressed. But hopeful music can encourage me and jolt me out of an anxious mood. It’s made me more mindful of what I produce as a writer and artist. I have to think, “Regardless of how great the story or the melody is, how is this going to affect the reader or listener?”
Thank you for reading Emily! Yes the same principle definitely applies to music!