“We are what we eat; we are what we see.” – The Science Of Kindness

Choose your visual diet carefully!

The amounts and types of different foods we eat affects not only our weight, but our general health. That’s why there’s the old saying, “You are what you eat.” Food is a complicated mixture of energy sources (calories), protein (to make new tissues like muscle and skin and heal wounds), and micronutrients like vitamins to support a wide range of biochemical processes – all ingredients combined become what you are. Yet, there’s more to consumption than food because our mental well-being affects our health too.

If your diet is unbalanced then different functions in your body will eventually suffer the consequences. Taking in too little or too much of something can lead to the development of diseases. The crazy thing is, your body also ingests what you hear and see. This is your visual diet. Therefore your diet includes not only your meals but also your food for thought. The key to a successful diet (nutritional and mental) is balance and moderation of good quality food along with good quality information.

If you ingest too much negative news, within just a few short minutes of exposure, it can induce anxiety, stress, and symptoms of depression. Research has found that a 14-minute video of negative TV news can rapidly increase anxiety and sadness. The most important thing this study revealed is that the participants of the study ended up feeling greater anxiety related to their own personal issues because of it.

So the anxiety and sadness being experienced in the moment of watching something negative leaks into the other parts of life and carries on into the future, beyond the moment. Scientists reported in an article from the Huffington Post that the effects of negative news exposure can last hours into the day for a substantial amount of people. It also magnify any existing problems someone may be facing.

 

Regarding positive media, studies show that inspiring, positive media sources have the opposite effects of negative media. These researchers found that viewing a short (4-minute) video of someone doing a good deed will induce gratitude and love in contrast to videos that were focused on inspiring admiration. Another group of researchers did found that showing a (7-minute) video of someone being grateful and appreciative by doing something to give back significantly increased the willingness of the participants to volunteer compared to an amusing video.

Interestingly enough, the word diet does not just refer to what food we eat – it comes from the Greek meaning for “way of life” or how one lives his or her life. Knowing that, it’s easy to understand how the word “diet” has a greater, more all-encompassing meaning in relation to the things that we absorb–food, stories, images, sounds (music)–and how they impact us.

You don’t gave to completely ignore negative news of course. You still have to know what’s going on at least to be able to help out in the world if you can. You just have to keep in mind and be aware of the effects of what you see. Just know that you need a balanced visual diet—one that nourishes the soul and yet motivates you to take action and make things better.

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