The time you spend on your digital devices watching TV and movies or browsing the Internet can really enrich your life—or not! You can become hypnotized by media and take on beliefs that aren’t true to your goals if you aren’t viewing consciously.
Media is a powerful resource for information, entertainment and education. TV shows, movies, magazines, and the Internet bring the sounds of the great composers, fitness routines and directions for do-it-yourself projects, not to mention suspense, comedy and action, right to your home. And they’re doing a great job! But if you aren’t paying attention, the media may subliminally plant some ideas in your mind that won’t serve you well. Like someone in a hypnotic trance, you may begin to live by these beliefs without realizing that you even have them.
Eventually, you may unknowingly begin to compare your appearance, level of success, financial resources and relationships to those you see on the screen. The media’s standards may become the standards that you measure yourself by, and that’ll keep you viewing. But it can also keep you focused on pursuing ideas and goals that won’t necessarily serve you in the areas of love, spending, politics, religion, fitness and family.
10 strategies for conscious media consumption
To keep you on the right track, I’ve come up with ten essential strategies for media consumption that’ll help you avoid this problem, and consequently, allow you to live the life that you want.
Get curious – First, identify what you really want from life; then, approach what you see in the media with critical curiosity. When you view things like billboards, commercials, TV programs, movies, websites, and print publications, ask yourself if the messages you get from these line up with who you really are, or if viewing them is subtly veering you off course towards ideas that are currently popular or trending.
Strike a balance – You’ll need to find a balance between media and real life that works for you. If you feel like you’re too wrapped up in the world of media, start small and make one change each day that will nudge you back towards reality. This could be choosing to cut back your TV time by a half hour, or opting not to go online at certain times, just to name a couple of options.
Absorb yourself in TV shows, movies and websites that are congruent with your goals – You can continue to view media that’s not congruent with your goals if you like, but do so very consciously, noticing what each medium is telling you. By doing so, you’ll be able to notice the subliminal messages being presented, and make the choice to resist them if they’re not helpful.
Trust your intuition – When you’re not sure whether continuing to view something is appropriate, get in touch with your intuition—what choice is it telling you to make? If you still can’t make a firm decision, go do something else for a while and return to the media later. If it feels OK to continue viewing, you could always work a physical activity in at the same time; for instance, by watching TV while running on your treadmill. This will help you avoid metabolic syndrome, which can arise due to too much sitting.
Expand your horizons – Make sure the media you consume entertains you and enables you to learn something. Focusing your attention solely on high-quality media that educates is better than taking in large volumes of lower-quality media.
Know when to cut things out – You may need to consider whether romantic movie marathons, shopping channels, online sale notices, political programs, or science fiction shows are helping define you or are just entertaining you. If something’s just mindless entertainment, viewing it may be a waste of your time.
Note the consequences of poor choices – If you make the wrong choice in regard to viewing certain media, you may have, for example, nightmares about a scary movie, buyers’ remorse, or strong concerns about your recent social media posts. Perhaps you may not be able to sleep through the night after taking in a great deal of media before bed. Make a mental note of when these (or similar) things happen to you, and avoid making the bad choices that led you into those situations again.
Don’t get stuck in a rut – It’s mind-numbing to view the same types of media over and over again. Seek out shows and other media recommended by groups and organizations that are compatible with your goals in order to keep your viewing life interesting.
Tell the media what you want – Do this respectfully, with clearly thought-out messages, blog posts, tweets and such. Direct the media with your words and thoughts, but don’t be a “hater,” insulting producers or any public figures. Communicate intelligently and people will listen to you.
Calm down –Take conscious viewing one step at a time. Don’t worry if you slip up once in a while—after all, no truly conscious life is built in a day! You’ll live longer and be healthier if you stay relaxed.
If you’re working hard in your career and/or at home, while fitting in time for your family, a fitness routine, and social obligations, you may have a tendency to use media to decompress and relax. Your ability to focus and your willpower reserves may be used up by the time you get to your computer, TV, or smart device in order to catch the day’s news. However, you must realize that your real life is news, too, at least to you and the people you care about.
Notice everything you tell yourself about your life. Are these things true, or are they based on ideas that have been embedded in your mind by outside media sources? Remember that your brain is in charge of your media experience, not the other way around. Once you become a conscious viewer, you’ll find that going from getting reel to getting real can be more fun, enriching and empowering than you ever dreamed it would be.
Read more on this topic in HOW LARGE IS YOUR WORLD?: Using the media to enlarge and bless your world»
Nancy Mramor Kajuth, Ph.D., is a health and media psychologist and the author of the award-winning book Get Reel: Produce Your Own Life.