Last night my husband watched a basketball game from 3 months ago. "Are you watching the Cavaliers win again?" I ask , and he just smiles and says "Yup, it makes me so happy". Sometimes I give him grief about it but last night I didn't because on live TV, the radio and everywhere on the internet was the presidential debate.
If you are at all undecided, by all means you should watch events like the debate and learn as much as you can before casting your ballot. But if you are firmly in one camp or the other, what do you gain by continuing to watch? Instead watch what your body does when you view or read about the latest candidate statements. Is there a knot in your stomach, does your heart rate and blood pressure go up, do you feel tension in your neck or shoulders?
Political campaigns and the media strive to get your vote and attention by inducing stress and fear and all of that runs counter to your health and wellness. The effects on physical and emotional health are well documented. Johnston and Davey exposed three groups to TV news bulletins that were either positive, neutral or negative and found that participants who watched the negative bulletin showed increases in both anxious and sad mood and also showed a significant increase in the tendency to catastrophize a personal worry. Other studies document how stress contributes to headaches, chronic pain, cardiovascular disease risk and more.
Politics is about division - choosing sides - and the more we focus on those divisions the less healthy we and our country will be. Many studies, including that of the community of Roseto, Pennsylvania, documented that health is improved by being a part of a close knit community. Our country's long drawn out election cycle is not good for our health and the health of our country. A multiparty democracy allows for a variety of voices to be heard, but the lengthening campaign cycle means that the divisiveness and stress goes on and on.
Why am I watching this? Whether it is the news, a movie, a reality TV show or whatever - ask yourself why am I spending my valuable time on this particular show. If you think that you are watching it to relax then take stock of how your body feels. Are you relaxed by the news, dramas about crime, real families fighting, menacing sharks? If not then make a change. Use your DVR and the vast resources of the internet to curate a playlist that resonates with your intentions. Develop a go-to roster of programs that inform, entertain, inspire, and make you laugh out loud.
And if it makes you feel happy then watch your team finally win the championships, your favorite band perform their greatest hits, a laugh out loud comedy, or home video of people you love and care about over and over and over again.