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Q
Time to Tune Out TV?
At 64, I'm still so busy all day long (working full-time) that I just veg out in the evenings for an hour or two in front of the TV. Television does help me to unwind, but I'm wondering if I shouldn't be doing something healthier. Any thoughts?
A
Answer (Published 10/11/2005)

Television can be relaxing, depending on what you watch. It can also fire you up, especially if you're watching news or shows with lots of violence. Even the commercials can unsettle you unless you're adept at putting your attention on hold while the messages blare.

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I often watch movies at home in the evenings, but I don't substitute that, enjoyable as it is, for practicing the relaxation techniques I recommend.

In fact, I don't recommend any substitute for relaxation techniques as the best means of reducing the stress in your life. Television can be much too stimulating, and when you're stimulated, you're not really relaxed. Alcohol, used in moderation, can be relaxing, and, in moderation, can benefit your health. However, the more of it you drink, the greater the chance that instead of relaxing you it will become toxic and addictive. The same goes for other substances, prescription or over-the- counter, that some use to deal with day-to-day stress. Even exercise can work against relaxation, if you're competing or if you use your workouts to defuse anger or reduce aggression that may build during the workday or on the road during your commute.

For many years, I have been recommending breath work as the simplest, most efficient way of taking advantage of the mind/body connection to improve both physical and mental health. Breathing allows you to use the conscious mind and voluntary nerves to modify the unconscious mind and involuntary nerves. I urge you to learn the relaxing breath that I have recommended before on this site, in my books and audio tapes. Practice this exercise at least twice a day, more often whenever you feel stressed, anxious or off-center. In time, I think you'll find it a powerful and effective method of relaxation that can benefit you in other ways: lowered blood pressure and heart rate, increased circulation to your extremities and skin, and improved digestion. You may also find that it helps you better control your emotions and cravings.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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