Science shows that we replay our daytime experiences while we sleep, affecting our epigenetics. With all of the stress in the world, there’s never been a better time to limit your exposure to violent news, movies, and more.
What You See During the Day is Replayed During Sleep
A new study has found that when you sleep, your brain is anything but offline! Researchers at Brown University and Massachusetts General Hospital discovered that we literally replay the experiences we have during the day while we sleep. Now that you know you re-live what you see each day, you may want to be more discerning with what you expose yourself to, when possible.1,2
This new study, in the journal Cell Reports, gives us a rare look inside the sleeping and waking brain. Researchers actually inserted electrodes into volunteers’ brains, rather than using more standard fMRI, or brain imaging, techniques.1,2
This pioneering work helped to confirm what previous research had shown about stressful memories and sleep. It’s well known that we replay stressful events so we remember, and then avoid, threatening situations—resulting in an evolutionary learn-from-your-mistakes program.1-4 Further research is being done to see if the replay of daily events during sleep, recorded in Cell Reports, is in order of urgency.1,2
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Ayurvedic Wisdom: What You See, You Become
The old saying “what you see, you become” now has new meaning. Ayurveda has been preaching the power of experience for centuries, and has long encouraged practitioners to surround themselves with sattvic—or kind, peaceful, and loving—experiences whenever possible.
The new science on what you re-live during sleep supports this Ayurvedic wisdom, while emphasizing the impacts of stress and over-stimulation on the quality of your sleep (and your physical and mental health). In another recent study, researchers found that daytime stress can decrease slow wave sleep, REM sleep, and sleep efficiency, as well as increase the number of times you wake up during the night.
Becoming conscious of what you expose your senses to during the day can dramatically change your health, according to a number of studies.1-28 In Ayurveda, the sights, scents, noises, and other things you experience have a lasting effect on what you think, how you act, who you become, and the state of your health. On an epigenetic level, our behaviors, lifestyles, and environments influence how our genes will express themselves.5
What we see and take in visually is another form of nutrition. With food, we are what we eat; with experiences, we become what we see. We must be selective about the visual input we’re feeding ourselves.
Do you demand organic, sustainably produced, healthy food? Demand the equivalent from your visual input—seeking out positive, sattvic (harmonious), and nourishing visual stimuli. Sometimes this isn’t realistic, but we can often, at the very least, limit the amount of violent media we consume—especially from TV, movies, and video games. For example, watching too much violence, death, and angry rioting on the news can literally morph the microbes in your body to somehow think that these kinds of scenes are normal, or that your nervous system has to be in a constant state of fight, flight, or freeze.5-10
If the visual exposure to violence is repeated regularly, a more permanent shift in the microbiome and the human genome can manifest and affect your health.12,13
For instance, studies have shown that exposure to TV programs, movies, and video games that portray violence decreases brain activity. This blunted sensitivity may reduce your ability to link violence and aggression with consequences—potentially promoting violent and aggressive attitudes and behavior. These media-based portrayals of violence are also linked to decreased levels of empathy, emotional reaction to violence, and prosocial behavior.6-11
Interestingly, while violent video games were found to increase aggression and decrease prosocial outcomes, prosocial video games with positive messages actually increased prosocial effects.15 This really does reinforce the claim “what you see, you become.”
Change Your Experiences, Change Your Life
Science shows us that when we are trained to look at images that affect us in emotionally positive ways, we tend to look significantly less at the negative images in our environment.
If you feed yourself positive visual stimuli, you tend to start seeing more of the positive and less of the negative around you.
This isn’t to say you would be immune from experiencing the depth (and sometimes violent realities) of our modern world, but your experience would be from the standpoint of a more positive mindset, which science shows can make all the difference in your health, vitality, and longevity.14-19
Today, there is more and more evidence suggesting that our bodies are able to thrive and live longer when we are in a loving, kind environment where we are supported by and engaged with positive emotions and a good attitude.
We are simply direct extensions of the world around us.14-20
As is our current cultural trend, if we continue to consume daily doses of extreme violence, the microbes epigenetically regulating our genome could begin to express more of the negative genetic susceptibilities, and our health and longevity could suffer.
Making an effort to limit violent media, be in nature, see beautiful things, and watch positive and uplifting movies can change your microbes, your genes, your quality of life, and your sleep. This ancient wisdom of living a sattvic and loving lifestyle is now backed by science!