That’s What I Love About You...
What an absurdist, short lived, sketch television series from the mid 2000’s taught me about reframing perspective and mindfulness.
The Andy Milonakis Show ran for three seasons on MTV2 from 2005 to 2007 and was then promptly forgotten. The show is typical of sketch comedies from the time and network. Prank calls, ridiculous short sketches, and man on the street style interviews are the focus of the show’s 22 minute runtime. Stupid, juvenile, and occasionally brilliant, the show is quality brain rotting material. However, a segment from the second season really caught me off guard with its rather unusual wholesomeness and got me thinking about mental health and well-being.
Mindfulness has become a buzzword in mental health conversations over the years but its origins can be found in Buddhist teachings and traditions. As Janssen defines it in The Book of Self-Care: “Mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness, or ‘witnessing,’ of the moment and our place in it, also referred to as paying attention on purpose” (71). Within the context of Cognitive based therapy or CBT, it takes a reflective approach to addressing subconscious tendencies. In short, mindfulness is a sort of meta-cognitive process. It’s about being present in the moment, aware and in control of your thoughts, and accepting or acknowledging your feelings. But what connection does this practice have to The Andy Milonakis Show?
Man on the street interviews are a type of sketch comedy that can often come off as mean spirited, exploitative, or annoying. The premise is simple: Andy approaches strangers on the street, begins a conversation with them in a sort of interview format, does or says something outrageous, and plays up the laughs from their responses. But during this particular segment the punchline plays out differently. Once the person being interviewed has concluded their thought or presented an answer to one of Andy’s questions he responds with “that’s what I love about you” and references part of their conversation.
The frame is still humorous and Andy’s “guests” still have their reactions recorded for laughs but their demeanor towards him quickly softens. An elderly woman can’t help but smile as Andy patiently listens to her outline the events of her day only to respond with, “that’s what I love about you, you’re always getting your nails done”. Other interactions follow a similar pattern as the people he approaches are initially guarded but open more and more with Andy’s positive affirmation.
Reframing is a therapeutic technique used to alter “perceptions of a negative, distorted, or self-defeating belief” in order to change behavior or improve well being (Robinson and Troutman-Jordan 58). You could distill the idea into the old adage, look on the bright side. When mindful, you can reframe negative perceptions by looking for positive aspects or by acknowledging pessimistic outlooks and feelings in an objective non-judgmental way.
That’s exactly what Andy’s ridiculous little ‘prank’ inspired me to consider. If I’m present in the moment and attentive to others I’m exercising mindfulness. While engaging with others I can choose positivity and gratitude. The mind can be trained like a muscle to be more receptive to ‘good vibes’. In a media environment that is constantly fixing our attention on bad things happening in the world it can become difficult to look for positive changes and experiences. Our perspective is skewed and trained to focus on things that affect our mental health negatively. However, if we take time to appreciate and live in the moment, seek out good qualities in others, and express our appreciation of them freely we can promote healthy attitudes and outlooks.
It’s become a joke amongst my friends. Any casual conversation could be punctuated with the observation, “that’s what I love about you…” fill in the blank. Sometimes in jest, but always with respect. It’s endearing, thoughtful, and an act of love. It shows appreciation for others, demands that we pay attention to what they’re saying, and helps us engage with them. It’s a simple exercise that trains us to look for positive aspects in others.
Below you’ll find some of the many wonderful resources the library has to offer on the subject. There’s no shortage of material dealing with mindfulness, CBT, MCBH, meditation, and other mental health subjects.
That’s what I love you about you: you like to read the library’s blog.
James P. Robson, Jr., and Meredith Troutman-Jordan. “A Concept Analysis of Cognitive Reframing” The Journal of Theory Construction & Testing, Vol. 18, No. 2 pp. 55-59