Mindful Media Consumption
Have you ever thought about how the news affects you?
Have you noticed that the structure of the news generally goes something like this:
Breaking news (catastrophe, scandal, disaster), mundane/sad/angry stories and then in the last five minutes- “good sort of the week, or cutest animal of the day” (did they really think that a cute kitten or a volunteering Nana would make me forget the horrific scenes that my mind and body just took on board over the past hour??!)
It was approximately two years ago that I stopped tuning in to the 6pm news. I grew up in a household that planned dinner around when the news would start. It was an hour of “shush, stop making noises, I’m watching the news”. Apparently, it was essential that the family kept up to date with the goings on of the world, no matter how biased and misrepresented it was. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that my strike against the news commenced approximately the same time as my full-time mindfulness practice. Upon becoming mindful of everything I was exposing my emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual self to, I realised how much I was letting my energy become tarnished by matters that were A) outside of my control and B) had a real impact on my mental health.
And it’s not just the news on TV, it’s our Facebook news feed, our radio stations, morning tea banter at work and the list goes on.
Often people become confused and take the stance that mindfulness is all about meditation and incense. When mindfulness is simply awareness and with increased awareness comes meaningful change. It has been an invaluable skill in supporting me to ditch the news!
As humans, we have a natural negativity bias, which in layman’s terms
means that we pay more attention to events and headlines that are negative
rather than their positive counterparts.
This is how we get so roped into stories that play on our anxieties. Journalists and news reporters are experts at knowing the right words to say to capture our attention. They feel the need to choose scarier and scarier tactics to secure our attention above other news stories that are trending. In short, there’s a whole lot of psychology and fear-mongering behind it!
Statistics depict a ratio of bad news to good news as 95% negative, and 5% positive. When many good things are happening in this world every minute. This just doesn’t sell as well as violence and heartache.
“The man that reads nothing at all is better educated
than the man who reads nothing but newspapers”
Dr Graham Davey, a British Psychologist specializing in media violence's effects on our psychological well-being, states that negative news can significantly affect our mood, perceived number of worries, and perceived areas of control. Further, following media violence and heartache doesn’t just affect our mood, but it also adversely affects the time that we could be spending on more meaningful activities that are good for our mental health.
Here are some sure-fire ways that you can employ mindfulness to reduce the amount of negative news that you’re exposed to:
- In social media sites, such as Facebook you can CHOOSE who and what you follow, you can filter out certain things you really don’t want to hear about and you can adjust the settings on your phone so that you’re not constantly bombarded with notifications.
- Make the conscious decision to disengage and unfollow that which doesn’t serve you well. LIMIT how much you listen to, watch, and read. Become AWARE of how much you are exposed to. Pay attention, note down what you observe, and then ask yourself if it is serving you well.
- Be aware of your emotional and physical response to the news you’re often exposed to. Really stop and pay attention, don’t brush it off, your body is telling you what doesn’t sit well, so make time to stop, turn your attention inwards, and listen.
- In life, there are things we can control and then there are many situations and people in which we have little to no control. Getting caught up in news stories and events that you have no control over only increases your anxiety levels and takes your attention away from that which uplifts you and gives you a sense of contentment and mastery. Yes, of course, there are some circumstances we can assist with, but clutching onto those that we have no control over does more harm than good. We need to practice mindful acceptance and let these things go.
- There are some delightful Ted Talks that you can have a look at, namely, Information is Food – A great comparison between the 31 days of “Supersize me” and 31 days of exposure to Fox News. How the News Distorts Our Worldview – A great take on what the media shows us in comparison to what is actually taking place.
- Try journaling at the end of the day to get rid of all the negativity, or to reflect on what went well today. By taking time to focus on gratitude helps shift your attention away from negative news and directs it toward the positive aspects of your life. AwesoME Inc has an amazing range of journals for just this.
Let mindfulness filter into your news consumption and note how it affects your well-being.
Love and good vibes,
About Victoria Hood
Victoria has been working in the mental health and addiction field over the past 7 years since leaving University with an honours degree in Psychology. During her time spent working in addiction, Victoria was introduced to the practice of mindfulness. Since then, Victoria has become extremely passionate about incorporating mindfulness into her professional and family life.
Victoria has an honours degree in Psychology from the University of Canterbury. She is a Life Coach, Mindfulness Coach, and Mindfulness Practitioner in schools and is a passionate holistic health and well-being advocate and facilitator of mindfulness-based workshops.