Sunday, September 2, 2012

Go On A TV News Diet

If you are suffering with anxiety, is it in your best interest to watch television news? Or can it increase your feelings of stress, tension, depression, and hopelessness?
Today I was reading a popular psychology blog, PsychCentral, and there was a poll asking people how much current events affected their mood. I found the results of this poll disturbing. Over 30% of respondents claimed that their mood goes up and down depending on what is going on in the news. Another 30% said they sometimes get depressed over the news.
I imagine that most people would say they want to be happy. Yet here was evidence that millions of people subject themselves to television news daily even though it probably negatively effects their mood. Imagine, letting your happiness be controlled by the sounds coming out of an electronic box! Pretty crazy when you think about it that way, isn't it?
If you aren't as happy or relaxed as you would like to be, let me urge you to try a "news diet." I can hear you already, "But how will I know what is going on?". Let me ask you this, what is the worst that is likely to happen if you are not informed of what is going on? Even if you specifically avoid the news, if there is anything you really need to know about, trust me, you'll find out. Someone will let you know.
If you simply must be up on current events for your profession, then I would suggest you read the paper or look at a reputable news source online instead of watching the news on TV. Both of these media let you have more control over what you choose to be exposed to. You can scan headlines and choose what not to read. Most people who watch the news on TV will not be disciplined enough to mute or change the channel when something unedifying comes on the tube.
You must understand that all news media make money by spreading bad news and terrifying their viewers. They insidiously make you believe you need to be informed to keep yourself safe. That's how they hook you into staying tuned.
My rule of thumb about whether I need to know about a current event is this; I ask myself, "Is this within my sphere of influence?" As you can imagine, the answer is almost always no! There really isn't much that affects me directly except the weather. The exception I make is that I educate myself on candidates and issues before elections so I can vote intelligently.
Being continually exposed to negative events which you can't do anything about can lead to your feelings of helplessness, which can fuel feelings of depression and anxiety.
I urge you to give up all news for a week or two and notice how you feel. Are you feelings of stress and anxiety reduced? You might be convinced at this point. If not, try adding the news back into your life again and notice if you are feeling more angry or tense.
If you suffer from stress, anxiety or panic attacks, stop watching television news. This one suggestion might make a tremendous difference in the way you feel.

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