Be Careful About What You Read
Have you ever found yourself endlessly scrolling through the news on your phone or newspaper, and found yourself caught up in news for an hour or more? I know I have consumed more than an hour a day in the endless pursuit of news – more at weekends. So full on was my search for news that I had 3 news apps on my phone to scroll through! I decided to take a hard look at my news consumption. This is what I found. I spent an average over the course of a week of 10 hours reading news articles!! 10 hours! No wonder I always felt time poor. The worst part was most of these were of the same boring topics, Brexit, Hospital building, and the economy – a real yawn fest, not to mention stress inducing!
As a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist, I warn my stressed and anxious clients to avoid reading or watching the news, unless they really have to for their job. News loves fear mongering, scaring its avid consumers with worst case scenarios, controversy, and toxicity. You woudn’t put up with some negative person whispering in your ear for hours on end so why do we allow faceless journalists freedom over our brain? I decided something had to be done about this for myself and went cold turkey on news from 18 December 2018. Here is what I have discovered:
I was Happier
No news really is good news for the mind. After a few days of hovering over the news apps and not clicking, I suddenly found I had no inclination to open the news. I felt calmer and happier.
I found time for myself
When I no longer read the news for an hour a day I found my day started faster. I added in 20 mins of yoga every other day, instead of once a week. I read more fiction than I had in two years. I came up with new creative ideas.
I took time out to learn
As a therapist I must do continuing professional development and I often struggle to find the time but I have fitted in further study on integrative oncology and felt more relaxed studying as there was less time pressure.
I felt calmer and more content
Without the toxicity levels of constant news consumption I certainly noticed my adrenaline levels lessen. There was nothing to worry about or fixate on. I loved being ‘out of touch’ because I found myself ‘in touch’ with me. I found I was more content without the subconscious appraisal of people’s lives to compare mine with.
I was able to write more
Writing is a passion of mine and unencumbered, by my boycott on news, I felt my creative juices flowing more freely and writing came easier.
What was going on that made all these news boycotting benefits magically appear?
Here are some stats: 84% of Ireland’s online adults use social media networks, with 53% using the social media sites for daily news. Additionally, 38 percent of Facebook users use Facebook for news stories (source: Reuters). If you use social media it’s hard to get away from news. This certainly looks innocent until you look at the science, because the problem is hidden from view, and it has a name – Dopamine.
Dopamine is a naturally occurring chemical in our bodies and fires off in our reward circuitry of the brain when reading the news or using social media. (Source: Harvard) Dopamine hits can take you down the rabbit hole in the search for other ‘interesting’ stories and links to click on. The trouble with all this dopamine is it becomes addicted to whatever is triggering it, in this case - news. Dopamine likes more news and more news. It badgers us into clicking on stories to fulfill its desire to trigger more dopamine. When we don’t click on the news story that has caught our attention it sends cravings to give in and click and makes you restless until its craving is satisfied.
You can turn off dopamine cravings by avoiding what it craves for a few days. That helped me feel calmer.
Why did I feel Happier Avoiding News?
British psychologist Dr. Graham Davey, specialises in the psychological effects of media violence, believes that violent media exposure can exacerbate anxiety, stress, depression and even PTSD post-traumatic stress disorder, This is turn enhances other stressors in your life making them appear much worse than they actually are. Just by reading all this negative, often 'disaster focused', news, I was releasing cortisol and adrenaline into my body, switching on the flight and fight response. No wonder I was happy ditching news.
Why was I spending so much time reading news?
Well that is the Amygdala’s fault! The Amygdala sits in the brain scanning our every thought. If we perceive something to be negative e.g. News, it gets our attention spiked and it wants to concentrate on it more. In fact a single negative event has the same impact as 5 positive events in the amygdala (source: USA Today). So the Amygdala has us reading more and more negative news. This is what took up my precious time. And why I was able to put that time to better use when I turned my attention off of the news.
Hopefully this inspires you to be more choosy with your time and to reign in the news watching and reading or dump it all together if you don’t need to know.
I offer a life enhancing service in my CBT therapy to Cancer Patients both past and present and Carers. I was a Cancer Carer myself once, as well as being a Breast Cancer survivor and understand both sides of the story really well.
I love to help people get through their treatment journeys and out the other side with their sanity and relationships intact.
I use Cognitive Behavioural techniques to provide you with great coping mechanisms, plus coaching in communication skills and actions to help you be the person you want to be.
Contact me for more information through my website www.cbtforcancer.com all my therapy sessions are conducted by Skype which makes my therapy accessible wherever you are in the world.