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  • Writer's pictureNicky Lloyd Greame

Watch what you watch

Have you watched the news recently? If you have, you may have noticed the amount of horror and destruction that you see on there. Or the amount of cases of celebrities supposedly doing unspeakable things or… the list goes on. 

But, have you ever noticed the wonderful things going on in the world on the news?   Like the fact that new trials have suggested that they may have found a way to stop the onset of multiple sclerosis.  Or that all 41 trapped workers in India were rescued from a collapsed tunnel - after 17 days! You didn’t hear those ones? That’s because the people who produce the news are very aware that our brains are naturally inclined to take more notice of the ‘bad stuff’ – it’s part of our survival mechanism.   Obviously, we have more of a chance of escaping danger if we know about it.  The reality is though – news with a negative bias can prove toxic to our minds and mental health. 

The press, equally, has a habit of using ‘catastrophic language’ when writing news stories which makes even the smallest of things seem disastrous and eliminates the good in them. See for yourself, count how many good news stories are shared compared to bad news, the ratio may surprise you.  It’s definitely not a balanced approach.

Media is not the only industry who are guilty of capitalising on our minds natural survival instincts.  TV programmes and movies are also often produced in a way that is intended to capture our interest (obviously).  This inevitably means the storylines, language, music and visual representation are all directed in a way to engage our emotional responses – and more often than not the focus is on the not-so-positive ones.  I’m sure you have watched a film or programme and, even though your brain knows it’s not real, you have either cried, jumped, laughed, sat on edge, hidden behind a cushion etc.  

Our brain’s job is to protect us, and it reacts very quickly to do so. An example of how efficient our brains can be is when you hurt yourself:  tears may often spring to your eyes or you’ll get an instant pang of nausea. Our ‘fight or flight’ response (stress response) is recognised as one of the quickest reactions in your body.  This is your internal survival mechanism so of course it has to react quickly – and when you watch a programme with something that is frightening or makes you jump it will trigger it and release the corresponding stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol).  Your logical brain will then kick in and remind you it’s not real however the hormones have already been released so you are left with residual levels.  

There is nothing wrong with watching these programmes but you do need to be aware, if you are already feeling stressed or overwhelmed then, whilst you may not realise it, these programmes and films will be adding to that feeling.   

Now, just because TV/films can cause you unnecessary stress, doesn’t mean you should stop watching them altogether, it just means you need to learn how to combat the hormones your body will release. There are lots of ways you can do this:

  • Try watching a comedy instead of the news or a horror movie; this will release happy hormones in your body and help give you a sense of relaxation and bliss

  • Don’t watch these shows before you go to sleep.  Studies prove that going to sleep after watching something triggering (i.e something that actively releases stress hormones) negatively impacts your sleeping quality and pattern.  This then has other negative impacts on your body as it does not have a chance to properly recharge, regenerate and repair

  • Choose programmes/films that match the mood you want to be in.  If you want to be happy, watch a happy film, if you are feeling thoughtful, watch something thought-provoking, want to be inspired….. you get the idea.

  • Cut down watching/listening/reading the news, or even cut it out completely.  It is rare that the news directly impacts us, all it does is cause us worry or even feelings of anger and frustration.  Chances are you will still become aware of anything important to you then you can actively choose to go and find out about it if you need to. 

  • Be aware of when you have watched something that has had this effect on you, and make sure to take some time to eliminate those hormones.  Either by exercise, breathing, laughing or distracting with something positive to just give your body the time to naturally allow the hormones to get out of your system.


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