The News and Your Health

Many of us are aware of the terror attacks that struck Belgium, and thoughts go out to those involved. This morning, media programs splashed headlines across the news, with channels running special report streams with in-depth analysis. Images of fear-stricken faces scrolled across television screens, online and in print.

Yet studies have shown that these types of attacks not only affect the people directly involved, but can also impact those who are at a distance from the attacks who constantly watch the intense media coverage [1]. This can cause increases in depression as well as PTSD, even if the viewers are a continent away from the event.

On the other extreme, purposefully blocking out our reactions to sad events or denying whatever level of internal grief it can cause can have health impacts as well. It’s human nature to show concern for others. It’s fine to stay keyed in to what is happening, but like many things, moderation is key.

Integrative medical doctor Andrew Weil has suggested limiting news exposure as there tends to be a negative bias in the stories covered that can affect health and create a pessimistic view about life [2]. And once started, it can be hard to look away. Weil suggests that occasional “news fasts” can be helpful. At the same time, others may cite the stories of hope and positive news that can evolve in later coverage.

Rather than blindly taking in information day to day, note what effect media has on your well-being. If you are having issues with feeling down in general, make some adjustments and see if it helps.

Turn on the news to catch the headlines, but then shut off the TV or internet as you have a meal. Focusing on what we’re eating versus including it in our multitasking can also help increase mindfulness, which is being aware of what we’re eating. This can help to feel more satisfied and consume fewer calories [3]. Later on, skip the constant updates and take a walk out in nature instead, which tends to be healing [4]. Then, evaluate how you feel.

Do you think that media can affect your health? How do you stay tuned in with moderation?

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3346624/When-fear-used-weapon-PTSD-depression-strength-resilience-psychiatrist-reveals-terror-attacks-impact-mental-health.html
[2] http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/QAA230786/Learning-To-Live-With-Terrorism.html
[3] http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2015/02/09/the-benefits-of-mindful-eating
[4] http://www.chopra.com/ccl/healing-through-nature

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