There’s been a lot of troubling news lately and it’s always good to know what is going on. But with all that is happening around the world: fires in the Amazon rainforest, political unrest around the world, Brexit, murders and crime closer to home, etc. could the news be causing us uneccessary distress and sadness, and could it actually be bad for our mental health?

The news in the last few days in the UK has been filled with a lot of political discussions, mainly surrounding Brexit: the proroguing of parliament (seriously never heard of it until recently) and the worry of what will happen if there is a no-deal Brexit, the effects on both sides for those that want it and for those that fear a very right-leaning government that seems to be forming in this country. But while knowing what is happening, especially if it’s a piece of news that affects everybody’s lives, can be important, hearing too much of the news could be damaging to your mental health.

Tuned in too much?

I used to watch the news all the time.  I used to leave the tv tuned in to the news bulletins several times a day. I wasn’t desperate to watch the news but I also didn’t see the harm, especially if there was nothing better to watch at the time. The news today is filled with lots of stories of all the bad stuff that’s going on in the world, and while there are happy and positive stories happening all the time, our news channels always focus on the negatives. If you watch the news all the time you’d think the world is getting worse and worse and never having any happy events happening. Although the news has always shown a lot of negative events, I noticed this more and more in the last two decades.

For many years I became more and more aware of the news, and I started watching it more and more a everyday.  And every time I watched the news, I wouldn’t feel brilliant about my day, instead I just felt blank or sad.  The news stories of the day were something that I just left on my television, but even when I wsn’t concentrating the words like: ‘murder’ or ‘killer’ or ‘war’ I could hear and they entered my mind on a subconscious level.  The more I listened to the news, the less positive I felt about life and even when I wanted to feel good about what was happening personally, a part of me felt there wasn’t a point as life in the world beyond my life was getting worse and worse every day.

A sudden change

Just a short few years ago I had a sudden change in my life, I moved, quite suddenly, out of the city and area in London I had grown up in and spent some time away in other parts of the country.  Watching tv took a back seat and for a while I was out of range of any television signal at all!  I didn’t tune into a radio at the time and didn’t have any online access for several weeks which felt weird after being connected for so long.  Not being overly aware of anything happening in the wider world, I began focusing more on me, my life and the life of those around me. Focusing on what was close to home rather than everything happening made me begin to do more things that I enjoyed and not hearing all the sad stories from the television news made my mental health go instantly up.

I had access to local and national newspapers at the time though, but chose only to buy them occassionally, rather than the everyday that my family had been buying them before. Focusing on the local newspapers brought more joy than sadness as the particular paper I was reading liked to dedicate a lot of its space to happy stories as well as the darker ones. There were still stories of some crimes committed in the area, or a sad tale of someone who had died, but these were mixed with stories about the newly built park pond and all the birds that had taken up residence there, or silly stories about toys mistaken for wild animals!  Having the positive stories in with the negative made reading the paper fun and it somehow stopped me feeling so depressed and sad about reading the other stuff.

I noticed this with the local television at the time in that area too, when we finally got reconnected after moving.  The local news where I was living wasn’t the same as the local news in London and although there were a lot of dark stories about the horrible things that were happening, killings, other crimes, politics, etc. there were a lot of fun stories too. The presenters of the local news liked to have fun and laugh, much more than I had ever seen before in any local London news, and this came across in the local news bulletin which I only decided to watch once a day.

Rationing the news to only once a day made it easier to deal with all the sad stories and somehow they didn’t affect me as much, especially as I started doing fun stuff to take my mind off what I had seen right after watching the news.  It didn’t take me long to realise that it was listening to the news that had for so many years contributed to my depression. It wasn’t the main cause of it and it wasn’t the only thing making me depressed, but it definitely made me feel worse rather than better and I decided to keep away from watching, hearing and reading as much news as possible.

The bad news returns

I finally moved back to London after living away from the area for some time and I noticed a huge difference when I got back. I had been living away from London and had purposefully stayed away from too much news. I hadn’t completely abandoned watching the news or reading newspapers, but I had rationed it and only concentrated on the stories that I really wanted to hear, rather than watching the whole half hour of depressing news stories. Doing this had made me feel better, both about myself and about the world. I didn’t have such a clouded and dark outlook on life as I had done for many years before and I was doing more things for myself and moving forward in life in a way I hadn’t done for many, many years.

But moving back to the city and not having a lot of my hobby items around to distract myself in the first few weeks (what with them packed up in boxes and me exhausted with moving) I naturally left the tv on as my main source of entertainment and this was a very big mistake. When the news bulletins came on I started to feel myself falling into a depression again but this time I was more aware of what was happening inside my head. The moment a ‘bad’ story came on, about a death, murder, killing, arson, etc. I felt my body tense up. The reporters would go on and on about how the suspect was still out there, details of how someone had been killed or raped, etc. how many people had died in a war somewhere in the world, and all I could feel was a deep dread in my stomach. Knowing all the details of a particular crime, one that was nowhere near where I lived and wouldn’t be something I’d ever encounter unless I lived in the area had me feeling so horrible that I turned off the television and walked away – doing some deep breathing exercises to relax.

At that moment I decided to ration the news again. I didn’t see it as a good idea to be completely out of the loop, nobody wants someone to be completely ignorant, but I wasn’t going to pay too much attention to all the bad stuff and instead I’d only listen to what happened once a day, keeping my attention on stories that mattered, and keeping a distance to stories that really didn’t, and straight after hearing any news I made sure to do something positive for myself afterwards in order to feel better and take care of my mental health.

Should I be watching the news at all?

Listening to, watching or reading the news isn’t a bad thing to do, especially if you want to be kept up-to-date with what is happening in the world around us.  Not knowing anything at all can cause ignorance, intollerance and hate (which this country has seen a lot of lately 😦 ).  But we need to be aware of the effect that too much negative news can have on us. Hearing about everything bad that happens in the world, with no positive stories to uplift your mood at the end can make us feel like the world is a sad or terrifying place, a place where things are just getting worse and worse, and we no longer feel safe in. The recent UK politics surrounding the Brexit issue may not involve crimes and murders, but the divisions in both people’s attitudes towards others who oppose their views, and the way politicians have been acting and berating each other is equally damaging to our mental health if we concentrate on it too much.

If you enjoy hearing what’s happening in the news then you need to be aware of what effect it may have on you.  You may not even realise it at the time, but the effects can be picked up by your subconscious as well as conscious mind.  Listening to the news when you’re not in a good state of mind can really pull you into a darker depression, especially if, like me, you are particularly sentsitive to the darker stories. And if you are suffereing from a depression that gets worse when you hear the news, but you want to still watch it, then why not ration the news, watch once a day and do something positive and fun for yourself afterwards, it really does work in making you fel better, belive me, I’ve tried it! 🙂

Last words

The news has a way of pulling people into a depressive and also an aggressive state.  Without realising it many people get overly angry or sad when hearing the news.  It can have an affect on our mental state long after we’ve finished watching it and you only have to see the way people react on social media to a trending story in order to see the effect it can have on a person’s mental state and subsequent behaviour.

There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about your point of view, or listening and knowing what’s happening to the world.  But if we want to live our lives with more calm and happiness, then constantly keeping an eye on the news everyday, several times a day, may not be the solution and could make your mental health worse.  So do something positive instead, concentrate on news stories that matter and affect you specifically, and make sure you don’t get swept up in darkness that the news can create.

Has the news ever affected your mental state?  Have you felt a certain emotion or triggered when watching the news?  What stories upset or excite you when you hear them?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂