*What a wonderful acceptance speech by Noni Hazelhurst at yesterdays TV Week Logie awards. She addressed a number of issues very eloquently including the impact of the constant barrage of frightening news stories on our mental health and the increased incidence of Anxiety and Depression in today's society.
It is true that since the advent of 24 hour news channels, commencing with CNN back in the 1970's that we have been inundated with negative and terrifying stories. The problem of course is that it begins to feel like a true reflection of life, coming into our minds via our TV's, computers, and smart phones and even playing through our ear phones while we're at the gym. We begin to believe that the world is terrifying, when in fact statistically it's safer than it's ever been. The News service has become like a proxy depressed processor for our perception of life, filtering out most of the good news stories about all the great things that people do every day in favour of the negative narratives that better fit the Commercial News template.
The pursuit of ratings means that each News story must be drummed up and sensationalised, and personalised "what if this happened here" is often the click-bait headline accompanying a story from a different place with completely different circumstances. Recently a news story ran about gangs rampaging through Melbourne during the Moomba festival. Having spoken to people that were there and hearing their eye witness account it seems the so called rampage consisted of some youths running and knocking over some plastic chairs, and a small section of picket fence surrounding a restaurant. No doubt unpleasant for the people in attendance, however to see the news reports you would think that a hoard of Barbarians had wiped out the local population.
The result of this can be that we become anxious and wary. We worry more about our safety, about what might happen if.... We're not designed to process worry and stress in this relentless way, our body's and brains are designed to process stress and anxiety in short spurts, as in the days when we were under threat from a Saber Tooth Tiger. If the Tiger came, our fight and flight response was triggered and we ran and hid or if we absolutely had to we prepared to defend ourselves. Once hidden, our stress subsided. These days we are constantly being told directly and indirectly that we are in danger of something, and it doesn't go away until it's replaced by something just as scary in the next bulletin, this can have a potentially significant impact on our mental health.
We've also invented new ways to generate stress for ourselves; careers, employers, traffic, kids, mortgages, fear of ageing, fear of missing out etc. These are all relatively new to us in evolutionary terms and while we've been increasing the ways to stress ourselves out in yet more recent times we've been eliminating the methods we used to use to reverse the effect of stress. For most of Civilisation mankind has used religion and prayer to practice a kind of mindfulness. People would spend time praying daily which would allow them some respite from the worry's and woes. They also had the psychological advantage in that if they were feeling particularly overwhelmed by a problem they could reassure themselves by handing the outcome over to a higher power i.e. "put it in Gods hands" and this enabled a kind of acceptance of the outcome that minimised their responsibility and consequently it's impact on them. In a lot of Western Countries religious practice has been disappearing.
* For people that don't have religion to impose a daily mindfulness practice through prayer, Science now confirms that mindfulness in it's own right and for it's own sake is still an extremely important and effective stress management tool. I always recommend that my clients incorporate a daily practice of mindfulness. Just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in terms of stress reduction. Overtime mindfulness is something that can be introduced to every aspect of the day, it will assist with management of emotions and even habits like eating when not hungry. The increased awareness of the present moment that comes with mindfulness can enable us to pause and think better of it before we lose our temper or indulge in that calorie laden and unnecessary snack.
When it comes to the media it is undoubtedly beneficial to our mental health to simply switch off our TV's, computers and devices of all kinds on a daily basis, if possible get back to nature and walk in the park or at the beach, and simply breath for a while. Make sure to get into the habit of powering off all devices at least 20 minutes before you want to go to bed, and don't have them in your bedroom if you can avoid it. In switching off you're not missing out, in fact you're gaining something, you're gaining an opportunity to allow your mind to reset and refresh, to generate some inner peace, and to improve your life balance, your resilience and your quality of sleep.
If you'd like to see Noni Hazelhurst's full speech I've attached a link below.
*results may vary
Georgina Mitchell was born in Ireland, moving to Australia in 1989. Georgina spent many years working in senior management in the Corporate world, before leaving to pursue her passion to become a Therapist.
Please note as with all therapies, Results for Therapies delivered by Hypfocus may vary from person to person