Can I tell you a little story? I used to work with young kids a lot as a therapist. One of the first questions I would ask, usually to the caregiver was, “what is he/she watching on the TV/tablet/phone?” This was an especially important question if the child was experiencing behavioral issues. The answer to this, seemingly very simple question, could oftentimes give me a lot of information and insight as to why the child was behaving the way they were.
Guess what… the same holds true for adults. The content that we consume has the ability to impact our mood and how we feel. And although as adults we may be more effective at containing those impacts (to the point that we we may not display behavioral issues) better than small children, it still has an effect on us internally which usually manifests outwardly in some way or another. Crazy, right? This all hit me when I was knee deep into a very binge-worthy, albeit gory drama/action show picked by my husband. He tends to pick these types of shows, that are usually very good but I have to be mindful and moderate how much I take in, at any given time.
Here’s another crazy tidbit, the brain has a difficult time distinguishing reality when we see something on TV, etc…versus in real life or even if we visualize something. So we feel similarly (of course on a much smaller scale when viewed on the television) when we see something upsetting in reality compared to when we see it fabricated on a screen.
All of this to say, what we watch affects our mental health. So, what solutions can we look to in order to address this idiosyncrasy that you may not have been aware of until this very moment? Ask and and you shall receive, friend….see below.
Be self aware. Monitor your emotions to gauge where you fall on the “sensitivity to violence – ometer”.
- Take breaks. If you discover you are being impacted, turn off the TV, take a walk outside, read an uplifting book, distract a bit once you’ve been able to label your state of “ick”.
- Pep talk. Remind your brain that it’s not real. Now, if it’s a true story (like the one I was watching), this is a tough one. Oftentimes, you can rely on the disclaimer at the beginning of the show stating it is a dramatization of the real events. However, this kind of material may just be the kind you need to avoid altogether for your own well being.
- Balance your content. For every dramatic/gory/upsetting show you watch balance it with as many light hearted and/or comedic shows as you need. This balance is different for everyone.
- Watch what the kids are watching. If you’ve got kiddos, you may notice the themes in their shows are usually more positive and uplifting. If you don’t, you can still fire up the kids section of Netflix! A return to some innocence can be an excellent antidote to the shock-value, violence, and aggression seen in a lot of adult content.
Bare in mind, most television producers are aiming to shock so their shows go viral and get views. Try and keep your grip on reality by challenging some of the logic or your logic when you get carried away with the drama of it all. Advocating for your mental health is a constant job, ya’ll!
Take care always,