Media Consumption’s Effect on Mood
There has been an outpouring of research and articles in recent years about the effects of social media on mental health. As social media usage has increased, so too has concern about the ways it impacts our mental health. While this is a super important topic worthy of all of its attention, there is another important conversation to have about the impact of other media consumption on our well-being. Especially right now, when individuals are spending an increased amount of time absorbing the news, bingeing on tv shows, listening to music and podcasts, and reading more books, it is important to consider how what we are consuming is affecting how we feel.
Many people have reported an increase in news consumption during this COVID-19 pandemic in an attempt to stay informed and up to date with what is going on in the world. While it is certainly important to be an informed citizen and to learn the necessary guidelines to stay safe and healthy, it is also important to take care of one’s mental health – which sometimes means turning the news off. Be mindful of the sources you turn to for your news and try to stick to the more credible and objective outlets. Be mindful that news headlines tend to draw people in with eye-opening titles and catchphrases that feed into anxiety. Boundaries around news-watching can allow for balance between receiving important updates and not over-consuming intimidation that negatively impacts mood.
A welcomed break from the news cycle may be tv, movies, podcasts, books or music. However, it is also super important to be mindful about the way your choice here can also impact your mood and well-being. For example, it is not uncommon for an individual to seek out music or tv shows that match their mood. Madeline Weinfeld, LMSW shares that many of her clients actually have “sad” music playlists for this exact purpose. She shares that while music is an incredible outlet and some of those sad songs may be incredibly validating for patients, that listening to this soundtrack when already feeling down actually presents more risks than benefits. The sad music indulges the sad feelings and can leave an individual feeling lower than they already were. Alternatively, playing some feel-good or relaxing songs can actually help the person begin to feel happier. Similarly, when it comes to tv show or movie selection, it is helpful to think about the way you are currently feeling and how you would like to feel when making your choice. During a time where reality may feel scary and sad, it may make more sense to choose a light or funny show to elevate your mood rather than to exacerbate what you were already feeling with a darker choice. When it comes to podcasts or books, consider a subject you are interested in that excites you, inspires you or motivates you rather than one that scares you or discourages you. Recognize that your absorption of media lasts longer than the activity itself, having a longer lasting impact on your mood and well-being.
There is certainly a time and place for sad music, movies and books, but it is important to consider your mental state before engaging with these selections. Rather than making a selection that matches your current mood, consider making selections that match the way you hope to feel, in an attempt that the media consumption can help guide you there.