Any nutritionist will tell you that an apple is much healthier than a burger. We all know this is true. A psychologist will likely tell you the burger is easy dopamine, your PT will call it a cheat day. Regardless, the apple and the burger serve as an excellent metaphor for the news cycle. The apple represents uplifting, positive stories of resilience and courage, and the burger represents stories of tragedy, war, and deceit. Mainstream media serves up a lot of burgers.
News, historically regarded as a means of staying informed about the world around us, has evolved into a continuous stream of overwhelming information. From our smartphones to our television screens, the pervasive nature of news media has shaped our perceptions, attitudes, and even our social lives. Amidst the 24-hour stream of content lies a concerning trend – the prevalence of negative news media and its intimate relationship with our emotional wellbeing. A 2020 study on the correlation between social media and mental health (Karim, 2020) found that the two shared a direct link to each other. Factors such as time spent online, activity level, addiction, and social envy were associated with anxiety and depression.
Founder of Life Beyond Limits, Life Coach, NLP trainer (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), and notorious Brain UNtrainer, Rik Schnabel told The Jolly Times of his early history in retail and how negative programming, learned in his childhood, confined him to a life of struggle. Mr. Schnabel went into the space of life coaching in 2002.
“NLP showed my belief systems caused a lot of my problems.” He said. “I worked with a coach, changed my mindset, and transformed my life.”
Since then, he has treated those suffering from depression, anxiety, and even physical conditions such as multiple sclerosis and cancer with alarmingly positive results.
Mr. Schnabel continues. “Fear triggers the brain’s reticularactivating system, affecting our perceptions and sensitivities. This system causes us to believe and reinforce whatever we’re told.” Understanding the news cycle, what fuels it, and the simple changes to break free of it will alter your life forever.
The way in which communication strategies are utilised is startling. Most often used as a means to sell products and services, this skill is often applied to the production of emotionally charged content. This affects not only our psychological behaviours but our opinions, social interactions, and our purchasing behaviours as well. Imagine this: you’re watching the 6 o’clock news, a person in your area has tragically lost their life in a motor accident. You see a police officer place a white sheet down, a strong visual message that a family has lost their son or daughter. The reporter finishes off and hands it back over to the anchors and the news breaks for an advert.
“SALE SALE SALE!” The television flashes with bright colours and upbeat music, and a quirky salesman says. “Don’t miss out on our EOFY sale, get a new car today!”
Suddenly, you want a new car.
Mr. Schnabel shared this insight with The Jolly Times, adding that throughout his time employed in the media industry, TV advertising slots during news breaks were as expensive as the Sunday night movie. Nowadays, a quick Google search will tell you reality TV and sports finales nab hundreds of thousands for a slot that places them in front of millions of eyes.
Utilising emotional highs and lows in media and advertising is a no-brainer. Humans are emotional creatures. We empathise. Mr. Schnabel said. “We can’t help it because we’re empathetic.” He added. “We will blend into our environments really easily, and really quickly.”
Recognising that constant, unvaried exposure to any media, negative or positive, will lead to a biased perception of one’s reality.
Society has always had a tendency to focus on negative news. Psychologist Rick Hanson said.
“A negativity bias has been built into our brains based on millions of years of evolution.”
With this in mind, the first tangible newspapers were published in Europe in the early 1600s (Weber, 2006). Newspapers have existed in some way, shape or form since ancient Roman times. While focused primarily on events and general gossip – they quickly became utilised as vessels for heavier topics. War, conflicts, propaganda, and fake news were soon funnelled through these early outlets, setting the precedent for the next 400 years of mainstream news.
Below, The Jolly Times News Founder Jade Ruston takes you through a quick history of how the news has been tailored to keep you down.
The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated excellently the effects of repetitively reporting on themes of fear and hopelessness.
“Tomorrow looked like it was going to be just as bad as today and possibly even worse.” Mr Schnabel remembered.
“We lose hope, we lose faith, we lose trust, and we lose our ability to be self-motivated.”
The illusory truth effect (Hassan & Barber, 2021) and negativity bias play interconnected roles in the way repetition in media influences people. The illusory truth effect suggests that repeated exposure to information increases its perceived accuracy, creating a sense of familiarity that people associate with truthfulness. When negative news is broadcast repeatedly, this principle comes into play.
As people encounter the same negative stories over and over, their perception of reality becomes imbued with a negative hue, a consequence of recurrent and pervasive exposure.
At the same time, the negativity bias, a cognitive tendency to give more weight to negative information, enhances the impact of repeated exposure. Negative news tends to grab attention more effectively than positive news, as it triggers stronger emotional responses in the brain and is perceived as more relevant to survival and safety. Consequently, when negative stories are broadcasted repetitively, they are not only perceived as a normal reality but also elicit stronger emotional reactions. The combination of the two creates a feedback loop. The emotional resonance of negative bias further ingrains this narrative of terror in people’s minds. A heightened sense of negativity is generally the result. People become more attuned to negative aspects of their surroundings, and perspectives tend to shift towards a more negative outlook.
The same rule, however, works the other way around. When we consume positive content, our perspectives and reactions, in turn, shift towards that positive nature. Not only does it make us feel more optimistic about the world are living in, but encourages us to mimic kindness. A study brought to us by Dr Ketan Parmar, who is a Psychiatrist and mental health expert at ClinicSpots in India found
“Positive content enhanced mood and increased altruism, suggesting that the type of information we consume can influence not only how we feel, but also how we think and act and that a more brain health-conscious approach to what we absorb is needed.”
You can read the study by Graham C. L. Davey, Ph.D., about the psychological effects of TV news here.
“Because we are not completely awake, we are accepting many fear-based ideas into our unconscious. Most of us are in a trance as we watch dramatic advertising messages and news reports. Just because TV viewers have their eyes open, it does not mean their minds are functioning at beta-level consciousness. Most people’s brains operate at alpha-level consciousness while watching TV, which means that they are in a trance, particularly while slouched on the couch with the motivation to get relaxed.”
The pervasive influence of mainstream media on our lives cannot be denied.
However, there is an increasing realisation that we must consciously break away from its grip to safeguard our mental and emotional well-being. It’s crucial to understand that one doesn’t have to completely sever ties with the mainstream news cycle. Instead, understanding the news cycle, its tactics and limiting exposure can be a significant first step.
The Jolly Times emphasises the benefits of waiting until the middle of the day to catch up on current affairs. This simple shift allows you to start your day free from the barrage of distressing headlines and unattainable lifestyles. We all have the freedom to choose the sources we engage with. Mr. Schnabel emphasised his longing for a return to a simpler, community driven society centred around the sharing of stories passed down from one generation to the next.
Mr. Schnabel also drew on the parallels between modern, Western culture and that of traditional Indigenous communities, he said.
“It would be much simpler and probably a lot more emotionally advanced to live more in that way.”
While we may live in the most interconnected iteration of society in history, it is easy to feel disheartened and disconnected from any sense of belonging and community.
Seek out genuine connections that foster positive habits and interactions.
As individuals consciously step away from the influences of mainstream media, they can rediscover the importance of kindness and community.
By engaging in acts of goodwill and building strong connections within their society, people can return to their roots and find their place within a supportive community.
This sense of belonging can be a powerful antidote to the isolation that excessive media consumption can foster. The world is full to the brim with good news but is often shrouded in the shadows of sensationalism. However, a moth always finds a light in the dark. They are positively phototaxis, meaning they automatically move in response to the presence of light. Let’s have a moth-like mentality.
Mindfulness involves realising that a significant portion of our behaviour is unconscious. It’s like peeling back the layers of our thoughts and actions to become aware of the underlying processes.
According to Mr. Schnabel, approximately 95% of our behaviour falls into this category.
This revelation underscores the significance of being conscious about what goes into our minds, particularly when it comes to consuming media. It’s essential to consciously examine our feelings when consuming such content. This means being aware of how it makes us feel and how it might shape our thoughts and perspectives away from who we truly are and into the bias of others.
Mr. Schnabel highlighted how people can fall into trances while watching TV or engaging with other media. These trances lead to unconscious behaviour, where we become passive recipients of information rather than active thinkers. The path to mindfulness involves being present in all senses, fully aware of our surroundings. It’s about snapping out of these trances and regaining control over our thoughts and actions. Deep meditation can help clear the mind and promote greater consciousness.
It allows us to detach from the constant stream of media and regain focus on our own thoughts and feelings.
“I believe that when we wake up from the fearmongering, negative hype generation and the advertising and marketing trance, our families will become empowered and courageous—their fears will diminish, and their dreams will arrive. But we have to become hyperconscious to do that. We need to train our brains to make new, empowering decisions, not fearful ones.
When that day comes, we will have a happier world and a more peaceful planet. I have had enough of being force-fed brand nonsense and politicians’ justifications for wars. I can no longer tolerate the shrinking middle classes having to choose between being rich or poor—or given no choice at all. My vision is to wake up the world from the marketing mush and from the trance they are in. My mission—my how—is to deliver tools of courage into the hands of the world. I want you to unleash your ROAR! Courage! I wish for the world to ROAR! and say, “No more!” The clouds of deception need some sunshine, a fresh new voice, and a new way.”
3 Strategies to Get You from Fear to Fearless
- When a problem arises, get courageous and get creative.
- Stop making things, events, and people bad or good. Look for the lessons.
- Carefully vet which messages you do and don’t allow into your home.
An Opportunity to Practice ROAR! Courage
(Paying the Second Price)
“Turn off the TV, the radio, and the Internet, and do not read any news or gossip glossies for a week.
Notice what happens to your positivity, your communications, your courage, and your confidence.
A good friend of mine once said, “I don’t watch or read the news. If there is something important that I missed on the news, someone will tell me about it.”
Wanting to dive in deeper? You can purchase Riks full range of books here;
- THE POWER OF BELIEFS – 7 BELIEFS THAT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE
- ROAR! COURAGE – FROM FEAR TO FEARLESS
- THE LIFE COACH MILLIONAIRES – 101 CLIENT GETTING STRATEGIES
BOOKS ONLY AVAILABLE ON AMAZON
- A RICHER WAY TO THINK – THIS IS NOT A BOOK. IT’S A WAY OF LIFE
If you want to get EVEN DEEPER, you can read his glowing recommendations and book a session with Rik through his website here.
What is your relationship with the news, and what topics would you like to see more of included in The Jolly Times? Don’t be shy! Drop your comment here, and let’s build upon our incredible society together.