Any stressful situation, brought on either by external circumstances or internal struggles, can be hard to grapple with at times. Even the word “stress” can bring about stress within the body.
Stress, particularly chronic or stress related to an overwhelming sense of trauma, has a profound effect on us. Stress decreases working memory which makes you more prone to poor management decisions and errors. Stress also reduces your lymphocytes which can make you more susceptible to physical illness. It also ages you prematurely. It’s ugly!
The way to find relief from stress and anxiety starts with understanding the stress response process. And that starts with knowing your brain.
What stress is and isn’t
What is stress, exactly? The phrase “stress” was first used by endocrinologist Hans Selye in 1936, who defined it as “the non-specific response of the body to any demand for change.”
Sensing a need to react, the body will kick into action. The nervous system will shift from a parasympathetic to a sympathetic state, heightening awareness. The adrenal glands release adrenaline throughout the body, priming it for rapid response. If the demand continues, cortisol keeps the body in high alert.
This reaction to stress is so efficient that many don’t know it’s happening until they are in a full “fight or flight” mode. The Harvard Medical School points out that the brain’s wiring moves so rapidly, the visual centers will slightly lag. It’s like instinctively trying to catch a glass jar before you realize it’s falling.
The key phase is “non-specific,” meaning what stresses one person won’t be the same for another person. There are common stressors, like a loss of a job or a relationship. The demand, though, can be different for everyone.
However, the response looks similar. Much of that is biological. We still keep a part of that primitive instinct, where a lion looming in the distance meant an instant flight. In that way, some stress is good for you! It keeps you focused and prepared for change.
What most struggle with, however, is chronic stress, where the body is perpetually in an aroused state. In our modern age, our lions usually don’t look like lions but they still feel like lions.
Is stress all in your mind?
In thinking about stress, it’s good to think about the brain as full of electricity. It won’t shock you (at least not with static!) but brainwaves are electrical currents that guide how you think, feel and respond.
Scientists have identified six types of brainwaves that can be categorized in two ways:
Delta, Theta and Alpha brainwaves are considered “slow.” When activated, the brain is in a more relaxed or quiet state. For example, Delta brainwaves help you fall into a deep sleep. Someone who is meditating or taking a stroll through a garden is exercising the alpha waves. You came up with an amazing idea while driving on the freeway? You can thank your theta brainwaves.
Beta, High Beta and Gamma brainwaves are “fast.” When they are dominant, the brain is active and engaged. Significant cognitive activities are the beta’s terrain, while deep concentration is all gamma waves at work.
When you are stressed, the beta brainwaves kick into hyper-motion, sending messaging through the Amygdala, which controls emotional processing. Your brain produces high beta, which makes the brainwaves fast and active. It activates the nervous and adrenal systems, preparing the body for a physical reaction to a stressor. In an optimal situation, once the stressor is gone, the high beta waves lessen and you return to a relaxed state.
Stress is gone, life is good.
But if you have too many High Beta brainwaves that aren’t addressed, the body cannot come back to a relaxed state. That leads to sickness, burnout and other physical or emotional side effects.
There’s good news about stress and the brain.
Technological advances enable researchers to understand the nature of brainwaves. An electroencephalogram (EEG) evaluates the electrical activity in the brain. Using neurofeedback and immersive media in virtual reality and augmented reality devices, you can see how brainwaves shift from fast to slow.
That’s how Healium came into being. The goal is to make you more aware of how to self manage your fast brain patterns, try to increase your alpha, and boost gamma asymmetry which is associated with feelings of positivity.
You have healing powers inside yourself to quiet your mind.
Especially in these times of uncertainty with the COVID-19 virus, stress seems overwhelming. The American Psychiatric Association reports that half of all Americans are feeling anxious about getting sick with the Coronavirus, and 40% are very anxious about becoming seriously ill or dying from it. In our jobs, our relationships and in our homes, we may feel overtaxed with the stresses that are thrust upon us.
There is good news ― no, great news. You can find relief! You may not eliminate or resolve all your stress but you can manage it in a drugless way, using technology.
This guide will help you find stress relief and get on the road to well-being. In order to find stress relief that sticks, you should know what stress is and isn’t, what are the natural remedies and some of the unique things in our society today that cause chronic stress.
We’ll also walk you through how immersive media like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality can help you find stress relief.
In a recent webinar dealing with the COVID-19 virus, several health professionals talked about ways to manage acute stress brought on by the Coronavirus. You can watch the Facebook live chat here if you missed it.
Here are some things you can do right now to help reduce your stress:
Read the newspaper instead of watching the news. We aren’t advocating that you turn off the TV news altogether. You need that information to keep you safe. But be careful about how much TV news you consume. Instead of watching news constantly, give reading the newspaper a shot. The newspaper provides the same information without exposing yourself to a potential panic trigger that news with video and sound can sometimes do. You can also know that you’re getting a complete version of the day’s news beyond soundbites and headlines.
Use sleep to reset the brain. A four-year study recently completed focused on synapses, which conjoin the neuron cells so they can send signals to each other. Those signals are part of what help you learn new things and create memories. The study found that during the day, those synapses stretch and grow but need to reset each night through sleep so it can grow more the next day. Chronic stress can upset the synapses and actually can make it harder for memories to stick. By committing to quality sleep, you can counterbalance the use (and overuse) of synapses and keep the brain pliable.
Be somewhere else. Did you know that you can trick your brain into thinking you’re in a less stressful place? It’s called presence, a subjective feeling of being in another place, even though you physically aren’t. One way to achieve that presence is through immersive media, which envelopes you in a sensation of virtual peace based on the environment your brain thinks it’s in at that moment.
We have more than 20 immersive media experiences here on the Healium website. If you don’t have virtual reality goggles, you can still try out the videos on your phone, tablet or desktop by clicking on the above link.
When we experience stress, our brain and body make significant changes in an attempt to handle the perceived threat. The brain sends energy away from your frontal lobes into deeper regions designed for a more primitive response. This is why it is sometimes hard to think or we “over-react” when we are stressed.
You know the feeling when the sense of stress and anxiety kicks in. The body is so efficient at preparing for a stress response that you may not know it’s happening until it’s happening.
The nervous system will shift from a parasympathetic to a sympathetic state, heightening awareness. The adrenal glands release adrenaline throughout the body, priming it for rapid response. If the demand continues, cortisol keeps the body in high alert.
What is key is what is happening in your brain when this all starts. It all starts with your brainwaves. Yes, the brain is producing electrical currents that are “fast” and “slow.” It’s the fast Beta brainwaves that are the main sources of how the body responds to a stressor.
It sounds complicated but if you know how your brain works, there are tools to help.
The Hypothalamus, which controls the autonomic system of the body, dictates emotions and the Amygdala controls responses to threats. They correspond to messages through brainwaves, moving from the left and right hemispheres of the brain. These brainwaves are responsible for how you deal with circumstances, either internally or externally, that require a response. They are the source of how your body deals with stress.
Yes, that means stress is normal and natural. Feeling some stress is actually a good thing!
What we’re talking about is chronic and unchecked stress and anxiety.
One way to slow your fast activity is through immersive media experiences like virtual reality and augmented reality. The goal of our patented technology is to make you more self aware how to decrease your fast brainwave and increase your slow alpha brainwaves.
How else can you shift your brainwaves? By practicing good mental hygiene.
Obviously, hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself from illness. But have you considered “washing” your brain?
Research has shown that poor mental health hygiene can make you physically sick. Up to 90% of visits to the doctor are related to stress. It’s life’s “dirt” that gets in our brain and if we don’t wash it out, it can short-circuit our nervous systems.
Your body has a finite amount of resources and moment to moment, your body is making decisions on where and how to use energy. During a chronic stress response, the body determines there is an immediate threat. You are in danger in that moment — even if there isn’t a clear and present physical danger.
What also happens is your body shuts down any “non-essential functions” like producing antibodies. When the antibody production is suppressed, it is more difficult to fight off infections. So yes, you need to take precautionary measures like social distancing. Tackling your mental hygiene keeps your immune and nervous systems at optimal levels.
There are things you can do like positive self-talk and guarding your heart against negative influences. Another key thing that will produce immediate results is watching your digital diet.
Especially in today’s challenges with the COVID-19 virus, it’s important to note that as you need to take care of your physical health through a nutritious diet, you also need to take care of your mental health by minding how your media diet is affecting your stress. What you consume in the media can raise your heart rate, increase the fast activity in your brain, and make you sick.
We mentioned above that reading the newspaper instead of watch the news all the time is one way to find stress relief. Here’s the research behind that tip:
Research on the effects of media in the past decades have shown a distinct impact on how one views and responds to the world. It’s shown that heavy television (and now social media) users begin to adopt distorted perspectives of how the world is based on what they see on TV and online.
For your brain, stress is stress, no matter if you watch the news or fight with someone on Facebook about the right way to social distance. And in the case of the Coronavirus, that fear and uncertainty gets amplified by the media.
“In the case of COVID-19, there is no end in sight, no resolution, causing those brain regions to become hyperactive. When we continually take in more ‘evidence’ of the threat through news and social media it reinforces the threat response,” said Dr. Jeff Tarrant, director at the Neuromeditation Institute and Chief Science Officer for Healium. “On the other hand, if you can send the nervous system signals that it is safe, it can begin to relax the hyper-vigilance, nervousness, and worry that comes with an over-aroused Amygdala.”
That means that more than ever, you need to be mindful of what you digitally consume. Put positive and uplifting things into your mind and limit what is negative and corrosive.
So put a limit on how much news on COVID-19 you watch. Seriously. There isn’t enough news to fit into a 24-news cycle, so about 15– minutes a day of headlines is plenty.
You can use that extra time using Healium to inject some positive fiber into your media diet.
Healium is a self-awareness and self-management tool that allows users to become more self-aware that their feelings have power. Healium allows you to feel like you’re in a beautiful, nature-based escape.
Healium uses data-driven video stories that can be used in virtual reality and augmented reality devices like on your iPhone or Android or with virtual reality goggles. The goal is to create an experience that allows you to be fully enveloped in a sense of “presence.” In that state of presence and under a guided neuromeditation, you can learn how to shift your brainwaves or heart rate from a stressed state to a relaxed state.
Thousands of people just like you have tried Healium to find relief for themselves and their loved ones.
As a former TV news reporter who covered lots of sadness and trauma, I created Healium because of my own struggle with anxiety and a poor media diet. After episodes of feeling dizzy, feeling my heart race, stuttering, and being consumed with thoughts of dread, I was diagnosed with stress-induced panic attacks.
I created Healium for myself along with the 41 million other people who struggle with anxiety. My team has developed a drugless way for you to self manage your stress. In three peer-reviewed journals, Healium has been shown to reduce moderate anxiety by a third in as little as four minutes.
My goal is to help you find relief not only in the virtual world but in the real world as well.
I want to note here that Healium virtual reality and augmented apps or related content are not an FDA-approved treatment for medical conditions, nor are they a replacement for psychotropic medication or cognitive behavioral therapy. Healium is also not a replacement for professional counseling or therapy, which is one of the best things you can do to help yourself.
Healium is a self-awareness and self-management tool that allows users to become more self-aware that their feelings have power. If you have questions about whether Healium is right for you, talk with your health care professional.
The advent of new technologies and studies always leads to new and exciting discoveries on helping the human condition.
There are more than 800 published studies on the therapeutic use cases of virtual reality. While virtual reality has been used to treat phobias for some time, VR on people suffering from stress or general anxiety is still a relatively new and novel approach.
Three peer-reviewed journals published studies on the benefits of Healium. The conclusions from the studies show that mood-powered experiences using Healium can significantly reduce stress and anxiety by a third in four minutes.
In a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers found that intentionally-crafted VR experiences can be therapeutically effective in treating generalized anxiety disorders.
A study in the Scholarly Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences found that those suffering from “needle phobia” while donating blood can reduce their negative mood state in the midst of a blood draw by engaging in an immersive media experience.
Another study in the Journal of Neuroregulation demonstrated that a combination of VR and a brain computer interface can shift brainwave patterns to influence positive mood states.
Your brain is the command center of your body but your heart is the organ that keeps it in motion. Keeping the heart healthy is crucial to an impactful and healthy lifestyle, and your stress can affect how your heart functions.
To be sure, there are many things you can do to keep your heart healthy. You should consult with your doctor on any medical issues concerning heart disease and other heart-related ailments.
Here are some ways Healium helps your heart.
Healium helps downshift the nervous system. When using the Healium app on your iPhone or Android, you are learning what you need to think about to lower your heart rate. Recall a calm memory, and see how your heart rate lowers. As the app senses your heart rate slow through your smart watch, you’re rewarded with virtual images like butterflies or growing planets on your phone. Raise your heart rate and you will see the planets darken. This feedback allows you to become more self aware how to lower your rate with breathing and recalling calm memories.
Healium is more memorable than 2D meditation. You don’t have to meditate with your eyes closed. Focusing on an object or a story can have the same relaxation effects of sitting in a closed space with your eyes closed.
Healium is virtual nature. Research has shown that being outdoors or near outdoors has profound positive effects on your heart. But for those who cannot go outside (say due to stay-at-home orders), that shouldn’t stop you from bathing in nature’s beauty. Even looking at images of trees and greenery has a therapeutic impact.
We hope this guide will help you find relief from stress and find some virtual peace.
You try whatever is the latest craze online and it’s just not helping. Is there a natural way to cure stress ― especially one that doesn’t involve eating some random food?
The answer is yes and it involves slowing down certain brain patterns.
What does that mean and how do you do it? Read on.
Moving the brain toward positivity
The brain acts as many things, including the command center for our being and doing. The infinite number of neurons are working together, creating electrical currents of high and low frequencies.
The Hypothalamus, which controls the autonomic system of the body, dictates emotions and the Amygdala controls responses to threats. They correspond to messages through brain waves, moving from the left and right hemispheres of the brain. These brainwaves are responsible for how you deal with circumstances, either internally or externally, that require a response. They are the source of how your body deals with stress.
So, the goal is to shift the brainwaves from a fast to a slow perspective through positive alignment. Research shows us brain waves that move from the right part of the frontal lobe to the left exhibit a move from negativity to positivity. By decreasing beta activity in the brain, you can also move into a relaxed state and lower stress.
Slowing my brain down is great but what does this look like for me now?
Especially dealing with self-quarantine?
Promoting a relaxed brain requires a multi-layered approach and training but it’s very doable.
In a recent webinar in dealing with the COVID-19 virus, which is causing a lot of stress and anxiety, several healthcare professionals talked about ways to help mitigate stress during what’s become known as the “stress olympics”. Not all of us have trained for it.
Dr. Stephanie Best, a trainer with the Neuromeditation Institute, noted several ways to help downshift the nervous system and promote the shifting of brainwaves. Meditation is a long-held way to help cure stress. Even for experienced meditators, this time is very taxing. So for those new to meditation, Dr. Best recommends self-compassion and taking baby steps.
“Can you take a pause and focus on your breathing for as little as one minute?” she says. “Set a one-minute timer, put one hand on the heart, one hand on the belly and tune into the sensations of the belly.”
Informally, take a gratitude pause during the day. Wherever you are in your headspace, think of something to be appreciative about. Everyone in your family is well, it was nice to speak with your colleagues in that virtual conference call. Even having toilet paper…that’s something to be grateful about!
Jenna Spector, a project manager with INOVA Well offered several ways to help cure your stress response:
Exercise: It’s a great way to relieve stress and stay healthy. You may be out of our routine because of the quarantine but it’s important to keep moving! Fitness studios are putting out videos on Youtube and other channels to help you.
Nutrition: We want to make sure we’re feeling good and the mind and physical health are all connected. Get those fruits and vegetables in! And be mindful of your snacking.
Notice your breath: Deep breathing is a great tool that doesn’t need equipment. It really is an immediate stress-relieving technique.
All these things help. But remember: the natural cure for stress starts within you.
The dawn of virtual reality, which is 360-degree experiential media, is leading to incredible breakthroughs in how people’s minds are transported to new worlds. And augmented reality, which are three-dimensional objects superimposed over the real world, broadens the capacities for new experiences.
Immersive media is data-driven and based on scientific principles of neurofeedback and meditation. While VR has been used to treat specified cases such as phobias, using VR on people suffering from stress or general anxiety is still a relatively new and novel approach.
Dr. Jeff Tarrant, director of the Neuromeditation Institute and Chief Science Officer for Healium, uses brain-based principles together with storytellers and game designers to study these unique experiences that allow the user to “be somewhere else.” In three peer-review journals, Healium’s mood-powered experiences have been shown to reduce moderate anxiety by a third and increase feelings of positivity quickly, in as little as four minutes.
In helping teach people how to shift their mind’s toward positivity, calm, or focus mood states or promoting mindfulness, Healium works.
In a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers found that intentionally-crafted VR experiences can be therapeutically effective in treating generalized anxiety disorders.
“Our results support the notion that intentionally crafted VR experiences can be therapeutically effective, and may result in immediate, adaptive psychophysiological outcomes. Although there are a number of limitations present in the current study, here we have provided early evidence that VR-based meditation interventions have the potential to play an important role in anxiety management and stress reduction,” researchers found.
The study compared a brief nature-based mindfulness Healium VR experience to a resting control condition on anxious participants. Self-reported anxiety symptoms and resting-state EEG were recorded across intervals containing quiet rest or the VR intervention. EEG activity was analyzed as a function of global power shifts in Alpha and Beta brainwave activity, and with sLORETA current source density estimates of cingulate cortex regions of interest. Results demonstrated that both a quiet rest control condition and the VR meditation significantly reduced subjective reports of anxiety and increased Alpha power. However, the VR intervention uniquely resulted in shifting proportional power from higher Beta frequencies into lower Beta frequencies, and significantly reduced broadband Beta activity in the anterior cingulate cortex. These effects are consistent with a physiological reduction of anxiety.
Improving mood states during painful procedures
A study in the Scholarly Journal of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences found that those suffering from “needle phobia” while donating blood can reduce their mood state in the midst of a blood draw by engaging in an immersive media experience.
“Because this anxiety has real-life consequences, a recent review of research on needle fear recommended that ‘greater attention should be given to evidence-based approaches to alleviate fear during injections,’” the researchers wrote. “This is consistent with other research showing that VR reduces pain and anxiety better than ‘treatment as usual’ in a pediatric population during a routine blood draw. The apparent success of VR in reducing anxiety may be, in part, due to the strong feeling of ‘presence, . … the subjective feeling of being in another place.’”
In this study, researchers examined negative and positive mood states before and after a brief VR intervention at a Red Cross blood drive. Results demonstrated a significant increase in positive mood states such as happiness and calmness and a reduction of negative mood states like tension and fatigue. These results support the accumulating evidence that VR has the potential to act as a powerful and effective tool for anxiety and stress management in anxiety-provoking situations.
A proof-of-concept study in the Journal of Neuroregulation was designed to determine the feasibility of combining VR and brain computer interface to shift frontal gamma brain activity and positivity influence mood states.
“Because the technology is relatively easy to use and inexpensive, it may serve as a wellness tool in work and school environments, as a calming technique for persons receiving medical/dental procedures, or as an adjunct to traditional therapeutic interventions for anxiety or depression. In fact, such an intervention may be appropriate as ‘homework’ for clients enrolled in traditional neurofeedback training,” researchers found.
Firefighters served as subjects and completed pre-post mood rating scales as well as 19-channel EEG recordings. An examination of sLORETA frontal lobe ROI’s demonstrated a post-intervention gamma asymmetry shift to the left in 3 of the 4 subjects. In addition, subjects generally reported changes in mood consistent with the frontal asymmetry changes. Overall, these results provide initial support for the idea that a consumer grade BCI/VR intervention can potentially have therapeutic utility and deserve further study.
The faces of Healium look a lot like you, your mom, your grandson, your husband, your coworker, and your boss.
There’s Raj Shah, a chronic pain patient who uses Healium to try to lower his blood pressure and pulse.
And Michael Eanes, who is a recovered substance use disorder patient who spent decades incarcerated. He uses Healium to give him virtual peace.
Or Beth Omecene Epperson, a mother whose teenage daughter used Healium to ease her panic attack.
Healium is used for several affected by disasters like the recent COVID-19 pandemic and during tornadoes in Nashville. The app is used by schools and youth centers who want to equip students with ways to self-regulate, manage stress, and learn more about their mind-body connection, as well as those who are terminally ill and aging veterans who want to virtually visit their memorials.
The faces are many but the common desire to relieve stress unites us all.
The stories you experience
A dream pool, looking at the reflection and seeing what is the next step. Tracing the pathway of a Mandalyth or using a positive memory to make flurries inside a magic snow globe.
Within five minutes, these seemingly abstract concepts and imaginary places become immersive experiences that help you relieve your stress.
Healium is based upon the power of immersive stories. Stories are how we learn and remember information. Inside the app, Healium guides you to use memories of happiness, calm, or focus to try to change your heart rate or brain pattern to meet a threshold where the experience changes.
Healium uses data-driven video stories that can be used in virtual reality and augmented reality devices like on your iPhone or Android. The goal is to create an experience that allows you to be fully enveloped in a sense of “presence” to lower your blood pressures and heart rate. In that state of presence and under a guided neuromeditation, you can learn how to shift your brainwaves from a stressed state to a relaxed state.
Healium stories are made specifically to try to downshift your nervous system and boost brain patterns associated with calm, positivity and focus. Our patented technology is the “transmission” that powers immersive media with a feeling state. We create these 3D and 360-degree video and computer generated environments with game engine software and an array of up to 24 different cameras.
Then, we stitch together the images in a sphere so the user is able to feel like they’re inside a bubble of video and see all the way around. We craft the stories in a way the user is able to control it with different feeling states.
There are more than 20 immersive experiences on the Healium website that you’re invited to try out. No need for a full-on VR kit. Just watch the videos, follow the mediation and feel your stories.
Pro tip: Watch the videos on your phone and move your device 360 degrees to give you the sensation you’re inside these beautiful scenes.
The American Heart Association noted that stress can cause secondary behaviors that can lead to heart disease like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Ways that we may use to cope with stress like excessive drinking, smoking or physical inactivity can also lead to problems with your heart down the line.
To be sure, there are many things you can do to keep your heart healthy and consulting with your doctor on any medical issues and other heart-related ailments is one of the best things you can do for your health. Meditation and mindfulness is another. If you’re looking for ways to self-manage your stress, you might want to consider Healium. It’s a drug-free, immersive media product that in three peer-reviewed journals has been shown to reduce self-reported anxiety in as little as four minutes.
Here are five ways Healium can help your heart:
Use meditation to downshift your nervous system.
When the brain feels stressed, it shifts from a higher level of cognition to a primitive level that’s ready to rapidly respond. It’s often called your “fight or flight response.” When using the Healium app on your iPhone or Android or having a virtual reality kit, you are guiding from the fast Beta activity to the slow brainwaves through neurofeedback techniques. As the app senses your heart rate “slowing your brain waves, you’re rewarded with virtual images like butterflies or growing planets on your phone. The sympathetic part of your nervous system, which floods your body with energy, decreases and the parasympathetic part of the nervous system kicks in. Why do you immediately feel stress relief? In part, because your mind thinks it’s somewhere else.
Healium makes biometric data easier to understand.
It’s never been a better time for Big Data. Forbes estimates that the smart wearable market will hit $27 billion dollars by 2022. A lot of people are using smart wearables for fitness and health care. But how are they using it in real time? And does it help them?
Healium transforms your heart rate from a ring or a number on a flat data dashboard into something responsive that you can interact with. Lower your heart rate and watch the Solar System light up.
You’re not just tracking your biometric data, you’re learning how to control it in near real time. Or through a Brainlink Lite EEG headband, your brain patterns are controlling the experience. Recall a positive memory, increase your gamma asymmetry and feel yourself float up to the top of a beautiful waterfall in virtual reality.
Healium is more memorable than regular 2D meditation.
Sometimes, maybe often, we try to mediate. Trying to get into some sort of Lotus position, focusing the mind…sort of. Before we know it, OMMMM becomes ZZZZZZ.
Mediating with your eyes open, full present in the environment around you, always brings tangible benefits. Focusing on an object or a story can have the same relaxation effects of sitting in a closed space with your eyes closed.
Healium is virtual nature
Research has shown that being outdoors or near outdoors has profound positive effects on your heart. But for those who cannot go outside (say due to stay-at-home orders), that shouldn’t stop you from bathing in nature’s beauty. Research shows that even looking at images of trees and greenery has a therapeutic impact. Healium kits surround you in nature in virtual and augmented reality. Through research, Healium has shown to reduce the fast activity in the brain.
Healium allows you to see your feelings and discover your power.
Inside Healium apps, you can see your feelings through the biometric data from your wearable, displayed as a firefly moving up and down the screen. What you see, you can control. Once you recognize the power of your thoughts and feelings in relieving stress, you begin to gain the power to help your heart and improve your life.
Research on the effects of media in the past decades have shown a distinct impact on how one views and responds to the world. Communication researchers have studied “cultivation theory” among television viewers and now, those heavily active on social media.
Cultivation theory asserts that those who watch television for many hours will adopt a view of the world that mirrors what they watch on television. For those who watch the news constantly, it may be a heightening view of a “scary world,” with rampant crime and violence, social turbulence or lately, a very bleak and hopeless future because of the Coronavirus.
Also, there’s a term in journalism: “If it bleeds, it leads.” Meaning, those stories that have direct impact in terms of numbers of those affected or impact within a society will be seen as the top story.
Obviously, global news events are the top stories but in a constant media stream on TV and online, the “emotionalizing” of stories, almost trying to find the new angle or latest victim, can affect psychological health.
How the brain activates to stress
For your brain, stress is stress, no matter if you watch the news or are being chased by a lion.
A section of your brain called the amygdala is designed to scan for danger or threats in the environment. According to Dr. Jeff Tarrant, director of the NeuroMeditation Institute and Chief Science Officer of Healium, when something is seen as a potential danger, that part of the brain activates the body’s stress response and will remain “on” until the threat is resolved.
“In the case of COVID-19, there is no end in sight, no resolution, causing those brain regions to become hyperactive. When we continually take in more ‘evidence’ of the threat through news and social media it reinforces the threat response,” said Dr. Tarrant. “On the other hand, if you can send the nervous system signals that it is safe, it can begin to relax the hyper-vigilance, nervousness, and worry that comes with an over aroused amygdala.”
Does that mean you have to stop watching the news? No. But you need to eat your positive fiber.
You need to eat good food and get plenty of exercise and rest to be physically healthy. In the same way, You can think of your media consumption as “food” for your mind.
I like to think of inspirational broadcasts and podcasts, good music and being out in nature as ways to wash out the negative fiber in your digital diet.
If you can’t make it outside and only have a few minutes, immersive media experiences like Healium also balance out the negative fiber from the constant media.
But it’s a balance.
If you eat too much dessert, you will get sick. It’s the same with the news media, we just can’t help listening to the latest scandal but one bite and we’re tempted to binge watch for the next ambulance chasing story.
When you’re watching the news or trying to get the latest updates online, just remember two things: Your feelings have power. You have the ability to downshift your nervous system and relieve your stress.
And, we are in this together.