How Tuning In to the News Impacts Your Mental Health

How Tuning In to the News Impacts Your Mental Health

( – When half the world seems to be in crisis, staying informed might be all many of us feel we can do. We’ve had little control over many of the events that have taken hold around us in recent months, and yet we might struggle with an urgent sense to do something — anything — to reclaim some of that power we may feel we’ve lost.

In most cases, knowledge is power; it keeps us safe from many of the dangers in our environments and gives us the insight to plan around obstacles. So why is it that the more news we consume these days, the worse we seem to feel? The details may lie in the way we’re wired.

Wired for Danger

Human beings are wired to watch out for threats, making us pay more attention when one could be present. Like it or not, we spend more time processing negative information than we do positive. We do so for the sake of self-preservation; it’s in our best interest to know when we’re in potential danger, but this behavior can sometimes mesh poorly with aspects of modern life.

In the case of media, we end up with outlets climbing over one another to offer the most clickable content. Many of us become so worried over what will happen next that we wind up glued to our televisions and mobile device screens, obsessively gobbling up every detail. Instead of empowering us, the news may become crushing.

Devastating Effects

We all need to stay informed, but oversaturating ourselves with bad news can have adverse effects on our well-being. NPR recently reported on a phenomenon called “doomscrolling,” which first became prevalent during the initial pandemic surge. The behavior can become automatic and consuming, transforming into a sort of desperate need to seek out hope while absorbing one horrifying headline after the next.

Just like when we pass a totaled car on the side of the road, we can’t help but look, even if what we see causes us distress. The negative feelings that come with taking in bad news can have lasting impacts on our moods, and those feelings can even color how we view our own personal issues. One study found people who watched upsetting news for just 14 minutes worried more about their own issues than those who watched positive or neutral programming for the same period.

The effects have been widespread, with anxiety and depression becoming common fixtures in many people’s heads. If that’s not bad enough, according to a recent Time report, all that despair and worry could lead to physical health effects, such as certain autoimmune diseases and increased cardiovascular risks, as well.

Staying in Control

We might feel compelled to keep up on every breaking story as it releases, but for the sake of our mental health, moderating the amount of information we consume is important. Consider setting a daily time limit and take measures to stick to it. NPR recommends using a timer.

Setting aside a few minutes each day to worry over current events might also be helpful and let the issues go when it’s time to focus on everything else. Make sure news outlets come from balanced sources; politically charged ones could spin information in ways that only feed negative feelings. Relying instead on trusted friends or family members for updates is another good alternative.

There’s no denying times have been tough, but dwelling on the news probably won’t help. Stay informed, not overwhelmed. We can each only do so much right now, and exposing ourselves to info we have so little control over could be destroying us. Try to keep all news and social media outlets to a minimum, spending as much free time as possible on more positive pursuits.

~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension

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