What time of day you consume news, what drives you, how your body reacts, and what you do with the news you learn. Part 2 of 3: Too Much or Too Little News: Either Can Be Bad for Your Health. Last blog, I explained how not tuning in to the news can be bad for your health.
Tuning into negative news can be bad for your mood, your health and your outlook on life.
After consuming bad news for only 3 minutes, you may experience depression, with a 27 percent more chance of having a bad day. The psychological effects of consuming negative news can include acute stress disorder in the short term, post-traumatic stress in the long term.
Reading or listening to bad news can send a jolt of adrenalin into your bloodstream, signaling to your body to increase your heart rate, breathe shallow, and prime your large, gross muscles for action.
If there is no corresponding physical exertion, the adrenalin builds, and over time, cortisol is added to the mix. When a person has had cortisol coursing through his or her veins for a sustained period of time, certain conditions arise that set people up for diabetes, heart disease and cancer and other debilitating disease.
Your news habits are hurting your health if you are:
Becoming sadder and more anxious.
Not sleeping and/or experiencing nightmares.
Engaging in obsessive consumption, for instance watching a traumatic event again and again.
Cutting oneself off from family and friends.
Making decisions based on avoiding unlikely catastrophes.
Feeling guilt over not experiencing the trauma yourself.
British psychologist Dr. Graham Davey specializes in the psychological effects of media violence. In a Huffington Post article, he explains how violent media exposure “can exacerbate or contribute to the development of stress, anxiety, depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
“Negative news can significantly change an individual’s mood, especially if there is a tendency in the news broadcasts to emphasize suffering…,” Davey told The Huffington Post. Negative news can put a damper on how you perceive the world, increase your anticipation of more bad news, and make your own problems seem heavier.
The violent images of negative news can trigger sadness and anxiety. “A 2001 study found that watching the events of 9/11 on television was enough to trigger PTSD symptoms, such as worrying about future terrorist attacks and reduced self-confidence… Severity of symptoms…was directly correlated with the amount of time the subjects spent watching television.” What Constant Exposure To Negative News Is Doing To Our Mental Health, by Carolyn Gregoire.
Even journalists, whom you might think are hardened to violence from repeated exposure, showed signs of PTSD during research studies on effects of seeing violent images, resulting in more depression, distress and drinking alcohol.
Whoah! So we should stop listening to negative news right away, right?!
Not if you have read Part 1: Tuning In or Tuning Out The News: Both Can Be BAD for Your Health. You know that ignoring what is going on outside your own bubble can also be bad for you and your family’s well-being because so many decisions are being made that directly affect your health care, income, taxes, security and more!
Why do we pay more attention to bad news?
Most media businesses use research to determine how to keep their viewers coming back. The more a person clicks, or the longer he or she “stays on a page,” the more money the news companies can charge advertisers.
Words like “never” and “worst” capture more attention than good feeling words. “Negative superlatives work 30 percent better at getting your attention than positive ones. The average click-through rate on headlines with negative superlatives was a staggering 63 percent higher than that of their positive counterparts.” Bad News: Negative Headlines Get Much More Attention, by Shawn Paul Wood.
Here’s why you might be compulsively reading or watching too much news:
1) Dopamine. Our brains are drawn to seek new information and to ignore what we have already seen. Seeking novelty releases dopamine, which makes us go in search of a reward, which makes us continue to seek novelty.
“This novelty seeking, is quite addicting. When you are reading a new news article, or this article now, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine doesn’t produce the feel-good people normally associate with it, but it causes the craving for the feel-good. This craving can even continue when the pleasurable effects of a stimulus are non-existent…Even though there is nothing in it for you anymore, you keep doing it anyway.” Why Avoiding The News Makes You Smarter, by Martjin Schirp.
2)When we spend our time consuming disturbing and sensationalistic news stories that have no real relevance to our lives, these effects are likely: desensitization, sensitization and hypofrontality.
Desensitization is needing more and more of the same thing to feel the reward. Sensitization is being triggered by certain cues, which release dopamine, to repeat the behavior, looking for the “fix.” Like, glancing at your phone and having to check the news. Hypofrontality is caused by desensitization plus sensitization, where the frontal lobe activity stops working as well, making self-control harder. Repeated exposure to violent video games appears to cause hypofrontality as well, numbing out emotional reaction.
3) Hyper-vigilance is a state of being on guard, ready for more emergencies. “More” because people tend to feel hyper-vigilant because they have already experienced trauma. If you find yourself staying plugged into news at all hours, or if you’ve signed up for so many breaking alerts that your phone pinging puts you in danger of whiplash, you are probably worried that if you miss some crucial piece of information, you, or someone you love, might die, as in die-a-death-preventable-by-you. The drive to survive can be that deep and powerful, especially when you have suffered a severe trauma in the past.
There is no doubt that human society is entering a new era. Social media and access to the internet have made every bit of news from all over the planet available to us in every minute. As well, our society is in conflict over so many issues that many families and marriages are breaking apart. The brutally divisive election of 2016 and its aftermath has been magnifying all these changes.
Listening to your body will bring a healthy balance of news consumption to your life.
1)Bring awareness to your body when you are engaged with the news. Notice your body’s sensations. For example, check your eyes, jaw, shoulders, stomach, legs and describe what they are feeling: tension, gripping, twitching, heat, cold, etc.
Also, notice the difference in how your body feels while engaged with different types of media: holding a newspaper, listening to the radio, scrolling through newsfeeds on your smart phone versus sitting at a computer. How does your body feel watching news or documentaries when you are sitting on a sofa and your television set is across the room? How do your fingers and the palms of your hands feel after tapping and scrolling for a while? How do your eyes feel after holding a phone or tablet up to your face? How do your neck and shoulders feel after sitting at your computer?
If you ignore your body, you will not be able to respond to the signals it is sending you.
Your body sends you signs of discomfort because it wants you to respond to the news you are exposed to. Taking in small bits of news, feeling your body, then reacting appropriately makes more sense than just mindlessly scrolling and absorbing thousands of bits of useless data.
Think of a balloon just filling and filling with air. At some point, the balloon will burst. If you are sitting and just taking in the news, more and more, your body and mind do not have the chance to process it.
2)Uncover the root of what is driving your news consumption. Is it novelty seeking, chronic habit, fear of missing out, or hyper-vigilance? Are you afraid that you won’t know when to head for your nuclear bunker? When you know why you are driven to consuming news more than is healthy, you can channel that drive into solution generating actions that will ultimately be better for you.
3)Keep a log of how many hours a day you are looking at a screen versus looking at the 3-D world around you. Is it 1 or 2? 3 or 4? Or 10, 15, 20? Set a limit for yourself then vow to plug into your 360 degree world more. Getting enough exercise, sleep, connection with human beings (especially including eye contact and physical touch) and time in nature will invariably feed your soul more than interfacing every free moment with news, especially via technology.
4) Limiting WHEN you consume news can make a world of difference. The time of day you DON’T tune into news can matter a great deal.
a) “Many of the world’s most successful people avoid checking their cellphone, email, or social media for several hours after they’ve woken up. Instead, they engage in creative work, physical exercise, strategic planning and goal setting, and spending time with loved ones.”6 Things You Need To Recover From Every Day, by Benjamin P. Hardy.
b) To get the most optimal sleep, do not engage with technology 1 to 2 hours before sleep. The light rays stimulate the brain into a more wakeful state. Many very successful people read a physical book for a half hour before bed, instead of doing technology up until lights out. Since most people get their news through technological mediums, that means turning off the news in the evening and giving yourself a break. Choosing to read something un-news related will help you sleep better overall. Not having images of destruction, political conflict and trauma right before bed will benefit you.
c) Not plugging into media when you are with friends or family:
This could go without saying, but the more you disconnect from media and actually look into people’s eyes, listen with focused attention, give hugs and pats on the back, the more your body can relax and reset your parasympathetic system. Your “rest and digest” system will get your heart rate to slow, breathing to deepen and digestive system do its job. Connecting with the real humans around you can do more to improve your disposition, your mood, your health and longevity than staying glued to “News of The World.” (Unless, of course, your friends and family drive you nuts. That is a different problem to solve.”
Here’s how to ensure that consuming the news is not so bad for your health:
Solutions Based Journalism
6)In the past few years, a new form of journalism has been arising out of the criticism that news is too negative, and that it leads more and more people to feeling depressed and powerless. A more wholistic form has sprung up called Solutions Journalism, or Constructive Journalism which gives readers options to help solve the problems that are tackled in the news article. Solutions Journalism also frames interviews with victims that allow them to show their strengths and not just the crushing aftermath of a tragedy.
Start your day off with inspiring stories instead of negative news. You will be doing yourself a favor.
“Those who watched transformative stories… reported having a good day 88 percent of the time.”
The Benefits Of Positive News Ripple Far Beyond The First Smile by Gabriel Arana.
Here are some positive news websites to check out:
How we feed our minds makes a difference in how good we feel from day to day, as much as how we feed our bodies. Making conscious choices about what kinds of news we focus on, what times of day we consume the news, tuning to how the news affects us physically, and what we do with the information we take in will all make a big difference in the quality of our lives and how healthy our bodies are.
Feed your mind, feed your body, feed your life!
Part 3 will go deeper into how to be a discerning media consumer and what to do with the news we hear to be healthier, more empowered and contribute to making the world a better place for the common good.
If you would like help balancing your news junkie addiction, call, text or email me.
Alicia Swaringen, LMBT, Founder of Bodywisdom Therapy. 541-543-5615. firstname.lastname@example.org. Since 1995, Alicia has helped hundreds of clients, using Acupressure and Process Oriented Psychology, unravel the messages of their bodies, find relief and valuable insight, and put those messages into practice. http://www.bodywisdomtherapy.net.