In today’s fast-paced world, staying up-to-date on current events has become easier than ever. Yet, you’ve probably felt the consequences of the constant bombardment of negative news and just how much it can take a toll on your mental health. Whether it’s the relentless coverage of global crises, political turmoil, or natural disasters, it’s easy to get sucked into the often catastrophizing news cycle that can leave you feeling anxious and depressed. But it’s essential to remember that you have the power to protect your mental health and well-being. Read on to explore effective strategies to protect your mental health despite the constant negative news cycle.
How does consuming the news negatively affect our mental health?
You’ve probably felt the effects of the constant negative news cycle, but it can be difficult to understand exactly how and why it is so harmful to our mental health. After all, isn’t staying informed a good thing? Being a life-long learner and staying informed on current events can absolutely prove beneficial to one’s intellectual and social well-being, but if you are on a steady diet of negative news, you will find that it is far more detrimental to your health than it is beneficial. The list of negative effects is long, but here are just a few of them that are especially significant:
- Increased Anxiety, Stress, and Depression
The constant exposure to negative news stories, such as reports of violence, disasters, or political unrest, can trigger anxiety, stress, and even depression. The human brain is wired to pay more attention to negative information as a survival mechanism. But, when you are constantly exposed to upsetting news, the body can remain in a heightened state of alertness, which can lead to increased feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression.
- Feelings of Helplessness and Despair
Continuous exposure to negative news can leave anyone feeling overwhelmed and powerless. News stories often focus on problems because these negative stories get more clicks and views. These non-stop conflicts and crises can create a sense of hopelessness and despair. When you constantly witness disturbing events without a clear resolution or positive outcome, it can erode your optimism and belief in the possibility of positive change.
- Negative Worldview and Perception Bias
Consuming a steady stream of negative news can distort your perception of the world. The media tends to prioritize reporting on negative events because they attract more attention and generate higher viewership/readership. As a result, you may develop a skewed perception that the world is more dangerous and chaotic than it actually is. This negative worldview can contribute to feelings of fear, mistrust, and cynicism.
- Sleep Disturbances
Engaging with the news before bedtime can disrupt our sleep patterns. Negative news stories can evoke anxiety or disturb our thoughts, making it difficult to relax and fall asleep. Sleep disturbances can further exacerbate feelings of stress, fatigue, and overall mental health.
- Increased Social Comparison and Envy
The news cycle often showcases stories of success, wealth, and achievements, which can lead to social comparison and feelings of envy. Constant exposure to stories of others’ accomplishments can trigger feelings of inadequacy or dissatisfaction with one’s own life, leading to negative self-perception and a decline in mental health.
- Desensitization and Emotional Numbness
Prolonged exposure to distressing news can desensitize you to the suffering of others. The repeated exposure to violence or tragedy can numb our emotional responses, making it challenging to empathize or connect with others on a deeper level. This emotional desensitization can impact our overall emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships.
How can we protect our mental health amidst concerning headlines?
The constant and repetitive nature of the 24-hour news cycle can be detrimental to our mental health, but there are ways to balance both staying informed and taking the necessary breaks from distressing headlines.
Why We Like Bad News – SciShow Psych
- Limit News Consumption
While staying informed is important, consuming an excessive amount of news can be detrimental to mental health and overall wellness. Consider setting limits on your news consumption by designating specific times of the day to catch up on the latest updates.
- Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness and meditation techniques can be powerful tools in protecting your mental health. These practices cultivate a state of present-moment awareness and help to detach from negative thoughts and emotions triggered by the news. Engaging in regular meditation sessions or incorporating mindfulness exercises into your daily routine can help create a sense of inner calm and resilience. You may even consider creating a positive personal mantra for yourself that you can repeat when you are feeling weighed down by the negative news cycle.
- Seek Balance Through Positive News
While negative news often dominates headlines, positive stories also exist. Actively seek out sources that emphasize uplifting and inspiring content. Websites, podcasts, or social media accounts that highlight human achievements, acts of kindness, or progress in various fields can help counterbalance the negative news cycle. Cultivating a positive news habit allows you to shift your focus toward the good happening in the world, fostering a more optimistic state of mind and worldview.
- Choose Reliable Sources
Not all news sources are created equal. Some outlets thrive on sensationalism and exaggeration, amplifying the negative aspects of events. To protect your mental health, prioritize reliable and credible sources that offer balanced reporting. Look for outlets that focus on constructive and solution-oriented news, rather than dwelling solely on the negative aspects. This way, you can stay informed without being overwhelmed by negativity.
- Connect With Others
Human connection is a powerful antidote to the negativity that surrounds us. Seek support from friends, family, or support groups, and engage in meaningful conversations that uplift and inspire. Share your concerns and fears, and actively listen to others. Building a strong support network allows you to process the news together, share perspectives, and find comfort in knowing that you are not alone and there are good people in the world.
Consuming negative news on a minute-to-minute basis can lead to anxiety, fatigue, depression, disturbing dreams, and even physical symptoms. Although it is crucial to stay up-to-date on pertinent information, practicing regular self-care and setting boundaries can preserve your mental health and overall well-being. Try following these simple—but impactful—tips that can help protect your mental health from the constant bombardment of negative news. If you find that your mental health seems to be struggling significantly under the prolonged abuse of negative news, you may consider taking a social media and news detox. Even just a few days away from news and the negative social conversations around these stories can be surprisingly freeing for your mind and emotional health. But however you choose to cope, don’t forget that ultimately the world is a good place filled with people trying their best to find and give happiness, it can just be harder to see through the fog of catastrophizing news.