In our age of constant access to information, the onslaught of negative news coverage has the potential to take a serious toll on our mental health. Studies and surveys show that the more we are repeatedly exposed to the coverage of violence, injustice, and political unrest, the more our overall mood can become more depressed and anxious. So how do we tear ourselves away from the scandalous stories that draw us in, but leave us worried and downtrodden? Here are a few tips to staying informed as socially-conscious citizens without becoming overwhelmed by the negativity.
Positivity. It may seem commonsensical to even say it, but seek out positive news. Although these stories may not capture our attention as instantly as negative ones (because we seem to have what is referred to as a “natural negativity bias”), positive news can be uplifting, motivating, and inspirational. Correspondingly, as a backlash to the seemingly-constant stream of negative news, a positive news movement has begun. Check out websites like Positive.News to get a dose of positivity.
Variety. Get news from multiple sources, and seek out multiple perspectives on current affairs. As appealing as it can be to only read opinions similar to our own, when the situation is negative, this habit can fuel bitterness, irritability, and even rage. It can also be polarizing, and dissension can fester. Pursuing multiple sources of information can open our eyes to the biases often inherent in news coverage, and encourage us to use critical thinking as active, rather than passive, news consumers. Considering differing opinions can also help us clarify and strengthen our own convictions, while improving our ability to understand the opinions of others. This leads to interpersonal interactions across the board, and gives us positive feelings through social successes.
Balance. Keep in mind the age-old advice: “everything in moderation”. Make sure to balance news intake with several other leisure-time activities; hopefully some that include physical activity, and interpersonal connection (since we know these things can have a positive effect on our mood and mental health). As much as we can be drawn into watching hour after hour of negative news coverage, let’s not allow it to rob us of good self-care such as getting enough sleep.
Activism. The reality is that we can’t (and shouldn’t) completely avoid negative news, because negative things happen. But, if we hear about something that stirs up a passionate reaction in us, we can ward off a consequential negative mood by getting involved! Part of the problematic impact of negative news is that we can feel a sense of helplessness, which can lead to hopelessness. Fortunately, there are endless organizations that provide opportunities to do something for causes we believe in (and if one doesn’t exist, start it). Let’s not just sit in our armchairs spiraling into negativity and despair – let’s take action! In doing so, we can ward off some of the melancholy mood negative news can create, and create a better future.
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