Much like having too much sugar can lead to diabetes or too much sunlight can increase the risk of skin cancer, consuming too much news can be harmful to mental health and overall well-being. Studies have linked news consumption to increased anxiety, reduction in sleep quality, and variety of other negative outcomes. This shouldn’t be too surprising. Most news outlets tend to focus on the negative aspects of the world. At the time of writing this post, Google News top headlines feature stories entailing sexual assault convictions overturned due to technicalities in the legal process, conspiracy theories, gun violence, and a host of other disturbing events. Of the more than 20 top headlines on Google News, only two were positive or neutral. I will admit that this is an anecdotal observation rather than a rigorously controlled scientific study, but I believe we can acknowledge that most news is rather negative.
While it is important that we have an informed public, there are diminishing returns and we eventually may be more misinformed rather than informed by an overconsumption of news. Being over exposed to news media contributes to a distorted view of the world. Based on the headlines mentioned above, it would seem that the world is an exceptionally inhospitable place that is unsuitable for leading a satisfying life. Violence, unrest, and controversy dominate the news cycles. As the saying in journalism goes, if it bleeds it leads. While there are many facts presented about the world within the news, these facts should be taken within the context of the global scale. Many troubling events occur on a daily basis around the world, and there are many positive and wonderful things happening everyday as well. People achieve their goals, children are born into loving families, life-changing opportunities are seized, and new relationships are formed just to name a few.
So what can we do about our personal consumption of the news to improve our mental health and overall well-being? Some sources suggest cutting out reading the news altogether. In my opinion, this may be a bit too far. I don’t see this as an all-or-nothing proposition. Instead, I would encourage you to consider taking a break from the news. Perhaps, take a week or two off from the news and see how you feel. Personally, I make a conscious decision to limit the time I dedicate to the news. In the past I was an avid news consumer, listening to news radio, podcasts, and reading far too many articles daily. I found that I was more anxious, worried about the future, and felt overwhelmed by all of the negativity. These feelings often caused me to double down and consume even more news. It became an all too familiar vicious cycle. What I’ve found is when checking the news every few days, I feel no more or less informed about the world than when I was glued to the daily news cycle. However, I do feel a lot better about being in the world and more balanced as an individual. I would encourage you to consider how being more mindful about the boundaries you set for the news might be of benefit. In improving your mental health, you will in turn contribute to a world filled with greater well-being. Wouldn’t that be great news?
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