A survey on behalf of the American Psychological Association found that many people today feel conflicted between their desire to stay informed and knowing that watching the news causes them stress. So, with news outlets competing for your attention and 24-hour news coverage, how do we find a balance between staying informed and staying peaceful?
Read on to discover why we can't help ourselves checking multiple platforms for the latest news coverage of global events and how to break the addiction.
A STRANGE RELATIONSHIP WITH BAD NEWS
Our brains are hard-wired to detect danger and protect us. That means it's constantly on the lookout for risks and threats to our survival.
The problem today is that most of what the brain perceives as a threat comes from news and media headlines. The threat might be on the other side of the world or a potential threat 50 years down the line, but because the brain is alerted to the danger, it assumes the threat is in the vicinity and imminent.
It’s the brain’s job to assess the perceived threat's potential risk and whether the threat is increasing or decreasing. It needs to know if the potential threat still exists or has now gone.
IF IT BLEEDS, IT LEADS
This brain response keeps us coming back to the news for updates. It's searching for the solution or the ending of the threat, but all it finds are new threats, terrorist attacks, wars, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Rather than staying informed, we're addicted. This news addiction is so common today that we call it doomscrolling.
DOOMSCROLLING BREAKING NEWS
And doom it is; news corporations have a negativity bias that keeps you coming back for more. It reports only on the threats, dangers, and disasters and not on the positive and beneficial events of the world. Which makes the world appear worse than it is. And negative news keeps us in a perpetual cycle of being at threat and on the lookout for safety.
MORE NEWS MAKES MORE MONEY
News addiction is an essential aspect of news corporations’ business model. It's what keeps viewers coming back and, subsequently, what keeps marketers paying hundreds of thousands for advertising and investors rubbing their hands.
We tend to think of news channels as objective sources of information, and once upon a time, they were. However, today, the primary function of most news outlets is revenue. They are businesses with one thing in mind, and that is not the altruistic dissemination of noteworthy global events but profits.
So now you understand how easy it is to slide from staying informed to doomscrolling our lives away, let's look at how its affecting our health.
FAST NEWS AND MENTAL HEALTH
Along with fast food and fast fashion, fast news is having a detrimental effect on our physical and mental health. While the brain was designed to detect danger, we just we're designed to cope with the volume of bad news we're subjected to with repeat news cycles.
We're left in a constant state of outrage, anxiety, stress, fatigue, and depression. This continued heightened state causes us to go into fight or flight which is also detrimental to our physical health.
HEADLINE STRESS DISORDER
So many people are suffering from these news-induced mental health issues that, while not recognized as yet by the American Psychological Association as a mental health disorder, the term headline stress disorder is becoming a common term along with doomscrolling.
BREAKING FREE FROM NEWS ADDICTION
Breaking news addiction is essential to staying peaceful and living a health life. The last three times I watched tv news was when the Ukraine war broke out in 2023, when news sources started to cover Covid in 2020, and when the UK voted for Brexit in 2018.
I'm probably a bit extreme in my lack of news consumption, but I lead a peaceful life for it knowing that if bad news breaks and it's important I'll hear about it. I prefer to get information from other sources such as university professors and independent journalists who don't have corporate interests and loyalties. Today, we're lucky because with a little hunting, we can find really quality conversations and stay both informed and peaceful.
I'm not suggesting you reduce your news consumption to my level, but finding a balance between staying informed and staying peaceful should be a priority. You could join 39% of participants in a 2019 online survey that have taken steps to reduce their news consumption, to help you stay peaceful.
LIMIT YOUR CONSUMPTION
Problematic news consumption can be tackled by making a few simple changes. For example, you can unfollow news channels on social media, block notifications, and limit your news consumption to once per day.
We tend to up our news consumption during a crisis, so deciding to focus on other things during a crisis can be helpful. For example, if its is a local crisis, how can you help? If it's a crisis in another country, raising funds to support victims or even joining a world peace meditation may feel productive and reduce feelings of helplessness. Engaging in resolution can reduce the brain's dependence on the news for information, knowing that if you're helping to reduce or resolve a situation, the percieved threat will be less.
REFLECT ON HOW YOU'RE RESPONDING TO NEWS
When we consume news media mindfully, we become aware of how it affects us. Notice how your body and emotions react to the news coverage and withdraw if its having a negative impact.
Notice any negative emotions and remember the headlines are designed to have this effect. So suspend judgments, keep an open mind and don't attach to the stories that are designed to excite you until you've listened to sources that also give you a nuanced discussion or debate.
CONSUME EXPERT KNOWLEDGE RATHER THAN FLIPPANT HEADLINES
In a crisis, I tend to move rapidly from mainstream news broadcasting and its perpetual loops and repeat messages to long-form interviews, seminars, and webinars with leading experts and researchers. Instead of being repeatedly bombarded with anxiety-causing headlines I get a more balanced and nuanced insight into what's going on so that my brain can make informed opinions and decisions.
Impact is a digital platform that shares reliable, trustworthy information about world events, meant to help people learn and help others. Together with their sister publication, environment, their mission is to empower through knowledge, community and meaningful content.
Listen to podcasts that interview experts and discuss world events in detail rather than exposing yourself to constant disturbing content that depicts graphic violence and causes you emotional distress and mental health problems.
News stories are always more nuanced than the headlines and news cycle allow for. And when you listen to experts, they're usually in the business of finding solutions, so the negative news is balanced with what your brain is looking for; a signal that the threat has diminished.
Plus, when you understand the nuances of the news stories and equip yourself with proper expert knowledge, you can make informed opinions and decisions from a place of power instead of fear and helplessness.
Choose wisely the information you consume. Protect your peace by swapping out sensational headlines for quality information. Life is about balance and finding a balance between staying informed and staying peaceful has never been so important.
Written by Kirsti Formoso - Wellness Writer for Koraru
Kirsti Formoso is a wellness writer and researcher. She is passionate about holistic health and wellbeing. She has over 30 years of experiential knowledge in personal and spiritual development, and a Masters of Science in Consciousness, Spirituality and Transpersonal Psychology. She is also a peer reviewer for two scientific journals specialising in Transpersonal Pyschology. When she’s not writing she can be found working on her vegetable plot, hiking in the mountains and breathing in all the wonders nature has to offer.