There’s quite a few things that I’ve cut out of my life or severely limited, in an effort to preserve my wellbeing. The first thing is social media. I don’t hate social media, in fact I believe it can be used as a great tool in building personal and professional connections. But many of us have become prone to the over-usage of it in ways that don’t necessarily serve us. The second thing is news consumption. I almost never watch, listen to or read the news. It’s been this way for the past eight to ten years and it’s probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Repetitive news cycles such as CNN or CP24 aka City Panic 24, are designed to exploit and antagonize us and our emotions. Surveys have shown that when asked, people often say the news causes them stress, anxiety, fatigue or sleep loss.
Loretta Breuning, author of Habits Of A Happy Brain, explains that ‘the human brain is attracted to troubling information because it’s programmed to detect threats, not to overlook them. This can make it hard for us to ignore the negatives and seek out the positives around us. Our brain is predisposed to go negative, and the news we consume reflects this.’
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that consumes a lot of news coverage? In my experience, these people commonly talk about and focus on negative situations that they hear on the news as if the world is ending. Yes, there’s crime, violence, political unrest and undoubtedly bad things happening all over the world including in our own country, cities and towns. But does constantly watching and focusing on it help our well-being? I argue that it doesn’t.
It’s a fact that bad news gets higher ratings and sells more papers than good news. In fact, most of the news reported on in mainstream media is almost entirely negative. From natural disasters to murders and other kinds of suffering, it seems the only natural conclusion of watching or reading mainstream news is that the world is a terrible place, and that it is getting worse every day. However, the reality is quite the opposite: most humans are inherently good and strive for peace and happiness.
I recently listened to a TED talk by technologist JP Rangaswami who compared eating McDonald’s for 31 days, like in the movie ‘Supersize Me’ to watching Fox News for 31 days. In his talk Rangaswami compares mainstream news to fast food–cheap and unhealthy. He argues that there are much healthier types of information that we should consume.
There’s no doubt that there’s value in being well-informed, but watching the news too often can be detrimental to our health. I recommend changing your media diet and limiting your news consumption for a few weeks to see if you notice a difference. And at the very least, do not to watch the news before bed. Our goal should be to fill your minds with positive thoughts before laying it to rest for the night.