How does negative news affect your health?
It’s common as we get older to spend more time watching the news and most of it is negative. Being over 50, we have seen enough life that we can understand the immediate and long range consequences of events. Plus, most of us don’t have the usual distractions of kid schedules or other activities.
News comes from multiple sources; print, TV, and numerous forms of social media and it’s 24/7. Watching the news can be addictive. We’re either anticipating the build-up prior to a hurricane or watching the aftermath of a disaster. And we watch…and watch…and watch.
In the past 60+ days, there have been multiple hurricanes make landfall, earthquakes, out of control wildfires causing loss of entire neighborhoods and loss of life, plus the continued bombings and shootings in the US and around the world. And then there’s the political news with an over abundance of analysis, plus lively (or heated) debates with family, coworkers and friends.
A 2014 study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed that 44% of the respondents experienced stress by hearing about what government or politicians are doing and 40% experienced stress from watching, reading or listening to the news. Those two stress triggers were only beat out by “juggling schedules of family members”.
Physical response to negative news
But what is this constant barrage doing for your mental health, happiness and overall physical health? Responses to negative news can induce fear, anger, anxiety, and a overall heightened level of stress which doesn’t subside.
You may be experiencing ailments and not realize the source. Stress symptoms manifest in a variety of ways:
- Chest pain
- Upset stomach
- Blurred vision
- Muscle tension
Prolonged exposure to stress can even bring on a flare-up of skin rashes and psoriasis. The adrenals produce cortisol as a result of the fight-or-flight response. An over abundance of cortisol causes inflammation in the body. This combination causes the flare-up. Constantly checking your phone for news updates or social media banter and staying in a state of worry creates a vicious cycle.
Let’s consider the emotional effects of negative news.
News causes us to become disengaged
News sources will only keep a story going if they feel it’s important to the majority of readers or if it increases audience numbers (more likely). Often times you never know how a story ends or the status of the recovery efforts because the media has moved on to something else.
With the constant barrage of negativity and turnover in news headlines, you can begin to become numb and fail to take action and respond when there is a human need.
News causes us to experience helplessness
Personal response, and the subsequent reaction to a news event, is largely dependent on how you are connected to that event. If you lived through a hurricane or tornado or lost your home to fire, you know the devastation of the aftermath and can relive those emotions.
With so many natural disasters occurring and the need for help in several areas of world, it’s hard to know how to respond. You can become overwhelmed to the point that you end up not giving to any disaster organization because you feel the need is too great and question what your donation will accomplish.
News causes us to be in a constant state of shock
A newspaper reporter once summed up the business of news saying, “Clicks sell”. News headlines are meant to be sensational enough to draw us in and want more. Those of us over 50 are of the age where many of the topics and explicit details shared in articles today were never spoken of out loud 10-20 years ago.
So what can you do to change this cycle and be on a path to physical and emotional well being?
Part of leaning to enjoy your life any age is to stop feeding your life with things that don’t bring you joy.
Look for positive stories
Make a conscious effort to find stories that are positive and that promote the release of chemicals in the body that reduce the release of cortisol, lower your blood pressure and lower the feeling of anxiousness.
Even better is to find positive stories in your local area. Being able to personally identify positive thoughts with a location helps evoke a level of familiarity. When you drive past that location later, those same positive feelings will emerge.
Make a positive difference in one person’s life
To address the feelings of helplessness, find a way to help one person, whether you meet them or not. Contact a local nonprofit and find out if there’s someone local that needs physical supplies. Maybe there was a house fire or someone had to temporarily relocate from a natural disaster. Shopping for physical items and then personally delivering them provides a tangible connection.
Fast from the news and social media
This can be short term or long term. Start by not reading the news or checking social media for one day, then two, then three. Go as long as it takes to break the addiction. If you find yourself being a news junkie and hitting the CNN app on your phone multiple times a day (or hour), it’s time to stop the madness.
Here are the benefits of unplugging:
- More time to spend on the things that make you happy
- Lower blood pressure
- Peace of mind
- More time to do meditation and deep breathing exercises
- Better digestion
Are you addicted to the news and social media? Comment below. What steps will you take to change?
Kristy Klenk has reached the 55 (and counting) birthday and finds this stage of life and aging an interesting adventure. For over 20 years she has been on a journey of living a holistic lifestyle and continues to research its positive effects on aging.
Disclaimer: Information found on this website or links to other websites are for informational purposes only and not intended for medical advice. You know your body and your physical, emotional and mental situation. Consult your physician before making any changes.