There have been many tragic events featured lately.
Whenever we even look at new headlines, we are alerted to heartbreak, both locally and abroad. As one 6-year-old quoted in the paper today said, “It causes a crack in my heart.” Because of the 24-hour information cycle, messages about shootings, plane crashes, assaults, murder, politics, abuse and human rights violations are always present.
The news can be violent, sad and emotionally-charged.
It may feel like our world is deteriorating quickly. Oftentimes, when we read these stories, our curiosity kicks in, and we want to know more. We want to know why these violent acts occur, and what causes them. We want to know all the facts, not just the ones we read or watch on television. We may even want to know how to help, and what we can do to make a difference. Unfortunately, the answers to these questions are seldom in the paper or online.
A constant diet of negative news is not good for us.
Even more, research finds that after a diet of dreadful media coverage, many people feel sad, tired, or less hopeful about the world around them. Anxiety tends to be elevated, not just for the news stories, but in other areas of their lives too.
Here are a few suggestions on how to have a healthy media intake:
1. It is healthy to selectively monitor the news around you.
It can be very healing to not read or watch the news for a few days, and rely on a friend to inform you about world events until you feel ready to resume your information intake.
2. Some people reduce their negativity bias by obtaining information through the newspaper, rather than the television.
Newspapers tend to be less repetitive, have a finite amount of information, and have more emotional distance than television. They often have more details and factual information, particularly if it is a reputable publication. If it is upsetting, it is possible to set it aside. You have more control over the information presented to you.
3. Set some limits.
The most common way today that people read the news is through online news or social media. If this is how you receive the news, you may want to set limits on how long you read the story, how many news sources you check, or how often you check the news. It is very easy for people to click on several news sources to obtain as many details as they can to try and achieve emotional closure. Unfortunately, by rereading the same information over and over, people are likely to become more sensitized and impacted from the violence, causing more distress.
4. Remember to observe the good things in the world.
Keep a gratitude journal for small, good things that you notice throughout the day. It could be a smile from the mail carrier or a joke you shared with someone in the elevator. Recording only 3 good things a day has been linked to improved mood, energy, and compassion for others. There are great apps for gratitude journals, including ones that have pictures if you don’t want to write.
Alternatively, get outside. Notice the blue sky, the green grass. Observe the leaves, flowers, and wildlife. Let the sun soak into your skin and the breeze blow off your face. Remember and enjoy the beauty of nature.
5. Find some positive news sources.
Some examples include the Good News Network, the Positive News, Life is Good, or Random Acts of Kindness (both blog and Facebook). Balancing the stressful information with positive things is key.
Make a commitment to do something kind every day. Start with the people you care about. It could be helping with a chore, opening a door, or making a card. After awhile, you may want to extend the gestures to people you are less familiar with. Some examples may include buying a sandwich for someone in need, gifting a stranger with a free coffee, letting someone go ahead of you in a long line. Random (or purposeful) acts of kindness go a long way to helping others and ourselves feel good about our world.
Author: Cindy Anderson
Dr. Anderson is a Board Certified Clinical Child Psychologist. She also owns Hope Springs Behavioral Consultants. Dr. Anderson has achieved a high degree of specialization in working with children and families. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and completed APA Accredited internship and postdoctoral training in Clinical Child and Pediatric Psychology. She prides herself as a life-long student, and tries to learn something new every day.
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