You probably don’t think twice about turning on the news or checking your favorite outlet’s website for updates on what’s happening in the world. But did you know that too much news exposure can seriously harm your mental health and wellbeing? And while it’s good to stay in the loop, it’s more important that you take good care of yourself, which just might mean cutting back on your news intake.
Are We Setting Ourselves Up For Failure?
Dr. Ramani Durvasula—licensed clinical psychologist, psychology professor, and author—explains just how harmful this exposure can be to our mental and emotional wellbeing, as watching the news can set us up for a bad day and even a bad life: “These days, it’s not good. Watching the news can exacerbate a sense of vulnerability and danger in the world, create polarized and often angering perspectives, generate a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, or leave people feeling as though they are not enough. Obviously the simplest suggestion is to stop watching it—but in some ways, even if you make that effort, it still finds you. In bars and restaurants, in the TV auto repair store, in an elevator (I even saw a TV on a gas pump). Much like any unhealthy stimulus in your environment, you need to learn to say no and regulate your uptake of it (e.g. you are able to say no to an extra helping of mashed potatoes or fast food—it’s the same idea).
Choose news sources that are more balanced and less sensational—as that may also address some of the issues above. After a natural or human-created disaster, definitely try and tune in less. The coverage tends to be repetitive and often froths up more frenzy and fear over time, resulting in a sense of fatigue and stress when watching, especially when you are being affected or people close to you are being affected. With the 24 hour news cycle, it is really incumbent on us to control the uptake. Choose sources of news that avoid antagonism and are balanced—choose news that is less fear-based. In addition, consider removing news apps off of your phone if you find yourself getting lost in them.
Whether it is the recent suicides of highly vaunted public people, weather disasters, local crimes, or the most recent school or other mass shootings—we are becoming habituated and exhausted. The news cycle will not stop. We need to take ownership for our own health. News is like any other form of entertainment and sensationalism can often lead the day… which is designed to foster fear.”
Put These 3 Actionable Tips to the Test
Mass media has become an integral part of our lives—which makes cutting back or otherwise adjusting your news-bingeing habit a not so easy feat. (I mean, if you’re like me, one of the first things you do in the morning is turn on your TV and flip to the news.) But that’s not to say that it can’t be done. As you may know, one key to creating a habit that sticks is staying motivated—and if you keep the above negative effects of news exposure in mind then this shouldn’t be a problem. Once you’ve determined to do so, put Durvasula’s actionable tips to the test, which are outlined for you below:
1) Choose balanced news sources. Certain news outlets may sensationalize, exaggerate, or even just focus on negative news—stay as far away as you can from these sources. It’s crucial that you have a true understanding of what’s going on in the world, which includes all of the good stuff in addition to the not so great stuff.
2) Remove news apps from your phone. That being said, too much exposure is never good, even if your go-to news sources are reliable. So, consider deleting the news apps from your phone. This way, you aren’t tempted to check in every time you unlock your home screen nor do you run the risk of falling into a negative tailspin because of it.
3) Limit your overall daily news intake. Lastly, take additional actions to cut back on your daily news intake. Instead of watching the news every morning while you get ready for work, put on some soothing music. Rather than turning on your TV to catch the news before you go to bed, truly unwind with a warm bubble bath. Replace your news habits with healthier self-care techniques that’ll improve your mental health instead of destroying it.