In our modern age, we are more connected than ever before. Our technology is a wonderful thing, our phones connect us to one another, even if we’re on opposite ends of the globe. There are incredible assets to being that connected, but at the same time there are drawbacks. For example, the never-ending news cycle is something that we can’t really avoid or turn off completely.
The news cycle is a blessing and a bit of a curse. It’s particularly important to stay informed but we also can’t spare enough attention to equally care about each issue. As a result, our anxiety, stress, and apathy increase as we feel like there’s nothing we can do about the world’s problems. The answer is not to disconnect, but to try to understand how we can better connect with the world around us. John Hopkins University Blog offers some pointers on how to better prioritize the news cycle and your personal health.
The 24-Hour News Cycle
If you ask journalists what the biggest change to their industry has been over the last 30 years, it’ll be the emergence of the 24-hour news cycle. It started on television and boomed with the internet. The news environment we live in today is one where who can grab the most attention wins. The thing to remember is that news is a part of the entertainment industry. To keep up with demand, we see diverse types of entertainment “news,” where a person is more likely to offer opinions on current events, in addition to us receiving by-the-minute updates.
That is not to say it isn’t a valuable service, because it is important to stay informed. However, the news industry knows that the more we pay attention to them, the more they profit — and the more our mental health can be put at risk.
Defining News Cycle Doomscrolling
A term you may have heard before but might not know is “doomscrolling.” Doomscrolling is when you continue to look at or read sad news on social media repeatedly. For example, when you see some sad news trending on Facebook, aka Meta, and instead of reading the one story, you continue to read the same story from various news outlets online, or comparable stories in quick succession.
It may seem silly, but it has real, negative effects on our mental health. The more time you spend consuming negative news, or negative outlooks online, the more you tend to represent that negative in other facets of your day-to-day life. Limiting our online news consumption can be a useful tool in protecting our mental health.
Strengthen Mental Health Through Physical Health
The news cycle can be stressful. When we experience heightened stress, our blood pressure rises, putting our hearts at risk of attack. Physical activity, even light exercise, can considerably brighten our moods and lower our stress. Just taking the dog for a walk can provide a healthy outlet that betters your metabolism, clears your health, and offers a break from news. Any type of movement can be beneficial, especially if it takes you away from a screen.
Additionally, if you find yourself not being able to escape the news, a healthy diet can help. Sugary diets can severely affect your mental health. For example, sugar effects your brain by releasing dopamine, making you feel happy; however, after that dopamine wears off we can feel heightened sadness and depression. Consuming negative news while in that mental state can further increase thoughts of depression, anxiety, nervousness, stress, and apathy.
Furthermore, there are other physical ways to improve your emotional health over the news cycle. Practicing mindfulness and attempting to be present in the moment can really help. Meditation, stretching, or simple breathing exercises can mitigate stress, as well as help with digestion. Sleep can also help us feel re-energized when the news cycle is taking up too much of our mental bandwidth.
Re-prioritize to Re-energize and Re-connect
Our planet is a big place, with a lot going on at once. We like to feel like we can take on the whole world, but sometimes that’s not the case. One of the most harmful things caused by the news cycle is the rise in apathy. To care about someone or something else, we need energy, compassion, empathy, and perspective. The 24-hour news cycle offers a perspective, but can suck away all those other components. By reevaluating how we’re connected to the rest of the world, and by re-prioritizing our own health, we can engage better and care deeper for others.
The Council for Retirement Security wishes deeply for every senior to achieve a long, happy retirement. We can’t control the world or what happens in it, but we can choose how we react, and what we dedicate our time to focus on. By sometimes putting ourselves first, we can better love our fellow man, and provide the attention necessary for positive change.