Libyan protesters murdered the U.S. ambassador. Suicide bombers killed scores of others in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Chicago teachers are on strike. Israel is taking a harder line against Iran. Our presidential candidates are excoriating each other and driving a thicker wedge between red and blue.
Every time you turn on the TV or radio, surf the web or read a paper, it seems like "all the news that’s fit to print" is bad news.
And yet keeping up with the news is an irresistible compulsion — something many of us feel obliged to do on a daily basis. But, research tells us, we do so at our own peril.
Studies, including one published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine in 2007, report that anxiety and “total mood disturbance” spike after people watch the news and can lead to “persisting negative psychological feelings.”
Graham C. L. Davey, Ph.D., an expert in anxiety and a professor of psychology at the University of Sussex in England, devoted an entire blog to “The Psychological Effects of TV News” in Psychologytoday.com last June. He wrote, “Films and television programs can affect your psychological health … by directly affecting your mood, and your mood can then affect many aspects of your thinking and behaviour.
“If the TV program generates negative mood experiences, then these experiences will affect how you interpret [and worry about] events in your own life [as well as] what types of memories you recall. So not only are negatively valenced news broadcasts likely to make you sadder and more anxious, they are also likely to exacerbate your own personal worries...”
Since it’s not likely that most of us would be willing to go on a news fast, I offer an alternative: Let’s go on a good-news diet!
(MORE: Think Positive, Be Happier: The Invaluable Lessons of "Pollyanna")
Change the Channel, Change Your Brain
So here's my radical proposal. Give up your preferred news-diet staple — paper, radio, TV or website (present company excluded, of course) — for two weeks. (Don’t look at me like that. You’ll live.) And in its place, try any of the following six good-news sites, which focus on positive and inspirational events in the world. When I went on my own "news moratorium" during a recent vacation, I swear it did me as much good as the fresh air and mountain vistas!
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