I haven’t watched a news broadcast or read a newspaper for a very long-time. I can’t tell you how long but it can be measured in years. This is partly down to time; relaxing with a weekend paper and young children don’t fit into any Venn diagram.
It is also a conscious choice not to.
Put it this way, when was the last time you finished watching the news or reading the newspaper and felt good about the world?
Here is a link to an article I have written about how an empty mind is a fertile ground for negative thoughts. I believe watching the news is part of it.
When all we hear is that bad stuff is happening all we are going to think is that bad stuff is happening, despite the fact there is a lot of good happening in the world.
- Global poverty is falling.
- Literacy rates are improving.
- Infant mortality is falling
- More people have access to clean water and sanitation.
- Women and ethnic minority groups have more opportunities than ever before.
- The world is a safer place.
- Innovative companies are finding solutions to tackle climate change.
But you won’t get that impression from watching the news. News outlets make money by selling advertising space (the obvious exception being the BBC, but audience numbers are still a critical metric) and that relies on the evolutionary trait that we are hard-wired to respond to bad news.
When our ancestors were walking the savannah it saved them from being eaten by lions, nowadays it just means we tune in to anything that the limbic part of our brain believes is a threat to us. A 2019 study across 17 countries demonstrated that this bias to negative news was a pan-cultural phenomenon with measurable physiological effects.
One physiological effect is the production of the stress hormone cortisol. A bit of cortisol is a good thing because it causes the flight or fight response (which stopped our ancestors from getting eaten by lions) but too much, too often can cause high blood pressure and is linked to depression.
As children, we were encouraged to watch the news because it would make us more informed and set a good impression when applying for university and a job. But now, in the 24/7 media world we live in, I believe we can be sufficiently informed without being at the mercy of news editors.
There is a myriad of things we can be doing rather than watching the negative events world service (‘news’). Here are 101 of them. Partaking in activities that make us laugh, gets our heart rate up, gets us outdoors into nature or gives us a sense of accomplishment releases the hormone serotonin, which, unlike cortisol has positive health benefits.
If you find yourself reading the paper every morning and watching the news every night you might experiment with a thirty-day fast and see what difference it makes.
Just a thought.