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Five Reasons Why Consuming News Excessively is Bad For Your Health

Five Reasons Why Consuming News Excessively is Bad For Your Health

Are you a self-proclaimed news junkie? Do you spend hours scrolling through your social media feeds to consume the latest political, health, environmental or technology news? Understanding current events and what’s happening around the world keeps us informed and helps us to understand what might affect our lives. But when does news consumption become harmful to our mental health and productivity?

Read on and decide for yourself. When is enough, enough?

Negative news stories increase personal worry

We’re inundated with negative news stories daily. Conflicts, natural disasters and other upsetting events are routinely pushed to our news feeds on social media, in newspapers and through our electronic devices.

Often times we feel anxious when we hear about distressing events and have empathy for those who are affected. But, did you know that according to psychologists, negative news could aggravate our personal worries that are not even related to the content of the news story?

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Solution: If you’re worried about a problem that exists in your life, reduce your negative news consumption to alleviate excessive anxiety about it.

Partisan news stories and discussions cause stress and frustration

According to researchers at Stanford University, American political language, which is routinely picked up by news sites is increasingly partisan. This study indicates that both parties promote their agenda by using language with distinctive subtexts. An example is “death taxes” versus “estate taxes.” “Death taxes” has a negative undertone and the language is used to influence our reaction to it.

This biased language makes us increasingly polarized and discussions become antagonistic, especially on social media. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 59% of those who were surveyed found that when discussing politics on social media with those who they disagree with find it “stressful and frustrating.” And 37% are “worn out” by the number of political discussions that they see.

Solution: If political news stories and discussions are causing you stress and frustration, limit time on social media and unfollow sites that you believe are biased. Avoid engaging in conversations that invoke emotional responses.

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Repeated negative news stories make us feel unsafe

Journalists recognize that negative headlines outperform positive headlines and there is evidence that we might be neurologically wired to focus on negative information. Because negativity attracts attention, naturally the media repeatedly serves it up in spades.

What happens when we’re flooded with violent and negative news? Mary McNaughton-Cassill has studied the effects of media on stress since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. In an article published by WPR, she indicates that when we’re surrounded with global, negative or dangerous information 24/7, it makes us assume that things are more dangerous than they are. Other researchers refer to this phenomenon as “mean world syndrome.”

Solution:

If exposure to news is causing you feelings of hopelessness, McNaughton-Cassill recommends a media vacation. She suggests, “…switch off the news, unplug from social media apps, and do something else.”

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Excessive consumption of news destroys our productivity

When you were a child, did you have a relentless little brother or sister who always begged for attention? This is the news in today’s world. It’s pushed us on our mobile devices; it’s blasting at the gym and it’s even shown when we’re getting a manicure.

Americans spend 57 minutes a day consuming news on news sites and television networks, and 13 additional minutes daily reading/watching news online.[1] Considering most of the information we learn is for entertainment purposes only, and it is not actionable, we could be focusing our time on other activities that make a profound difference in our lives. Imagine what you could do with another hour or so a day!

Solution:

Escape from media and practice attention restoration. Take a hike, spend some time at the beach or play a round of golf.

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Fake news makes us feel deceived and can be dangerous

By now, you’ve probably heard that fake news websites are lurking everywhere. These fraudulent websites publish propaganda and false information, typically by impersonating established news sites.

Does fake news affect your mental health and safety? Of course. Misinformation can lead to fear, chaos and panic. And, we feel betrayed when we realize we’ve been deceived.

Solution:

Fact check the news before you read it. First, check the URL. Does it end with .co instead of .com? If it is questionable, check Snopes.com, which has been monitoring fake news and urban legends since the 90s.

Staying informed of current events that affect our daily lives is important. However, if you have anxiety about the happenings in the world, which coincide with thoughts related to what you consume from the press, it might be time to put yourself on a media diet.

Featured photo credit: Salem Hussein via flic.kr

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Marilyn Rogers

Marketing Consultant | Content Strategist | Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

So, how do we remember?

The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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The last step is memory retrieval.

That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

I’m going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

1. MIND Diet

Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet.[2]

The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

2. Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory.[3]

In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

3. Sleep

You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password).[4]

Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance.[5]

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Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance.[6]

4. Relax

We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

5. Continuous Learning

The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games.[7]

Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

Try these 15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain.

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6. Stay Social

The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline.[8]

In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests.[9]

What to do?

Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

7. Wakeful Rest

This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories.[10]

What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story.

In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date.[11]

Bottom Line

You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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