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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 June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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