Bad News: Why consuming bad news isn’t good for your brain

We consume news more than ever before, with news apps, notifications and television. But constantly consuming bad and fake news can have negative impacts on our wellbeing.

We used to consume news once a day in a daily newspaper. But now, we have access to news 24/7 through news apps, notification and TV. While staying informed is important, consuming a constant stream of negative news is bad news for your brain.

We’re more attracted to bad news

We're more attracted to horrific or shocking news than we are good news. This is called 'negativity bias' and is engrained in our evolution. Our brain gives more attention to negative and harmful information than it does good information as a survival technique. We are programmed to detect threats to avoid harm, and that always takes instinctive priority.
 
  • Fake news travels 6x faster than real news on Twitter
  • We stare at something negative considerably longer than something calming
  • Tweets and news that include words like 'attack', 'bad' or 'blame' have a 20% higher retweet rate

Bad news isn’t good news for our brains

We consume news a lot quicker these days through technology which means it can feel like we’re drowning in a very negative world, especially as we click through to shocking news stories more than we do good ones.
  1. 🧠 Increases cortisol levels When we're constantly exposed to negative news, it can take a toll on our mental health. Studies have shown that exposure to negative news can increase anxiety and stress levels, which can impact sleep and overall wellbeing.
  1. 🥸 It can affect our worldview Consuming bad news all the time can make us believe that the world is a much darker and scarier place than it actually is. This can lead to a skewed perspective of reality and affect our relationships with others.
  1. 🤷‍♀️ It can lead to feelings of helplessness When we're bombarded with bad news, it's easy to feel like there's nothing we can do to make a difference. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and despair, which can be detrimental to our mental health.
 

How can you limit your exposure to bad news

There will always be bad news and fake news circulating the world, but you can take control on how you consume this.
  1. Limit your exposure by switching off notifications Switch off the notifications on your phone or news apps. Instead of getting updates or checking the news every hour, set aside specific times of the day to catch up on what's happening in the world.
  1. Choose your sources Not all news sources are created equal. Be mindful of where you get your news from and make sure to fact-check everything before you believe it. It’s likely news that is very ‘click-batey’ or in news feeds may have been diluted or amplified.
  1. Subscribe to ‘good news’ newsletters Newsletters like The Know and The Happy Newspaper are great subscriptions to make sure you’re getting your daily updates with a dose of positive news.
 
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