The news is stressful.
Social media is a more popular news source the mainstream news, and 79 percent of Americans have at least one social media account. Our timelines and newsfeeds don’t sleep and if you look at time spent on these platforms, neither do most people. The news never stops, and bad news sells.
But exposing ourselves to a 24-hour cycle of negative, crisis-centered news has corrosive effects on our mental and physical health. We need a better way to stay engaged with the world.
What a Crisis-Centered Newsfeed Does To Your Physiology
A study of the effects of psychosocial stressors on human health and well-being found that exposure to stressful stories and images changes our physiological functions. “Following the perception of an acute stressful event, there is a cascade of changes in the nervous, cardiovascular, endocrine, and immune systems,” the study says.
“First, stress hormones are released to make energy stores available for the body’s immediate use. Second, a new pattern of energy distribution emerges.” Instead of nourishing growth hormones or digestion, for instance, your body’s energy is rerouted to survival structures like your brain, muscles, skeleton, and your immune system goes on alert. “Simply put, during times of acute crisis, eating, growth, and sexual activity may be a detriment to physical integrity and even survival.”
Survival Mode Impacts Our Physical Health, Moods, and Behavior
Spending too much time in this alert posture can lead to physical problems like headaches, muscle pain or tension, fatigue, and the disruption of sleep patterns, digestion, and sex drive. It also affects our moods, causing feelings of anxiety, depression, overwhelm, irritability and loss of motivation. These, in turn, find expression through behaviors like social withdrawal, angry outbursts, or unhealthy consumption patterns with food, alcohol, drugs or tobacco.
The health dangers posed by stress are particularly acute for older individuals or those already experiencing health issues. With so many terrible things happening in the world, it can feel like our responsibility to give it all our attention. We can’t bury our heads in the sand. But sacrificing our health isn’t going to solve anything, either.
Switching Tracks to Constructive News Cycles
Taking command of our attention and focusing in on positive news is worth the effort. It’s one way to increase our personal well-being and puts us in a more empowered posture, from which we are more likely to do work constructively. There are plenty of people and companies doing good, and they deserve our attention, too. Outlets like Yes! Magazine, which focuses on positive developments in racial and social justice, or Digital Trends, which highlights progressive technology, are good starting points for establishing a positive relationship to the news.
Digital Trends already has a knack for positive coverage of tech, but if you want to zero in on positive social change through tech, they’ve got you covered with their series called, appropriately, Tech For Change. Tech For Change spotlights innovations at work to create a world that’s cleaner, safer, and more supportive of equality, what Digital Trends co-founder and CEO Ian Bell call “responsible progress.”
Here you can find out about how virtual reality gaming is supporting trans equality, a new robotic arm is increasing accessibility for people with limited upper-body mobility, and the world’s largest beer producer is building solar fields to brew with clean power.
The Tech For Change series was recently honored at the 25th annual Communicator Awards, taking home an award in the category of socially responsible websites. The awards are presented by the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts to recognize achievements in media and communications.
“Tech For Change is really what Digital Trends is all about,” says Bell, “so it’s exciting to see the world taking notice.” He says winning the Communicator Award “reflects the achievement of our goal” in advocating for the people and companies fighting to make a difference.
Do More, Be Happier, and Get a Better Night’s Sleep
The good news is, we don’t have to bury our heads in the sand. We can keep up to speed with what’s happening in the world, and retain our health as well.
Focusing on positive news gives us a healthier, more empowered posture through which to approach our own lives. From there we’re better equipped to join in the fight and make a difference ourselves. And we’ll be getting a better night’s sleep all the while.