Filtering Negative Input
The media exists in various forms. From television, newspapers and film to social media sites, we have a plethora of sources to acquire information. As much as these outlets serve as information sources for us, there’s no denying the significant impact they have on our mental state, how we go about our day and our health.
Oftentimes, when we consume certain types of information, there’s the tendency for us to feel certain experiences as if they were our own. You can attest to this if you’ve ever found your heart rate significantly increasing while watching a horror movie. There’s also the other end of the spectrum where you find yourself feeling extremely sad, with the possibility of tears, while watching a melancholy film. Sometimes, our brain struggles to differentiate between imagination and reality, thereby taking on certain experiences as if they were our own.
As much as this is true for media forms such as film, this is also the reality when it comes to news consumption. Have you ever found yourself waking up in the morning only to immediately turn on the news? If the top headlines for that day portray doom and gloom (as they usually do), there’s a high chance this will affect the way your day plays out. Constantly going through this routine will often lead to a negative spiral. This can affect not only your mental health but also your physical health in the long run. As a result, we need to become aware of what we consume. Hence, the need to filter negative input.
Top Ways We Consume Information
The news is on twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Whether you access your daily dose of news through television, news sites or newspapers, it’s always easy to know the latest information. As much as it’s important to stay up to date on current happenings, there’s also a point where too much consumption of negative news can lead to a negative spiral. During periods where there’s general panic, news sites sometimes leverage it to acquire more views.
Traditional media and news sites use a business model of sensationalism. This means that they present certain stories in a way that’s intended to elicit reactions or feelings of outrage. Many news channels also present information in a way that influences our perception of reality and risk. When consumed daily, this can be damaging to our state and eventually become addictive. As a result, so many people start their days by turning on the news before taking time out to breathe and feel present.
The truth is, some information from news sites doesn’t apply to our daily lives, but we tend to take them as if they do. This is not to say empathy should be shunned. However, sometimes it’s necessary to step back and realise what exactly it is that we’re consuming, so as to avoid negative effects in our lives
How Does Negative Information Overload Affect Us?
The cycle of feeling resentment, outrage and fear due to media consumption triggers the brain to release more cortisol – the body’s main stress hormone. Normally, cortisol functions to help the body deal with stressful situations. However, high levels can further cause feelings of panic, fear and anxiety. When you consume negative news, your body gets in a state of stress. The flow of cortisol through the bloodstream dilutes feel-good chemicals such as endorphins.
Prolonged periods of such responses or reactions can lead to negative effects on our health. This includes weakening immune function, increasing susceptibility to illness, inhibiting the production of growth hormones, pain and widespread inflammation. It can also disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to high blood pressure. This is because our bodies are not naturally designed to function with such high levels of stress hormones, especially for extended periods.
Some studies also reveal that news consumption triggers negative psychological feelings. This study on negative psychological effects of watching televised news demonstrated an increase in anxiety and total mood disturbance in the participants.
Social media is another easy way to consume information. As much as it has its positive aspects, the negative aspects are also worth examining. Social media sites are designed to be addictive and perpetuate feelings of fear of missing out (FOMO). This is why it’s easy to pick up your device with the intention to simply check a message, only to later realise you’ve been scrolling for way longer than you had planned.
How Does Social Media Negatively Affects Our Health
Various studies have focused on social media’s influences and effects on our daily lives. Many of these go further to understand its impact over certain periods. The same way constantly consuming negative news can increase cortisol levels also applies to social media use. The information overload perpetuates a cycle of negative feelings. Here are some other ways social media can negatively affect your health:
- Depression and anxiety: Studies have shown that prolonged social media use may be tied to experiencing signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety. A survey of about a thousand Generation Z members revealed that 41% stated that social media makes them feel anxious, sad or depressed. From the study, 34% said they would be quitting social media and 64% mentioned taking a break. These feelings are usually tied to fear of missing out, comparisons and feelings of insecurity.
- Unhealthy Sleep Patterns: Due to the addictive nature of social media, many people constantly stay up extremely late scrolling through their feed. This affects one’s sleep quality. As a result, this often leads to sleep deprivation which in turn can lead to problems such as fatigue, poor mental health, reduced cognition and weakened immune system.
- Negative Body Image and Eating Disorders: Many unrealistic standards are put forward on social media. This leads to the tendency for social media content to affect your perception of yourself. As a result, this causes psychological effects of negative body image which can lead to eating disorders. There are several studies that focus on the role social media plays in eating disorders.
How to Break Out of the Cycle
It’s important to make a conscious effort to stop the negative spiral. This is necessary for the health of not just our minds, but bodies as well. Here are some ways to break out of the cycle of negative inputs:
- Practice Gratitude: This is especially helpful when you feel these reactions in the moment. Pause and think of three things you are grateful for in that moment.
- Be Intentional: Pay attention to how much time you spend on news sites, watching television or scrolling through social media pages. This provides clarity and helps you identify the sources of negativity. This way, you can replace these with positive sources.
- Question Your Negative Thoughts: Whenever you feel yourself going down a negative spiral, pause to question your thoughts. Ask if it’s something to be taken seriously and if you’ve unnecessarily taken on experiences as if they were your own.
- Take Social Media Breaks: A social media detox is a great way to clear your mind. Even if you’re not going off the grid for months, you can turn off your phone at a specific hour each evening. Also, a good tip is to turn off notifications from your phone.
The overall lesson to take from this blog post is to just be aware of what you are consuming. We are what we think most of the time and the content that we consume has a huge impact on our mental, physical and emotional health.
As we know, health is more than just the weights you lift or the food you eat, it is an amalgamation of everything we do in all areas of life that builds a well rounded being through a holistic approach to life.