Let me set the scene. I hop on a treadmill at the gym, all of which face a row of 10+ televisions. Each screen is tuned to a different channel, a mixture of sports and news channels. I complete a hard interval workout, a set of 1/2 mile repeats. But for some reason, it seemed harder than usual, and harder than what it feels like outside.
For a while I chalked up the sub-par performance to not quite being in shape. But, some interesting new research suggests otherwise.
We now live in a 24-hour news cycle. We’ve known that. It’s a constant stream of information, whether on television, online, or through social media. But the biggest issue is with the type of news that’s covered.
A large majority of news coverage is geared around negativity or framed negatively. And even just a small dose of consuming this type of information has a profound impact on our own stress, wellness, optimism, and character.
A new study dug deeper into this exact issue. The study included 110 participants, who were then blindly placed into one of two conditions:
- one group watched three minutes of negative news stories before 10 a.m.;
- the second group watched three minutes of solutions-focused news.
“Individuals who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning had a whopping 27% greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy six to eight hours later compared to the positive condition.”
Now, this has clear implications for the amount and timing of negative news consumption. But, like I said initially in this post, there are also implications for other areas of health and performance. One area that the next phase of research will focus in on is the effect of watching negative news on TV while at the gym.
Though I already have a sense of what the research might conclude, I’m excited to watch how it plays out.
Lastly, there are a few simple and easy things you can do if you want to keep your information inputs in check.
The first is to consider turning off the push notifications on your smartphone. Each negative news headline that alerts you during the day from such a notification can easily divert your positive energy and focus. This just builds throughout the day.
And second, consider taking more control over your information/news sources by customizing your own newspaper. Feedly is a fantastic app that puts you in the driver seat of the types information that you let into your day.
Staying well-informed is important. And news has its place. But like I’ve written in previous blogs, who should be in control? Who should drive the process? More importantly, what steps can we take as information consumers to strike the right balance between being a well-informed citizen and our own mental health and well-being?