In the current environment, staying up to date with the news can literally save your life, or the life of your business. We all need to know the latest health guidelines in order to follow them. And the right information about accessing help for your business could mean the difference between survival and shuttering for good.
But while keeping informed is essential, constantly scrolling through the headlines can do more harm than good.
One recent study found consuming just five minutes of gloomy news in the morning made people measurably grumpier eight hours later. Other research suggests immersing yourself in negative news can even result in PTSD-like symptoms. And media researchers have shown that too much bad news actually makes us less kind and helpful.
How to stay informed but also stay sane
You need to stay informed, but you also need to stay sane. What’s the solution? UC Berkeley’s Greater Good science center recently surveyed a variety of experts to find out. The complete piece is well worth a read in full, but if you’re looking for the quick and dirty takeaways, here were their key suggestions:
Wake up to something other than the headlines. We all know the headlines in the coming weeks are going to be grim. Maybe take heed of the first study mentioned here and start your day with something other than frantic news consumption. There are a million other, better ways to put yourself in a more positive frame of mind for the day.
Limit overall news consumption. I find this wildly difficult personally, but the experts insist it’s essential. "Don’t let yourself sit there in front of your computer and constantly look up and refresh your screen to see what’s going on," Alice Holman, a researcher who studies news coverage of disasters told Greater Good. "Things are changing fast, but we already know what we need to do."
Use social media for connection, not news. "Getting your news from news outlets in social media is problematic, because we’re still having a hard time distinguishing between reputable sources online and non-reputable ones," Stanford media expert Jeff Hancock warns. Look to trusted sources like the CDC and WHO for essential facts, while leaning on social to stay connected to loved ones.
Make a point of mixing in happy news. You can’t avoid bad news at the moment, but you can consciously decide to season your media diet with more uplifting stories. Actor John Krasinski has a YouTube channel dedicated to good news, while Greater Good recommends the Solutions Journalism Network, as well as sections in the New York Times and the Guardian focused on positive, constructive stories.
Know your biases. All of us, no matter how smart we are, are walking around with brains riddled with biases. We underestimate the chances of bad things happening to us (optimism bias), we give more weight to information that agrees with our existing views (confirmation bias), and we’re wired to pay more attention to the bad than the good (negativity bias). Just knowing about these biases can help you look out for and potentially correct for them.
Will all this make staying abreast of the news cheerful in the coming weeks? No one can promise that. But by being thoughtful with your media habits you can at least ensure you’re in the best frame of mind to deal with all the difficulty the world is currently throwing at us.