It’s really, really easy to come across bad news in today’s culture. We’re not just dealing with our own types of bad news, like losing a promotion at work, getting into a fight with a bestie, or the death of a loved one. We’re talking about the terrifying 24/7 news cycle that we’re constantly bombarded with, from mass shootings to wars in foreign countries. Technology has made us privy to everyone’s bad news, all the time, and that’s really bad news for your health.
Stress is normal, and can even be healthy in some situations. However, when you’re being steadily being subjected to it, the effects can be detrimental. Studies indicate that stress can activate the release of dopamine and cortisol in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that associated with pleasure, reward, and addiction. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates many of the changes that occur in your body when you respond to triggering situations, including your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It helps us deal with stress by shutting down all of our unnecessary functions, such as your immune system.
When you’re online and come across bad news or something that ruffles your feathers, your body reacts with these chemicals. Since most of us are always online, we’re constantly being subjected to this situation.
This leads to a catch-22 situation: When we come across the trigger, our brain releases a bit of dopamine to help direct our attention to the stress. When we bring attention to it, cortisol is also released. This allows your body to direct all energies toward dealing with the problem at hand. That’s great in a fight-or-flight situation, not so much if you’re just at home scrolling through your phone.
The Daily Dot recently spoke with Heidi Hanna, author of Stressaholic and CEO of stress management group Synergy, who believes that we seek out such stressors. “I believe that outrage and becoming overly connected to bad news is an addiction based on the fact that most people are exhausted, lonely, or bored and looking for stimulation to help lift their mood and energy.”
Michelle Gielan, former CBS News anchor and author of the book Broadcasting Happiness, also told the Daily Dot that she believes the new culture of Internet outrage is contributing to this vicious cycle. “The web and social media can make us think that things are a bigger deal than they are. It doesn’t make for an environment that I think can contribute to stress reduction and overall happiness.”
It’s culturally important to be aware of what’s going on in the world, and yes, calling out these issues does help raise awareness. However, filling our lives with so much doom and gloom affects our stress levels in ways that we’re physically manifesting. It can lead to weight gain, sleep deprivation, a weak immune system, and a host of other issues. This is why experts again and again suggest powering off your phone for a few hours. If you find that being unplugged for too long stresses you out even more, a good solution is to find and seek out good news on a daily basis, which might take more effort but is better for you in the long run.
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