Are you feeling overwhelmed by negative news these days? While it’s important to stay informed, Dr. Linda Mintle says focusing a steady barrage of negative headlines will affect not only our mood, but our brain itself.
“We attend to bad news because of the way we are wired, with the “fight or flight” response: when the brain signals “danger,” and the emotional part of the brain goes on a high alert, looking for something (threatening). So it’s kind of normal for people to be looking and searching for that bad news, because we’re wired so specifically that, if there’s something wrong we’ve got to know about it and be aware of it.”
“What happens when you stay on high alert like that, day after day after day, the damage is done not only to your physical body, but to your emotional state. It puts tension on relationships and people just are on edge.”
This “fight or flight” reaction to a news story can often stir up a temptation toward fear in our personal lives. That fear can spark a local reaction, even if the news event happened far away.
“Sometimes people get fearful of what they see, because you begin to think ‘it’s not safe, there’s nowhere to go.’ When that happens in a community in which you live, you really get that sense of that lack of safety.”
“Then unfortunately, as you begin to think that there’s somebody who caused this, there’s somebody at fault, and you start to build in hate towards people, that “it’s their fault they’re the enemy”– then that hate in your brain begins to activate some aggression and some movement to do something in order to maybe take down the person or get revenge. It’s contagious.
How can we develop a healthy balance of staying wisely informed about the world (in all its brokenness), and preventing ourselves from being engulfed in a swirling sea of chaos and crisis? Dr. Linda says the answer is theological–we must start with a realistic view of the world, and the God who’s in charge.
Yes, the Bible says this (negativity) is all going to be happening in front of us:
“But realize this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…Have nothing to do with such people.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
But then we have to counter that with another promise:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
“We have to remind ourselves that God is in control, and while we are here, terrible things are going to happen. We have to be walking in this reality: there are horrible stories, brutal things that are happening to people, one after the other and it almost is too much to bear. Part of this is really limiting what you take in on a daily basis, but also making sure that every time you hear a negative (story), counter that with the truth of God’s word. The truth is, there is a hope in Him, that He is not absent in our world, and He will comfort those who need comfort, He will mourn with those who mourn. We must continue to balance the reality of what we see with the hope of who Christ is.
This is a time when you can give that hope to other people. You can say to other people. ‘The way I deal with this is to go back to the Lord. I have to have Him comfort me on a daily basis. This is what He promises to do, and living my life without Him would be so difficult.'”
Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a licensed clinical social worker and national expert on relationships and the psychology of food, weight and body image. She is also the host of the Dr. Linda Mintle Show heard weekly on Faith Radio.How negative news affects your brain