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Feeling overwhelmed by negative news? This is why!

Have you been feeling overwhelmed by negative news recently? Do you also find yourself actively searching for it even though you know it won’t help your mood? Don’t worry, this is very normal – and once you understand WHY, it’s a lot easier to combat.

Negative news has surrounded our headlines lately, due to fairly obvious reasons. Whilst it is important to make sure you are up to date and educated with current guidelines for your country, it can also be very overwhelming. Often, we even find ourselves searching for updates that we don’t necessarily need and know won’t have a positive impact on our mentality. I’m going to look into the psychology with studies and research to explain why we feel this way, and then give simple strategies to try to help!

Why Does Negative News Affect Us So Much?

Going back to even cavemen, we have always had an inbuilt instinct for danger to help us with survival. This helps us understand how this instinct can be translated into a hypersensitivity to negativity. Research from this year shows that humans instinctively have a bias for, and pay more attention to negative news. This means already we are going to be looking for more negative news stories over positive ones. This is due to something called Negativity Bias – simply meaning we prioritise or react more strongly to something negative rather than something positive.

Overtime, Negativity Bias can have a role to play in another psychological element called Learned Helplessness. This means that repeated negative events (in this case, negative news) can leave us feeling like they are unavoidable or inescapable. We then feel like its is helpless to try and avoid or change these circumstances, as usually we can’t. Meaning we may continue reading negative new stories because we feel that’s our only option.

Trindade, Mendes and Ferreira, (2020)

How can we combat Learned Helplessness & Negativity Bias

There is a disproportionate weight of negative compared to positive in our thoughts. Therefore, we need more positive events in our lives to balance out the negative. This ‘magic ratio’ is 5 to 1 – meaning 5 positive ‘things’ for every 1 ‘negative’. This has been implemented in all sorts of ways, such as research into struggling marriages, bring up children, and management of workforces.

It is SO easy to put into practise for the current situation when the news is surrounded by negativity. Just think, for every article you read with a negative undertone, try to read 5 positive ones!

As well as this, research has also found that starting your day with just three minutes of negative news increased the likelihood of reporting a bad day by 27%!

Gielan (2015)

So, another easy way to help is to instead read only/more positive news on a morning! I have some favourite positive news apps & websites;

Some other quick tips I have is around the dreaded social media! Social media can be a dark place full of false information and scare mongering. On Twitter particularly, so try creating lists of people/hashtags that are based around your hobbies/interests/other positive things to read rather than just your general timeline. I hope to talk more about this in the near future though!

I hope understanding a bit about why you might feel overwhelmed. It’s definitely normal (perhaps even instinctive) helps you feel a little better. Try implementing some of the tips into your daily routine & let me know if you feel any better!

Elle Louise



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