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Negative News Can Impact Your Productivity

Over this most recent whacky pandemic year, the morning radio news seems to be an endless cycle of bad news stories. While I understand (but don’t support) the desire of radio stations for sensationalism to hook in listeners, I always wondered if all that negative news at the beginning of the day would have an impact on my kids’ or my day.

Turns out it does, as some crafty researchers and psychologists have figured out.

A few years ago, some psychologists figured out that if you hear or watch a news program that is negative, or evokes a negative sense like stress, anxiety, sadness, etc. there is an impact on how you interpret events in your own life, what types of memories you recall, and how much you will worry about events in your own life.

Repeated exposure to really bad news stories can lead to chronic stress. Chronic stress impairs willpower and other executive functions in the brain, and contributes to everything from clinical depression and anxiety, to diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and much more. Researchers found that people who watched six or more hours of News about the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 were more likely to develop PTSD than people who were actually at the bombing.

A more recent study found that a couple of minutes spent consuming negative news first thing in the morning can affect the entire emotional trajectory of your day. People who spent just 3 minutes listening to negative news first thing in the morning were 27% more likely to say they had a bad day 6 to 8 hours later.

A follow on study to that one showed that consistently listening to negative news in the morning leads to a negative impact on our productivity as the negativity slows us down, makes us lethargic, and adversely affects the pursuit of our goals. Even worse, some psychologists have found it can lead to learned helplessness (where you feel like you don’t have the power to improve your lot).

Apparently its bad for our pocketbook too. This study found that consistently bad news about our government services led bureaucrats and politicians to spend more money on public policy activities in an effort to counteract the prior negative news.

OK, Now What?

In this case, you can take the opposite tack: positive news begets positive feelings, which in the end has a whole bunch of fabulous ripple effects on our wellbeing, health and productivity. Research has found that people who report experiencing a greater balance of positive emotional symptoms over negative emotional symptoms received higher performance ratings from supervisors than employees who report feeling more negative than positive symptoms of emotion.

One of the same studies mentioned above found that just watching or listening to a few minutes of solutions-based news in the morning led to more positive feelings and improved outcomes. One of the researchers has also found in a previous study that more optimistic salespeople outsold their colleagues by 37%.

So, some simple solutions suggested by some of the psychologists involved in the studies above: find a radio station that provides more solutions-focused news, start your day without the news, turn off media alerts, and start your day with more positive and reaffirming activities.

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