Libyan protesters murdered the U.S. ambassador. Suicide bombers killed scores of others in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Chicago teachers are on strike. Israel is taking a harder line against Iran. Our presidential candidates are excoriating each other and driving a thicker wedge between red and blue.
Every time you turn on the TV or radio, surf the web or read a paper, it seems like "all the news that’s fit to print" is bad news.
And yet keeping up with the news is an irresistible compulsion — something many of us feel obliged to do on a daily basis. But, research tells us, we do so at our own peril.
Studies, including one published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine in 2007, report that anxiety and “total mood disturbance” spike after people watch the news and can lead to “persisting negative psychological feelings.”
Graham C. L. Davey, Ph.D., an expert in anxiety and a professor of psychology at the University of Sussex in England, devoted an entire blog to “The Psychological Effects of TV News” in Psychologytoday.com last June. He wrote, “Films and television programs can affect your psychological health … by directly affecting your mood, and your mood can then affect many aspects of your thinking and behaviour.
“If the TV program generates negative mood experiences, then these experiences will affect how you interpret [and worry about] events in your own life [as well as] what types of memories you recall. So not only are negatively valenced news broadcasts likely to make you sadder and more anxious, they are also likely to exacerbate your own personal worries…”
Since it’s not likely that most of us would be willing to go on a news fast, I offer an alternative: Let’s go on a good-news diet!
(MORE: Think Positive, Be Happier: The Invaluable Lessons of "Pollyanna")
Change the Channel, Change Your Brain
So here's my radical proposal. Give up your preferred news-diet staple — paper, radio, TV or website (present company excluded, of course) — for two weeks. (Don’t look at me like that. You’ll live.) And in its place, try any of the following six good-news sites, which focus on positive and inspirational events in the world. When I went on my own "news moratorium" during a recent vacation, I swear it did me as much good as the fresh air and mountain vistas!
1. Happynews.com's promise: “Real News. Compelling Stories. Always Positive.” Its credo: “We believe virtue, goodwill and heroism are hot news. That's why we bring you up-to-the-minute news, geared to lift spirits and inspire lives. Add in a diverse team of Citizen Journalists reporting positive stories from around the world, and you've got one happy place for news.”
With stories like “Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk,” “Smiling May Reduce Stress,” “Coffee Linked to Lower Risk of Cancer” and “Bags to Thwart Rice Wastage Now Available to Filipino Farmers,” Happynews is true to its word.
Plus, you’ve got to love a site that includes Happy Quotes, like today’s “Happiness is liberty from everything that makes us unhappy.”
2. GoodNewsNetwork’s founder and editor/publisher Geri Weis-Corbley says on the site, “I began this effort in 1997 with a passion to serve humanity in doses of positive news. Now my goal is to make this a business. I want to be the first person to really prove that good news sells.”
With a mission to provide a "daily dose of news to enthuse," the site is dedicated to the “50 million cultural creatives … who are invested with an interest in carving out a more sustainable and loving world. Activists and social change agents need reminders of the progress being made in the world to keep from burning out and becoming embittered.”
Recent stories include “College Student Given Cadillac by Stranger After He Is Struck by Car While Walking to School,” “Citizens Right a Wrong After Bicycle Theft During Cross-Country Charity Ride” and “Stem Cell Jab Restores Feeling in Paralyzed.”
3. Gimundo, with the slogan “Good News … Served Daily,” is a site that “aggregates” stories from around the web, with the descriptor “our take on the most inspiring stories in mainstream media, and weekly exclusive interviews and roundups about the people and innovations that are making a positive difference in our society.”
Gimundo’s inspirational content includes “an amazing performance by blind pianist Nobuyuki Tsjuii,” positive stories around the Aurora, Colo., shooting and — one of its most popular pieces — “Hachiko: The World’s Most Loyal Dog.”
4. Odewire.com is the online accompaniment to the Dutch/American magazine Ode, which recently changed its name to The Intelligent Optimist. In a refreshing departure from all-too-familiar channels, Odewire’s home page offers us these “Hot Topics”: Water Memory, Giving, Positive Thinking, Strangers and Thrillionaires. Its original and aggregated stories include pieces like “Hope for Peace in Colombia, Despite Obstacles” and “Music Lessons Linked to Lasting Brain Benefits.”
5. The New Sun’s tagline is “Exposing Life at Its Best.” Its luminous mission statement: “To focus on the positive aspects and events of life. To shift the emphasis away from fear and sensationalism towards the other side of human nature: hope, humor, courage and creativity. A publication that seeks to find the best in life and give it good coverage.”
Today’s home page featured “World's Oldest Message in a Bottle Found off Scotland,” “Swiss Valley Votes Against Millions in Gold to Protect Mountains” as well as — dig this, WSJ — a poem called “The World Inside My Phone.”
6. Yes!, the digital arm of the eponymous quarterly magazine (printed on 100 percent post-consumer waste, chlorine-free paper) “reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions. Online and in print, [the site outlines] a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world."
With a tagline claiming “Powerful Ideas, Practical Actions,” the site has five channels — Peace & Justice, Planet, New Economy, People Power (how ’60s!) and Happiness, as well as a special section, “For Teachers.”
Recent Yes! stories include “Mexico’s Burgeoning Peace Movement Heads North,” “Happiness Comes From Respect, Not Riches” and “How to Keep Love Going Strong.” Not breaking news, you say? Perhaps. But I’ll gladly take a dose of that over “Census: 46 Million Americans Impoverished” any day.