Want to change how you feel in the next 15 minutes? Try this experiment, and hack the programming in your brain’s emotional center. See below:
How you feel has been partly determined by how those around you are feeling - whether you realize it or not. It’s also determined by organizations that send out carefully crafted signals (e.g. news stories) intentionally designed to play on your emotions.
Our brains are designed to look for danger signals from others around us, since knowing about a threat early on could let us take action. News organizations and politicians know this, and use it accordingly. Your brain’s danger detection meter is being exploited, just as junk food exploits your body’s normal nutritional needs.
Most of the bad news we read does not actually help us stay safer or be better people, just as excessive junk food does not actually help us prepare for times of famine! In fact, bad news usually does just the opposite - it is about things we have little control over, and it makes us angry, anxious, and depressed. But we get addicted to it and keep consuming it, even though we know in the back of our heads that it’s slowly killing us.
Last night I tried an experiment, and only allowed myself to read websites that only publish inspirational news (links at the end).
The difference in how I felt was immense. It surprised me, even though I knew neurobiologically what I was trying to do.
Within 15 minutes of reading these uplifting stories, I felt stronger, happier, and knew deep down that we would get through all of this. And I actually slept well.
It was an astounding difference from the tense, gloomy way I had been feeling when reading the regular news earlier. Even as I write this blog article the next day, I still feel better and more hopeful, and am motivated to work harder and do my part to help out. It’s a total win all around.
But here’s the weird thing - I can still feel the addiction to negative news. I have a strong urge to go back to the junk food panic and click on articles telling me how someone my age just died from COVID, gawk at pictures of hospital beds and scared/dying people, and wallow in the mud of how the economy will collapse and take us all with it (or whatever).
Bad news is a hard habit to break, just like junk food. Part of us weirdly craves that next hit of panic news, just like we crave the hit we get from a 2,500 calorie burger.
So don’t be hard on yourself if you find it hard to resist the bad news. In the past, it has taken me weeks to break the habit. But it sure is worth it.
Try hacking your mood, and only read inspirational news for the next 15 minutes. See if you feel better. I definitely did.
Some Example Positive News Sites:
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about the authorS
Jadon Webb, M.D., Ph.D.
Bloom Mental Health
Disclaimer: this blog is NOT intended as medical advice and does not imply any kind of specific guidance or treatment recommendations, and should NOT be used to guide a treatment protocol. (read full disclaimer)
DNP, MSN, FNP-BC
Family Nurse Practitioner