This article is part of a series on “Coping with Bad World News”, where we interviewed youth on their personal tips to look after their wellbeing.
Today’s interview is with Nichole Chong, a current student at the University of Hong Kong studying Bachelor of Social Science.
For more information on this topic, check out our resource on “Coping with Bad World News” here.
How can bad world news affect our mental health and why is this topic important?
We currently live in a world that’s more connected than ever. Nowadays, the news is no longer bounded by traditional mass media like TV and newspapers, but it also floods our social media and smartphone apps. This means that news from all over the world is always at our fingertips – no matter good or bad. Although it is crucial to stay updated and informed, especially during this unusual time of pandemic when things change so quickly, the constant bombardment of notifications from news outlets could take a toll on our mental health. This effect is particularly evident for bad world news such as disaster and crime. Evolutionarily, we have a natural tendency to attend to negative information because it could serve as important cues for potential threats (Vaish, Grossmann, & Woodward, 2008). While this tactic is useful for survival, it may not be the best for our mental health. One study has shown that watching 14 minutes of gloomy news is sufficient to provoke anxiety and negative mood (Johnston & Davey, 2011), suggesting the powerful impact of bad news on our wellbeing. While we cannot avoid reading negative world news altogether, it is essential to take care of our minds as we navigate through the sea of information.
What are your personal tips on coping with bad world news that you want to share with other youth?
There are several techniques that I found particularly helpful for coping with bad world news. Firstly, we should avoid reading news at night. If we see some emotionally provoking news when we are getting ready for sleep, it would be more difficult for us to fall asleep. Being alone when reading such negative news could also amplify the unpleasant sentiments. This leads us to the second tip, which is reaching out to a friend and discussing your thoughts about the news. If you find certain news particularly disturbing, it’s likely that your friends feel the same way. Therefore, don’t be shy and go talk to someone you trust. Having a companion who understands how you feel would make you feel less lonely on this journey. I also find it helpful to turn off the notifications of news outlets and social media apps. With the constant influx of notifications on our screens, it is difficult to control when and where we will be exposed to negative news, which can easily lead to constant worrying. Therefore, it may be better to turn off the notifications and only read the news when you are mentally prepared to do so. My last tip would be to have a trusty happiness reservoir that you can access easily, be it photos of your dream travel destination, information about restaurants you want to visit, or cute dog videos on the internet. While social media could seem dark at times with all the bad world news, it is also full of things that spark joy. When you feel like you have absorbed too much negativity online, having access to your happiness reservoir could act as a buffer against the deleterious effects of bad world news.