Stories of kindness may counteract the negative effects of looking at bad news – new research | Pro IQRA News

Stories of kindness may counteract the negative effects of looking at bad news – new research

 | Pro IQRA News

Pro IQRA News Updates.

The saying “if it bleeds, it performs” has long been a saying used in the media to describe how news stories featuring violence, death, and destruction capture readers’ attention—and thus dominate the news agenda. And while many of us are aware of the negative impact these types of stories can have on us, it can still be hard to look away. We are forced to sit down and observe them.

This “watch mode” is thought to be an evolutionary leftover from a time when the odds of survival increased when we dealt with threats in our environment.

Research consistently shows that bad news can have a negative impact on us. During the pandemic, multiple studies have linked news consumption to poorer mental health, documenting symptoms of depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and anxiety. In our research, we found that spending at least 2-4 minutes on Twitter or YouTube reading about the pandemic affects people’s moods negatively.

However, our latest study found that looking at positive news stories—specifically, videos and articles featuring good deeds—can actually counteract the ill effects of seeing negative news stories.

Less low mood

For our study, we viewed 1,800 news posts. Some only saw negative news stories – including footage of the Manchester bombing, animal cruelty, or brutal acts of violence.

Others were shown a negative news story, which was immediately followed by a positive news story. The positive story featured acts of kindness such as heroic deeds, people providing free veterinary care to stray animals, or acts of charity toward the unemployed and homeless.

We then asked the participants to report how they felt before and after viewing the news content. We also asked them about their tendency to believe in the goodness of others.

The group shown negative news stories followed by positive news fared significantly better than people shown only a negative news story. They reported less mood drops – instead they felt great. They also have more positive views of humanity in general.

Curious to see if there was something special about kindness specifically, we also tested how people experienced a negative news story followed by an entertaining one (such as parrots cursing, award-winning jokes, or unhappy American tourists).

Entertaining news stories certainly helped mitigate the effects of bad news and reduce the mood swings it caused. But by comparison, the participants who showed good deeds reported more positive moods on average, and a greater belief in the goodness of humanity.

A young woman feeds two stray dogs from her enclosure.
Kind videos and business stories had the most positive impact on the participants.
22 Photo Studio/Shutterstock

This shows us that there is something unique about kindness that may mitigate the effects of negative news on our mental health. However, more research is needed to determine whether these are long-term benefits, as we measured how people felt immediately afterwards.

The power of kindness

There are many reasons why kindness has such a protective effect on our moods.

First, it is globally evaluated. Seeing acts of kindness may remind us of our connection to others through shared values. It may also help us maintain the belief that the world and the people in it are good, which is important to our well-being.

Third, seeing others help is the resolution to see them get hurt. The so-called “disaster empathy,” where positive behavior prevails despite negative circumstances, eases the pain we feel when we see others suffering. Or as one of our participants explained:

Knowing that there are so many people genuinely willing to help those affected by this attack gives me comfort in a way.

Similarly, other research has found that even when children did not cause or relate to someone else’s suffering, they experienced a decrease in physiological stress simply by seeing the injured person receiving help.

Fourth, countless research has shown that witnessing other people’s actions of moral beauty, such as kindness or heroism, results in “uplifting”—a positive, enhanced feeling that, theorizes, acts as an emotional reset button, replacing feelings of cynicism with hope, love, and upliftment. optimism.

It will be important for future research to investigate the specific reasons why kindness has a protective effect demonstrated by our research.

A powerful tool to promote well-being

It is clear that kindness is a powerful tool for promoting well-being. In my research, I have found that doing an act of kindness every day can increase life satisfaction. And recently, researchers have found that selflessness trumps selfishness when it comes to improving your happiness.

Little is known about whether making a conscious effort to notice kindness has the same well-being benefits, although one study found that observing the kindness of others is as effective at promoting happiness as performing an act of kindness.

Our latest study shows that news stories that focus on kindness can take the stress out of difficult and frustrating reporting by replacing feelings of despair with hope. As another participant said:

I still feel like we basically fit in…and that’s worth sticking with.

Perhaps including more kindness-based content in news coverage will prevent “mean world syndrome” — where people believe the world is more dangerous than it actually is, leading to increased fear, anxiety, and pessimism.

Other research has also found that positive news—like bumblebees have returned or peace talks are going well—makes people feel better and want to do good things, like vote or make a donation. This suggests that there may be personal and social benefits to viewing positive news.

While it is up to the media to make the change, our research shows why adding more balance to news coverage. Including more stories of kindness may help people feel better able to process these stories without perpetuating feelings of doom and despair.