Let’s take a step back for a moment of happiness

a person in a yellow smiley face hot air balloon flying away from Earth and all of its issues
(Caitlin Miller | Daily Trojan)

The dawn of 2021 marked the first time I ever disabled the notifications on my Apple News app. I dreaded coming across another depressing headline. It seemed like my newsfeed was inundated daily with terrifying pandemic statistics and tragic climate crises. I just couldn’t handle it anymore. The world was on fire, so I shut my eyes and held my breath. 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that we need to update ourselves on the latest news stories night and day. Constantly reading the news is what keeps us informed, balanced and connected. Neglecting to do so would only make us feel guilt and ignorance. Right?

Wrong. Some psychologists have begun fighting back against the notion that individuals will feel worse if they maintain some distance from the endless news cycle. Because at the end of the day, no one should sacrifice their mental health to stay informed. In fact, limiting your news consumption can be an important act of self-care.

News stories are overwhelmingly negative and can provoke stress reactions from readers. Absorbing repetitively negative news day in and day out caused me nothing but sadness, anger, outrage and helplessness. After all, how much can we really influence the outcomes of most news stories we read?

Asking this question can help us start setting healthy boundaries. If you find that you can positively contribute to a cause an article draws awareness to, you should! If it’s something completely outside of your control, that’s okay too. The key is to evaluate your feelings regularly. If a story does nothing but make you feel helpless and brings your mood down, take a step back from the news. If a story offers an opportunity to help that’s within your means, take it and focus on the positive effect you were able to have.

For those of us who are less in tune with our emotions, setting time limits can help too. Maybe set aside a cumulative 20 minutes a day that you’ll dedicate toward the news. Constant proximity to negativity can have serious mental and emotional repercussions. Setting time boundaries enables you to find a balance between cutting yourself off completely and succumbing to the 24-hour news cycle.

And, here’s another thing to consider — despite the daily dose of turmoil, positive newsworthy events are happening every day. We often fall victim to negativity bias and focus more of our attention on the grim news stories. 

Psychologist Austin Perlmutter explains, “Due to the negativity bias, we preferentially consume negative content. We look for negative media, and news organizations — in a desire to maintain attention and viewership — emphasize negative stories.” 

When negative news seems to be all that is available to us, we tend to overestimate how often they occur. Perlmutter uses robberies as an example: when you find that your neighbor across the street was robbed, you might think that home invasions are a major issue and worry that you could be next. However, in reality, they’re relatively uncommon. 

What reinforces this even more is confirmation bias, a term in psychology that describes the tendency to find evidence that supports our beliefs rather than information that disproves it. The world occasionally does seem like it is on fire and only worse and worse things occur in society, but through conscious effort, it should be possible to seek out positive news stories too. And to prove it, I scoured the Internet for a story that just might lift your spirits.

The first positive news story that caught my eye couldn’t have been cuter. “Pups at the Park” at Dodger Stadium proved an absolute success this month, with hundreds of pet owners parading the field alongside their beloved dogs. The Labor Day festivities featured hundreds of dogs of all sizes, shapes and breeds for a night of contests and fun. 

Local pet celebrity Macho led the puppy parade. Macho, an adorable Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest dog to round the bases at a Major League Stadium.  

The dog costume contest was the standout of the night. If you’re ever feeling down, simply Google “Dodgers Pups at the Park Costume Contest.” You’ll be greeted with the smiling faces of countless dogs sporting Dodgers jerseys, bandanas, caps and more. Some contestants even dyed their dogs’ fur blue. 

We all need to learn how to take time for a moment of happiness. The stories we are fed don’t accurately reflect the state of the world in its entirety. It’s not always an easy endeavor, but striving for balance in your news consumption can do wonders for your mood. The positive stories are out there, in print and in real life.