When Was the Last Time You Took a Deep Breath?

With a never-ending news cycle filled with one global crisis after another, our bodies are affected by what we read more than you may think


Photo by tabitha turner on Unsplash

Bad news seems to follow us daily. And it’s likely you’re seeing or reading about it right from the moment you wake up, as 80% of Americans say they check their phones within 10 minutes of waking up. This continual absorption of the latest headlines probably continues throughout your day since most Americans also check their phone once every 5.5 minutes. It’s no wonder that negativity can seem ubiquitous.

While it’s good to stay informed, unfortunately the ratio of news you’re digesting skews heavily towards the negative. Part of this stems from a human negativity bias — or the tendency for people to pay more attention to negative information than positive information. This is a sometimes unfortunate byproduct of an evolutionarily adaptive tendency to be extra-sensitive to danger. In modern times, it causes our attention to be more strongly piqued by stories that leave us with negative emotional responses, like stress, tension, worry, fear, or anxiety. Media companies are well aware of this, with their careful tracking of ratings, hits, and engagement. Our own negative attention bias may in turn encourage the media to emphasize negative over positive stories, thereby producing the perfect feedback loop.

Whatever the reason may be, these types of stories leave us with both emotional and physical tension or stress that we may or may not be conscious of. Usually after we read an article or watch a video clip, we can move on quickly. It’s easy to get pulled away by the day’s tasks and responsibilities. Other times, we see a video like the murder of George Floyd, and are left frozen in our tracks. Many people can remember the moment they watched this video, the way in which their breath was caught, their chest tightened, fists clenched, and tears dropped.

In those moments, it’s surreal to realize that society somehow expects us to close our laptops or lock our phones and return to our regularly scheduled routines. That makes it hard to notice or be mindful of the physical impact the news cycle can have on us. Media like this can be so intense…



Ashley Pallathra and Edward Brodkin

Co-authors of the new book “Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections.” Twitter: @ashleypallathra @tedbrodkin