Today we are lucky to have a guest post on ‘let’s talk’, written by Rin Hamburgh, a Bristol-based journalist specialising in psychology and well-being, green living and other lifestyle subjects. You can visit her website and blog at www.rin-hamburgh.co.uk. She writes here of the positive news movement, which is gaining in popularity as an alternative to the sensationalist news reports we are frequently faced with on a daily basis. It offers a new way of problem solving; one that supports our well-being instead of undermining it….
I hate reading newspapers. That probably sounds a little strange, coming from a journalist, but it’s true. It’s not that I don’t want to find out what’s happening in the world, it’s just that it’s all so relentlessly depressing. People are killing each other. The economy is in tatters. Your favourite food is going to kill you.
Often it is not the facts of the stories themselves that are so terrifying, but the way they are reported. Driven by sales figures, editors choose attention-grabbing drama over less colourful but more worthy stories, so that our papers are filled with terrorism and political scandal and celebrity sex, and we don’t hear about the rise of the sharing economy or how volunteers are making a difference in flood-ravaged Somerset.
Scaremongering headlines convince us that the end is nigh, even if it’s just a remote possibility, and since most of us don’t get past the first few paragraphs of any story (if that) we tend to miss the balanced argument (if indeed there is one). And so our view of the world is shaped by negative soundbites, and we either become discouraged and apathetic, changing the channel or flicking through to the lifestyle pages to avoid the bleak ‘realities’ of the news, or we become addicted to the endless stream of hype.
Neither option is ideal. The apathy that comes with a diet of stories about terrible things we can’t change makes us passive; we no longer believe we can make a difference, and so we don’t even try. On the other hand, if we keep feeding our obsession with the Oscar Pistorius trial or the ever fluctuating (but always doomed) economic situation, we can actually do ourselves psychological and physical harm – a story in The Guardian last year stated that “news is toxic to your body”, triggering the limbic system and releasing cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone”.
Thankfully, there is an alternative. The positive news movement is gaining ground – albeit slowly – as people begin to search for a way to stay informed without the need for antidepressants. Rooted in positively psychology, this new style of media calls for a solutions-focused approach that doesn’t skirt the issues but does avoid sensationalising them. It also seeks out stories that highlight the people and initiatives making a difference to the world.
One of the leading publications in this campaign for a more balanced viewpoint is Positive News, which was founded in 1993 and aims to “inform, inspire and empower our readers, while helping create a more balanced and constructive media”. Despite not being able to pay as well as the nationals (there’s a reason why the big boys print the stories they do), I write for this dedicated and passionate team, and recently took part in a short promotional video about them, because I believe that we need more headlines like Brazil takes steps to save threatened tribe and New reforms for children in care ‘most significant in a generation’.
Next time you pick up a newspaper, or flick over to the evening news, be aware of the effect it is having on your well-being… and then make a change. Challenge the views you are being presented with, dig deeper into a story and find out what the truth of the matter is, get hold of a positive news publication in print or online, and remember that no matter what the media tells you, you can make a difference. Oh, and rest assured – the odd teaspoon of sugar probably won’t kill you.