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Why We Love Bad News, and How to Kick the Habit



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Plain and simple, all of us are drawn like magnets to sensational headlines and stories of negative and shocking incidents, whether we believe the sources are trustworthy or not.  Does it come as any surprise that, statistically, we are more attracted to grave, negative stories than to positive stories?  Why do we “rubber-neck” on the highway when passing a motor vehicle accident?  Why do some crave violent movies?  Why are we inclined to feed on negative news day after day? 

The answer to these questions is complex, but scientists have demonstrated, when recording electrical activity in the brain’s cerebral cortex, that the brain reacts more strongly to things it deems negative.  As one author summarizes, “Nastiness just makes a bigger impact on our brains,” explaining that the “‘bad-news bias’…is at work in every sphere of our lives at all times.”1  In fact, the current 24/7 news cycle that focuses on extremes of crime, weather, political unrest, famine, social injustice and other serious human concerns also impacts American attitudes, moods, and behaviors in negative ways.

That might not be a concern to you personally, but it’s worth thinking about, especially for caregivers who already face serious matters daily and really must stay positive to be well. In the interest of staving off depression and setting aside world problems that are out of any one caregiver’s control, may we offer a few recommendations? 

  • Minimize exposure to bad news by turning off the TV!   
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep (this is essential for maintaining a positive outlook).
  • Stay connected socially, even if only on the phone or computer.
  • Recognize your limitations—keep it simple and lower your expectations, without feeling guilty.
  • Ask for help.
  • Keep your sense of humor!  A cheerful heart is good medicine, as the ancient proverb promises.
  • Remember that caregiving is not your identity; maintain your sense of self outside of caregiving.
  • Pause several times daily to take a few deep breaths and think of something you are thankful for.
  • Seek professional help if you struggle with depression.

The bad news here is that we must fight a strong inclination toward negativity, which can be harmful to ourselves and those around us. Although we have to work at being positive, achieving a consistent, positive mindset is possible and worth the effort. And that, friends, is good news.