• Shagun Agarwal

Consuming Negative News Dramatically Lower your Productivity at Work

Updated: Oct 6, 2019


You might say that you watch the news as soon as you get up or after getting back from work. The reason: because you want to know what is happening around the world and you are the one who likes to stay well informed. Well! News items (not all) that are on the TV or radio don't show what is happening around the world. They are mostly those things that sell, that raise their TRP.

Most news items we see on TV are about murder cases, rape cases, stock market movements, and injustice, violence and terrorist attacks. And how much ever sad or anxious we feel about these, we have no control over all these. How much ever we try, we can't reverse a terrorist attack or a stock market downfall.

When we go to our office or workplace with this attitude we approach our work and challenges very differently. In the field of psychology, the challenging situations where we know our behavior won't make any difference are called as 'learned helplessness'. And this mindset of 'learned helplessness' is characterized by depression and decreased productivity.

Research Study

Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan along with researcher Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania conducted a preliminary study that found that just 3 minutes of viewing negative news has a substantial effect on our mood.

They also partnered with Arianna Huffington to study the long-term effect of negative news items on our overall performance and well-being. 110 people who participated in this study were divided into 2 groups. One group watched the negative news for 3 minutes before 10 am and other group watched solution focused news for the same time. The latter group saw videos demonstrating resilience. The videos included the success stories of kids and about how a 70- year-old man who after trying relentlessly finally got a GED.

6 hours later, the participants were given a survey to fill. The survey contained various metrics to study their mood and stress levels.

The results that came up shocked the researchers so much that they had to double check their analysis. The individuals who fell in the first group, who watched negative news items for 3 minutes reported a 27% greater likelihood of having an unhappy day as compared to the second group, even after 6-8 hours after watching the news.

So what is the solution?

Only if you are sure that the news item that is going to come up will be positive, watch it. The normal news channels on TV will never do so. While commuting, on your phone or car don't put a random radio show that might make you prone to noise or dump unnecessary information on your mind. Take control of what you click and of the time when you press the TV remote button. Even cancel out the notifications for these. After that, no one can force you to watch something. Research says that these distractions take 15 minutes of time to re-focus you back.

On Facebook and others social media sites there are a lot of newsgroups that only focus on positive and inspiring items. Likes those pages and subscribe to those channels. There are a whole lot of podcasts out there on subjects such as positivity, motivation, energy and so on. You must choose to hear, or watch anything that is empowering.

The whole point is to not land in a situation where you won't be able to take control and change something. This way you will not externalities control you instead you will be the one driving your life's car where YOU are in the driver's seat.


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© 2019 by Shagun Agarwal

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