You’ll remember the series on happiness I posted a while back.[1] A key concept was that we attract what we focus on. So, for example, if you don’t want to be late for work, turn off the, ”Hurry! Don’t be late” head talk and substitute, “I’m on time.”

New studies now indicate how small, even fleeting, triggers, such as headlines and photos, can affect not only our moods, but even our mental and emotional health.[2]

Moreover, the positive or negative messages can be indirect. Headlines in women’s magazines about how to look better (thus indirectly suggesting that one doesn’t look good enough) increase body shame.

Pictures, e.g., of kindly or angry human faces, affect us even more because they’re processed in the right brain. This automatically triggers emotions we feel in our bodies. Because this process is indirect, its affect on us is even stronger, often without our even being aware of it. Even pre-verbal babies react to facial expressions.

A headline designed to attract our attention may suggest disaster, while the article itself shows the news isn’t all that bad. Unfortunately, many busy people read only the headlines. Even worse, many rely on social media for their news. In either case, they’re left with the emotional impact of disaster headlines or even less reliable Facebook memes.

Exposure to truly disastrous news, such as bombings or plane crashes, in any medium—print, TV, radio, or social media—increases acute stress and worsens it with each additional exposure, even triggering or re-awakening PTSD.

I leave everyone I care about—and that includes all my blog followers—with three requests:

  • Read the article cited below, noting the list of self-protective suggestions at the end.
  • Think again about what you’re doing to yourself and your friends if you continually communicate about things you both already agree are bad. Do either of you really need one more horror story, sarcastic joke or angry-faced image in order to decide how you’re going to vote?
  • If you found this article helpful, please share it with at least one other person.

[1] “Why is Happiness Like an Oxygen Mask?”; “Simple Steps to Happiness”; “Happiness and the Power of Thought”; “The Flip Side of Thought Power”; “Clearing the Path to Happiness”

[2] The studies are summarized in this article which, in turn, includes links to the studies themselves.