Write Your Own Headlines
At least once a day, write a headline to celebrate yourself and what you are accomplishing.
Negative News Takes a Mental and Physical Toll on Us
Once upon a time, the news was published in a daily newspaper, although some people opted for “Sunday only” delivery of the paper. Once a week or once a day was sufficient to keep up with the headlines.
Later, the nightly news program was replaced by 24-hour news channels, which have now been replaced by social media and news apps giving you real-time updates. You no longer have to seek out the news; it is pushed on you at all times.
News alerts. Updates. Breaking news. First-person live streaming. We are wall-to-wall news coverage. Plus, there is the endless debate about each news story by the readers.
The news is front and center in our minds. In fact, we sometimes find ourselves in the middle of the news. Everyone has a video camera in their pocket, so whenever something happens, people instantly broadcast what they are seeing.
We can watch these eye-witness videos on social media, putting ourselves in the position of being there, even if we are not. Psychologists say watching these videos is nearly as traumatic as being there. People who view traumatic events on video can show signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Most people admit they don’t like the news, saying it is depressing, makes them angry, or causes them to feel hopeless about the future.
People have measurable stress responses to watching the news, too. It’s common to experience both psychological symptoms, such as a change in mood, and physical symptoms, such as a change in blood pressure.
Why do we continue to stress ourselves this way? Most people say they feel a responsibility to stay informed. But at what cost?
At a time when negative news is the norm and every issue is polarized into “us vs. them,” the anger or despair we feel has real consequences for us as individuals (not to mention the adverse consequences on society).
No News Is Good News
According to the American Psychological Association, more than half of Americans say the news causes them stress. And yet, a third of those surveyed said they check the news at least hourly.
Staying current on the news definitely takes a toll on one’s health. Most people acknowledge they feel an increase in stress after watching the news.
People report an increase in anger, anxiety, depression, and other psychological impacts. But these symptoms also take a toll on your physical health, weakening your immune system, causing headaches, stomach aches, and other physical problems.
If following the constantly changing news headlines has you stressed out, try limiting your intake of news to no more than once a day (and less is better).
In addition to limiting your exposure to news, you can also learn to identify tactics used to amplify fear in news headlines.
Anatomy of a Headline
As a writer, I know how headlines are constructed to achieve maximum engagement. You want to target an emotion in the reader and amplify it. This generally means playing on negative emotions like fear, anger, sadness, shame, or anxiety. You also want to evoke curiosity, comparison, and “what if” scenarios.
Here is an example:
Headline: New Symptom of Emerging Virus Identified. Find Out If You Have It.
Analysis: Targets a fear of getting sick using curiosity and comparison.
If you pay attention, you will notice the ways news headlines emphasize the negative, exaggerate the minor details, and amplify negative emotions to draw you in.
Next, let’s focus on two ways you can write your own headlines to improve your outlook on life.
Reword Actual News Headlines
Whenever you encounter a negative news headline, challenge it. For example, if the news tells you there is a “30-Percent Chance of Dying from Purple Milk,” you can turn the statistic around to say there is a “70-Percent Chance of Surviving Purple Milk.”
(You can also look at supporting data to challenge those numbers because purple dye injected into a lab rat might kill it, but a small amount of purple milk in a 200-pound adult may have no adverse effects.)
You’ll find that many negative headlines can be re-framed as a positive. This demonstrates the intentional slant used by the media for the purpose of getting your attention—and ultimately get more money from their advertisers based on larger viewership or readership.
Next, let’s look at a way to create headlines that is much more personal and infinitely more fun.
Write Headlines for Your Daily Life
If negative news headlines can be reworded as positive headlines, the same is true about the headlines we write about our daily lives. Rather than living with the narrative of sentiments like “I’m afraid” or “I’m a failure,” we can turn those headlines around just like any negative news headline.
Instead of being “afraid” we can write our narrative about being a hero who overcomes fears. We can also reshape a failure narrative by re-writing our internal headlines to being a survivor and overcomer.
We each tell ourselves a narrative about life. It’s the way we explain life to ourselves. Wouldn’t you rather be the hero of your own narrative?
Celebrate the events of your daily life by giving them a headline. Even mundane events can seem heroic when framed as a headline.
Hey, these are difficult times, so acknowledge your ability to rise above your circumstances—or even your attempts to do so. Here are some examples:
“Mother Begins Quest to Find Toilet Paper”
“Man Finds a Supply of Hand Sanitizer”
“Shopper Completes Triathlon of Grocery Store, Pharmacy, and Costco”
“Teen Carries Groceries for an Elderly Woman”
“Local Woman Wins the Face Mask Challenge on Tonight’s Episode of Survivor”
“Customer Extends Kindness to Cashier”
“Christian Makes a Difference to One Person”
“Viewer Turns off Television News and Wins Peace Prize”
“Person Unable to Wear a Face Mask Survives Predatory Public during Shark Week”
“Adult Finds Strength to Face another Day after Spending Time in God’s Word”
“Despite Headache, Woman Makes Dinner”
“Woman Credits Christ for Helping Her Survive Isolation”
“Young Man Works Extra Hours to Help Others”
At least once a day, write a headline to celebrate yourself and what you are accomplishing. When times are tough, it’s even more important to celebrate small wins and good efforts.
Tips for Writing Your Personal Headlines
Refer to yourself in the third person. Instead of “I” use “he, she, they, it” to make it sound more like a headline.
Mention what you did that was good.
If possible (or desired) add a fun twist such as completing a challenge on “Survivor.”
Practice Writing Your Own Heroic Headlines
The Silent Broadcast
It is important to be conscious of the headlines we write about ourselves. If we believe a negative narrative about ourselves, other people can sense that in us. It might come across as a lack of confidence, pessimism, helplessness, a victim mentality, a lack of hope for the future, and many other subtle ways. You silently broadcast your inner narrative to others, so make it a heroic narrative worth sharing.
Someone with a positive inner narrative silently broadcasts confidence, optimism, competence, an overcomer mentality, hope for the future, and generosity towards others, to name a few.
That’s not to say we leave Christ out of the picture or over-inflate our ego. Instead, our aim is to have a positive assessment of how we face life. By assigning positive headlines to our past events, we build confidence in ourselves and in God to face future events.
There is a snowball effect in learning to construct a positive narrative for our lives. Each positive headline makes us more likely to have future positive headlines.