Politics and its bitter daily controversies are already part of the media and even our lives with the same penetration capacity as football or the pink press. Until recently, politics was not the main topic in the media, now it almost always is .
In the following study , still preprint, it is suggested that being subjected to the daily ups and downs of politics, which forces us to position ourselves, polarizes us, disappoints us, makes us hate certain actors or show unbreakable adhesions to surf cognitive dissonance, finally , acts as a stressor , evokes negative emotions and negatively affects our health.
Politics and psychological well-being
In the two experiments conducted in the cited study, more than 1,000 Americans were asked to keep a journal for 14 or 21 days. At the end of each day, they were to record the political story they had thought about the most that day and their emotional reactions. They were also asked to report other more general details about their psychological and physical well-being and their motivation to take any political action.
Here’s an example of a person’s 14-day diary . The blue line marks how negative your emotional response to politics was that day; here high means more negative, low means more positive. The dashed red line is a general measure of the person’s psychological well-being. We can see that the two lines seem to move similarly. On the 4th and 8th, when they weren’t thinking about politics, they felt pretty good, all things considered. In the days of big political news, not so much.
In other words: politics can really ruin your day . In this study, Democrats and Liberals had more negative emotional reactions to politics than Republicans and Conservatives, but it’s hard to discern how much of that is about partisanship and how much is just about the specific content of political news on the days that it is. they are measuring.
Politics has taken a leading role in our daily lives, which also pushes us to have more opinions about it, to go to more protests and to try to change the established, but this overexposure also negatively affects our psychological well-being. How, then, can you be committed to politics without suffering for it?
Many of the subjects reported using some type of strategy to deal with their negative emotions, such as’ cognitive reappraisal (for example, reminding oneself that a situation is not as bad as it seems, or that even bad situations can have parts good) "distraction" (disconnecting from distressing conversations or changing the channel of disturbing news) or "expressive suppression" (hiding your emotions from others in daily life)
Understandably, people frequently try to regulate their politically-induced emotions; and successfully regulating these emotions through cognitive strategies predicted greater well-being, but also weaker motivation to act . Although people can protect themselves from the emotional impact of politics, frequently used regulatory strategies appear to reduce action.
Distraction is the most relevant technique , since it is linked to news evasion. In the first study, subjects reported trying to distract themselves from politics 80 percent of the days. Those who did felt better, reporting lower levels of negative emotion. In the second study, subjects reported trying to distract themselves 56 percent of the days, compared to the first.
But being successfully distracted from politics also, unsurprisingly, reduced subjects’ interest in taking any form of political action: attending a protest, volunteering for a campaign, donating to a candidate, calling their senators, etc. In other words, political news can make you miserable, but that unhappiness can go a long way in prompting you to do something about it. That finding was consistent across Democrats, Republicans, and independents .
To examine whether an alternative approach to one’s emotions could prevent this engagement, emotional acceptance was measured in one of the experiments (i.e., accepting one’s emotions without attempting to change them) and found that successful acceptance predicted increased daily well-being, but not an impediment to political action.
Overall, this research highlights how politics can be a chronic stressor in people’s daily lives, underscoring the far-reaching influence politicians have beyond the formal powers vested in them.