Several years ago, I stopped listening to the news.
And then one morning on my 5 minute commute to the office, I wanted to have a quick listen to find if I was missing anything. In that 5 minutes I heard that, in Stockholm, there was an up-and-coming radical right-winged group who was gaining political power and had attacked a Muslim center there.
As it was, I was heading to Stockholm within a couple of weeks to facilitate a meditation course. Being alerted now to the intense crisis that seemed to be building, I felt it was prudent for me to call my host to make sure all was still safe.
When I relayed this ‘news’, she paused, thinking, and then slowly said that she thought maybe there was some obscure group there that no one liked and she hadn’t heard of any attacks on any Muslim centers there.
And of course, I went, and everything seemed fine.
After that incident, I made a conscious decision to stop listening, watching, and exposing myself to the news. For good.
I don’t like the news. Not because I don’t want to know what’s going on in the world. But because I have a lot of other things I want to focus on……my health, studying to better serve my patients, my family and friends, writing, reading, making the world a better place…..and honestly, even without direct exposure to it, the important things still trickle into my environment. So whether or not I’m glued to the screen, I still know enough that I can make decisions, call legislators, write letters, have those conversations.
The news DOES NOT serve me in any of those areas of my life to enhance my health and well-being.
I find that news is designed to create fear. When you experience fear, you go into fight-flight. And then the thinking brain shuts down and the lizard brain (the most base part of our survival self) takes over. Rational thought shuts down. Decision-making becomes very narrow and only focused on the immediate threat of danger. Vision becomes narrow and tunneled. It becomes difficult to see a broader view of your environment.
(Does any of this sound familiar?)
Remember the ‘you-come-across-a-tiger’ analogy and how your body and brain shunts all of its’ resources to either staying and fighting that tiger or getting the heck out of there? Intense and fear-based information can ignite the same responses.
I’ve had several recent patients flop down on my treatment table, close to tears, and just mutter, “the news…..it’s just too much” followed by “I just feel so hopeless and helpless”.
I’m here to remind you that there will ALWAYS be horrible, uncontrollable events. It has ALWAYS been like that and, as far as I can see, it will continue to be like that. And the news thrives on that.
I was recently at a dinner party and one of my friends shared with me that, when she was little, the US was going through the energy crises where gasoline prices were outrageous and people couldn’t fill up their cars and had to wait hours at the gas pumps. She said, night after night, her parents had the news on and that’s what filled their house and her thoughts. She told me that she remembered crying to her mother and asking her if they were going to have energy when she grew up.
This hit home to me on so many levels:
1. This is a child. A child shouldn’t have to be exposed to this sort of information. And that being said, do adults need to be subjected to that day-after-day, week-after-week, either?
2. Why is the news on every day…..or in some households, all day long? I find the news to be like soap operas: If you just watch them on Mondays and Fridays, you pretty much get all the updates without having to slog through the rest of the days. It’s mostly repetitive, with a slight update every once in awhile.
3. Yes, it’s important to inform yourself of what’s going on in the world, but you don’t need to be consumed by it.
4. None of us have control of what’s going on in foreign government, the mass tragedy of homelessness, or whether or not a raging, uncontrolled fire is surging throughout a forest (and yes, again, good to have an idea this is happening if we want to send thoughts and prayers, call a loved one who is going through these experiences to lend support, or to send funds or to petition government officials, HOWEVER, sitting glued to the news to get a minute-by-minute update feeds into the fear machine that is our brain).
5. That was more than 40 years ago. I don’t think things have changed that much, as far as the intensity and frequency goes with reporting. And I feel like that’s pretty sad.
I have some thoughts to curb the news addiction…
because, yes, it’s an addiction……it creates an adrenalized state, which is addictive and when there’s no adrenaline coursing through your veins and creating those heart palpitations and feelings of fear, the depression starts to set in, so watching more news to get that adrenaline rush weirdly feeds that addiction to drama
1. If you are ready for a news-free fast, give yourself 40 days without a single drop of news. This means network, print and social media. Forty days helps to break an old habit and to start a new one.
2. If you feel that you might ‘miss out’ on something, find a news source, like the BBC and check in weekly to get the highlights of what’s gone on throughout the week.
3. Focus on what you DO have control over. You can control what you let into your awareness (For the most part….I live in a city that loves posting all of the most recent robberies on billboards along with the picture of the masked culprit). You can choose to read uplifting stories, listen to audiobooks, podcasts and lectures that stir your imagination and ignite your dreams. You can send your money to a local organization or donate your time to help feed those who are hungry or go play with kids who are living in shelters, go pick up trash in your neighborhood or plant a tree to create beauty and shade
Basically, you DO have control over your own actions and thoughts. Stick to that. Stay in your own lane.
4. If you have kids, peel yourself away from mindlessly scrolling through social media and focus on THEM. Go outside and play.
5. If you’re on your own, find a super, uplifting and empowering audio book. I’m loving ‘Burnout’ by the Nagoski sisters. I’m listening to it for the second time
6. The podcast ‘Transforming Anxiety’ has leap frogged me forward on my healing journey.
8. Start a Joe Dispenza meditation to change your thoughts and feelings.
9. Go for a walk and breathe.
10. If you’ve been waiting for that ‘someday’ of starting a new hobby, why not start today? Start watching how-to videos, grab a book and start reading about it, find a group who are already doing what you’re interested in and go join. My daughter taught herself how to crochet by watching youtube videos and now she’s the proud owner of legwarmers that look like strawberries along with multiple pairs of fingerless gloves.
While there’s a lot of life to be sad about (and I encourage you to also educate yourself on how to help support those who are suffering and how you might be able to help), there’s also SO much to be grateful for and to celebrate. And don’t we all need this right now?
I hosted a neighborhood block party on Saturday and my whole street came and everyone LOVED it! I saw smiles and people relaxing and kids meeting each other for the first time. I know everyone left with a happy heart….myself included.
If there’s nothing else I can do in this lifetime other than helping to create warm hearts, I’m pretty ok with that.
My hope, for you, is that you can find ways to find hope, joy and gratitude for yourself on a daily basis. Life is tough enough without the outside onslaught of constant negativity. It takes a lot of tenacity and perseverance to get out of bed everyday. And on top of that, finding things that get us excited and keeping hope alive takes even more effort.
I challenge you to find 1 or 2 things that get you excited everyday and stay committed to those. And if you haven’t found them, keep searching until you do!
I’m wishing you continued healing on your life quest, wherever you are on your journey.
Always, in healing,