It’s hard to believe it was just a few short decades ago when life here in Vermont didn’t really have much to do with the rest of the world. Days went on, as the sun rose and set and whatever news we got came in small doses and mostly at a time of our choosing. Times have changed, we live in a “plugged-in” world now. Our exposure to the news of the world can be constant if we let it. Let’s face it, the news we are exposed to via radio, television, internet and print, is stressful. But it is not inescapable and taking a small break, a “news fast,” may do us some good.
The definition of a news fast simply means opting out of watching the news on television, listening to it on the radio, reading newspapers, or following the news on the internet for a few days or even a week or more at a time. Noted holistic doctor, author and speaker, Dr. Andrew Weil believes “taking periodic breaks from the news can promote mental calm and help renew your spirits. In this way, the anxiety and overstimulation catalyzed by the media may be minimized, and your body will function better.”
At this point, I have been on a news fast for the better part of two weeks. Here’s some of what I’ve observed, as well as some tips that can help you on your own news fast.
Identify your news exposure points: In the morning when we wake up, often, we look at the phone, we turn on the radio, the TV. As an alternative, try enjoying the silence of the morning. You may have to change the radio station or leave the television off, or simply turn on some music.
Fill the gaps: As mentioned, the news is full of things that don't make you feel good. You will find that you spend a lot of time just passively taking in things that do not elevate your spirits in any way. Try to fill these times with more productive and positive media. Listen to self-help audiobooks or podcasts about something you’ve always wanted to know about.
Avoid temptation: Scrolling social media is full of opinions about the news of the day. If you cannot skip social media altogether, try this — in the midst of your social media scroll, you come across a current event/news post, that’s your signal to break away from that social media. Avoid the temptation. You see a shocking news story, turn away, put it down.
Get a hobby: In my experience, after about a week of not having to worry about things I could not change, I began to preoccupy myself with those things I could change. Thoughts, ideas and creative solutions to challenges I had been wrestling with began suddenly coming to light. Craft projects long put off I have now begun.
Do the work: Now that you’ve removed the worry generated from the news of the world, you’ll begin to realize you’ve become less angry, stressed, anxious or fearful. Your mind has been calmed and given a chance to think about the other things of more direct importance in your life. Remember that project you’ve been putting off because things just weren’t right? Suddenly you may have the spark of an idea as to how to get it done. Listen to your mind. Don’t scroll your media feed. Do the work your mind is asking for and get the job done. More creation, more solutions, more ideas, of your own design, will come! As they do, take those challenges and make the change.
The classic Serenity Prayer says “… grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.” I’ve learned hearing the news about “things we cannot change” sets our minds in motion to attempt to solve the unsolvable. This, in turn, creates worry and, at best, muddies the waters of our minds as we continually reflect on the strife that besieges the greater world outside our influence. This is hardly serene.
However, when distractions of the “things we cannot change” are removed, our minds set on solving the challenges posed by the things that we can change. We become preoccupied in a space where problems can be solved within our own life, our own family, our own community.
And isn’t this where it all really matters? Isn’t news of our community, our friends and neighbors, making progress together, overcoming challenges and doing great things right here worth paying attention to?
Rob DiTusi is a Rutland Integrative Health Licensed Massage Therapist.