Mindful Ways To Stay Informed

Mindful Ways To Stay Informed

News has a huge impact on us. It can shape our thoughts and actions; it can influence how we live our lives. The news affects us both mentally and physically. When we hear of world events we can become both overly sensitive and yet desensitised all at the same time. We become overloaded by the brief snippets of "information" that tell us nothing, making us believe everything is awful and it's only going to get worse.

We're told "the news" keeps us informed, but does it really? News moves fast. The big news one day suddenly vanishes the next; we're not really told what's happening, only a few minutes of vague information and then onto the next bulletin. Traditional news is predominantly shocking or heartbreaking, the type of news you can do without watching, reading, and listening to.

I haven't read or watched the news in several years. As someone who studied media, buying almost every newspaper available and spending hours of my day scouring articles and watching news bulletins; it still feels strange to me that I no longer consume "the news". I felt overwhelmed by it all. I felt saddened and frustrated and helpless. Whenever I heard about something bad happening I became disturbed by it; I felt increasingly distressed by what I was seeing and hearing, and I felt helpless to do anything about it. Reading The News: A User's Manual by Alain de Botton and The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein solidified the changes I needed to make when consuming information.

I stopped picking up the papers or watching the news on TV. I realised a lot of "the news" wasn't really news at all. Half of it is gossip, most of it is filler, and the rest is largely irrelevant to our lives. Most of the happenings in the world were beyond my influence; I had no power over how they played out. The issues I cared deeply about were ones I actively pursued, without the help of those oh-so-brief daily news bulletins.

Mindful Ways To Stay Informed

Every news source has an agenda and bad news sells. It stokes the flames of outrage and prompts dramatic responses designed to influence your opinions and change your behaviour. More often than not, "the news" is a poor representation of reality; it's put through a filter and the things you do end up hearing about are largely beyond your realm of influence.

We often feel we need to consume "the news" in order to know what's going on in the world; to stay informed and have a valid opinion. But mindful consumption of news is so much more important to our mental health and wellbeing. If you want to stop listening, how do you stay informed?

Mindful Ways To Stay Informed

Limit Your Sources

We only have a finite about of time and energy to devote to causes. "The news" wants you to feel overwhelmed and hopeless so you rely on others to make the best decisions for you. Limiting your sources of information by focusing on what matters to you the most will enable you to free up that valuable time and energy required to dig deep into specific issues and actually have an influence on them.

Avoid generalised news sources such as televised bulletins, tabloids, news roundups, and radio segments. All sources have an agenda of some sort but favouring sources of specific information rather than general news means you're more likely to get neutral and objective facts as opposed to speculation and opinion. Websites such as National Geographic, New Scientist, Psychology Today, and research papers are much more reliable sources of information than newspapers and news programmes.

Don't forget to edit your social feeds. Unfollow not only news sources but also anyone who promotes or circulates fake news and false information. Notice how certain people make you feel and if you find their feed to be intrusive or unhelpful, don't be afraid of removing them especially if they are negatively affecting your mental health.

Keep News Consumption Brief

If you're reluctant to say goodbye to "the news" altogether and feel you need to it to stay connected, set some boundaries and keep your consumption brief. It can become habit to check news feeds whenever you pick up your phone but what we hear about in "the news" can have a dramatic effect on our mood and our day. If you find yourself experiencing negative emotions after consuming news, try breaking the habit of compulsively reaching for your phone whenever you have a spare moment.

News can have a huge impact on how your day plays out so don't make it the first thing you do when you wake up or the last thing when you go to bed. Instead set certain times of the day to check in with your feeds, this will limit the amount of time you devote to reading articles. Avoid skimming headlines and don't share links unless you've read the full article.

NPR's Up First and the BBC's More or Less present the biggest stories and explain the statistics behind "the news". If you want to keep your news consumption brief, to the point, and more factual then I recommend having a listen to both.

Maintain A Balance

There are plenty of good things happening in the world but if you listen exclusively to "the news" it might not feel like it. Bad news sells, after all. Invite positivity into your life by following sources that share uplifting feel good stories. It could be individual accounts (I share positive stories on my Twitter weekly) or specific news feeds that focus on affirmative action.

Positive News publishes news and articles on society, economics, science, and the environment, and release monthly positive news roundups to leave you feeling optimistic and enthusiastic about the future. The Happy Newspaper is a similar publication sharing positive news, wonderful people, and celebrates all the good happening in the world. Reddit shares links to uplifting and inspiring news stories from around the world on /r/uplifting.

Do you consume news? How does it make you feel?
Let's talk about it in the comments.

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Mindful Ways To Stay Informed