We’re living in a time when the bulk of news headlines are threatening in some way. Whether it’s the pandemic, wildfires, climate change, storms, or political corruption, there’s always bad news, and when we expose ourselves to it, it’s natural for our survival instincts to be triggered. Living in “survival mode” inevitably takes us out of the present and profoundly degrades our quality of life.
I’ve been writing this series on longevity to help guide people in the opposite direction – to help stoke the love of life. Of course, as I said at the beginning, it’s possible to desire longevity from a place a fear. That’s why my first recommendation was “live for now and love life.” Quality of life trumps duration.
My second recommendation was to work, stretch, and relax each and every part of ourselves on a regular basis. My third recommendation was to dance on a regular basis and to explore its potential as a tool for healing, self-awareness, and spiritual connection. You can read those articles on our blog. Let’s continue.
#4: Be Discriminating About Your Media Consumption and Take Regular Fasts
As I said above, it’s easy to be influenced by what we’re exposed to and when it comes to news media the impact is almost never positive.
The challenge is that we can become addicted to it. The addiction may be fueled by a number of mechanisms. First, almost all humans have an appetite for conflict. Even though it can be stressful, there’s also energy in the drama of it. It’s exciting and polarizing. It also feeds what Eckhart Tolle has called our “pain body” – the part of our being that feeds on pain and yearns for more when life gets too peaceful.
Second, we may be addicted to news because we believe it’s vital to stay informed – even if it doesn’t change anything about our behavior. Being informed gets us social approval in some circles, and it helps us feel we’re prepared for disaster.
Third, we may be addicted to news because we’re hoping something good will come along. It’s like the stretched, desperate feeling that occurs when we’re on a losing streak at a casino. The mind thinks, “My luck has to turn around sometime! I can’t stop now!” A similar mentality can push us to read more and more news, hoping to come across a point of view that puts us at ease.
News media have always been primarily a source of bad feelings. Now this is compounded by a new problem – not only is the news mostly dire, it also no longer serves as a trustworthy source of facts. There was a time when journalists prided themselves on unbiased investigation and deadpan delivery of the facts untainted by even an ounce of personal opinion. Today, too many people consume highly biased media and believe this qualifies as factual news.
Media fasts are an important part of psychological self-care. I recommend fasting for at least one full day each week and avoiding all media (music is okay) until after breakfast. If your mind protests, give sincere consideration to what you gain from news – and movies, articles, and other media – that’s violent, depressing, or otherwise makes you feel bad or “keyed up” afterwards. If you’re not in a position to process it in a calm, healthy way or take meaningful action to help, then it’s only degrading you.
Try to become aware of the compulsion to consume negative and sensational media. Virtually all of it is stressful. The repercussions of this stress can be insidious – low energy, distraction, difficulty making decisions, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, irritability, poor and impulsive eating choices, and a shorter lifespan.
When you choose to consume news, make sure that it really is an intentional choice – not just something to pass the time while you’re sitting on the toilet or riding the bus. Do your homework – find truly unbiased sources and draw your own conclusions. Be wary of any “reporter” who seems intent on telling you what to think. Hint: almost nothing you find on YouTube qualifies. Take advantage of your library – there are countless free audiobooks and music albums available.
Please share in the comments section about what kind of media fast you’re going to commit to. Then tell us what happened in your time away from it. Did the world end? Did you feel free and happy? We’d love to know.