Some days, it’s easy to get too much news. Local news tells us how many people had home invasions, drive-by shootings, violent attacks, house fires and financial violence by fraud. National news tells us how bad the backgrounds of key candidates are, how many lost their homes in natural disasters, and how unbalanced the national budget is. International news tells us countless stories of unrest, famine, oppression, and war in many countries. How do you feel after taking in a half hour of such news? Probably not joyful and energized. Don’t you feel stressed, concerned, possibly discouraged?
According to A. C. Neilson Company, the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV per day. The Pew Research Center says 40% of Americans regularly watch their local broadcast news. Thirty-eight percent are regularly watching cable news and 34% regularly watch the news on the three major broadcast networks.
How much bad news are you taking in? And how stressed is it making you feel? Dr. Andrew Weil is a famed integrative medical doctor and author. He recommends, for overall stress reduction, that we all take a “media break” or “news fast” as much as possible, for week. Dr. Weil says research shows that emotional content of news can bring moods down and increase sadness and depression. Why not try a news fast, and find out how you feel?
You can also use good news to lift your spirits and metabolism. I recently got a personal example of this effect. On August 11, 2011, the Arizona Republic ran a 3-sentence news item, enticingly entitled “Navy Destroyer is Now Serving as Artificial Reef”. I got very excited about this. I love good news, and here was a story of both repurposing a giant structure and helping the world’s degrading reefs and related biosystems. My face broke into a huge smile, my head bent closer to the paper, and my heart was racing. The article reported the 563-foot destroyer was now sunk “in a spot in the Del-Jersey-Land reef created by Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey.” (Hey, if you were the Navy, where would you store a huge ship that could no longer serve afloat?) Since I spent my public school years in Delaware, I was pleasantly jolted to hear there was now a tri-state effort to rebuild the reefs and protect the coasts. I copied the whole 3-sentence article into email and sent it to my mother and my sister, who also spent a lot of time in Delaware.
There ensued a merry exchange. My sister started searching “artificial reef photos” and came up with some extremely beautiful scenes. One example collection is at http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/02/artificial-reefs/doubilet-photography. I kept thinking about the metal-eating bacteria that are breaking down the Titanic hull. Experts have said we need to study the Titanic now, while it still exists. Perhaps the coral and similar sea life could be enticed to build up new structures before the metal of the ship-cum-reef breaks down. Following the search links, we discovered that a creature called a “soap fish” now makes its home in one reef, in what was once the barrel of a military tank’s gun. We also discovered there are reef-loving fish called “tasselated blennies”. Glad I’m only human. Can you imagine that fish introducing itself at parties?
While you may not find this particular item fascinating, how did you feel while reading it? Did you feel different than you felt when reading about the last airline disaster or the search for Muammar Gaddafi? Were you aware of feeling pleased, or even less stressed?
Given that we often hear or see news of world wildlife populations being endangered, how would you feel if you read of a turnaround? Would you feel encouraged? Would you feel happy? Listen to your system as you read about this item, also from August: Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs have doubled in population in the last 2 years, since they were at a critical low population, and the government banned fishing them. While they are still down 25% from the measured population a few years ago, they are on a definite upswing. A further rise will permit a return to some level of crabbing again.
If too much news is stressing you out, why not try reducing the amount you take in? If you love the morning newspaper, why not try reading the entertainment news and comics first, then only scanning the headlines? Notice your stress level going down and your happiness level going up. The news will wait. Your life doesn’t have to.
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