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I talk a lot about taking a newsbreak in my Sunday columns, and I find that when I stick to avoiding the news, it makes a tremendous difference in both my mental and physical well being. When I went away last weekend, I didn’t check my phone except for texts from Allegra’s cat sitter, and the difference in how I felt was remarkable.

Being obsessed with the news is far more common than most people realize. A 2017 study by the American Psychology Association revealed that 95% of adults say they follow the news regularly. 56% say that doing so causes them stress, and 72% believe the media blows things out of proportion. I wouldn’t be surprised if these statistics are even worse now.

Our brains are wired to pay more attention to bad news. This negativity bias causes us to pay more attention to bad things and often makes them seem more important than they really are.

While I’m pretty disciplined about my weekend newsbreaks (no news from Friday evening through Monday morning,) I struggle with not repeatedly checking for news updates during the week, when I’m at the computer all day. I find it hard to balance the need to stay informed with the need to stay sane.

A recent article on Focus Me, a productivity app that allows you to block certain websites or apps, really resonated with me. While I’m not ready to admit that I need an app to help me cut back on my news consumption, I found the article extremely helpful. It dives into the reasons for our news obsession and offers perspective on how to start taking your attention back. Some of the highlights:

  • Today’s news suffers from a negativity bias – bad news increases ratings.
  • Anxiety from watching the news lingers after exposure.
  • Curate and ration your news to reduce its negative impact.
  • Try a periodic news fast.
  • If something really important happens, you will hear about it.

What resonated the most with me is the following passage:

“While today’s news cycles are often more about “outrage porn” than actually keeping us well-informed and connected, most of the world still lives in relative harmony. After all, when’s the last time you thought the world was about to collapse when you were actually walking down a real-world street? Most people aren’t at each other’s throats, arguing, hurting each other, and threatening to go to war. Most of life is still pretty darn good.

When we divert ourselves from constantly checking in with what’s happening on our phones, we begin to discover the beauty of the real world around us again. This is the world that more directly affects our physical and mental well being.”

Click here to read the full article, Obsessed with the News? Here’s How to Take Your Attention Back.

And by the way, the face of the kitty in the photo at the top is a pretty accurate representation of what my face looks like when I check the news…

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10 Comments on Sunday Quotes: The News and Your Mental Health

  1. Hi Ingrid. Its June McMahon with Sumner Spay Neuter Alliance in Gallatin TN. I believe we have communicated before on Facebook . I am taking a blogging course and the assignment was to post on a blog. I found your wonderful sight. Just want to say you have such great info. I signed up to subscribe and am looking forward to your future blogs.

  2. I do tune in to the news to get an overview of what is going on in the world….but I don’t let it get to me…I can view it dispassionately , except when it involves . I see it as part of a much larger picture that is happening on our planet.
    An excerpt from a site that I go to for spiritual perspective:
    Perhaps the most important thing to do, whatever happens or doesn’t happen, is to not get caught up in the events that are apparently occurring out in the world. In particular, it’s wise to not totally believe anything you read or hear from any news source, mainstream or alternative: there is a lot of misinformation being reported that is either purposely or unconsciously skewed to fit one agenda or another.

    At the end of the day, before closing my computer, I always go to this site for some amazing uplifting stories
    http://Www.goodnewsnetwork.org

    • Thanks for sharing the goodnews link. Whenever I learn of a new source, I use the free mediabiasfactcheck.com to find out who owns it, who manages it, and how it rates on a bias scale. Delighted that GoodNewsNetwork has a LeastBiased, High Factual Reporting, and High Credibility rating.

  3. OMG, that face made me laugh! I have to admit that I am a news junkie. When I get up in the morning, or at night, the radio is set to the new station or BCC at night for the news overseas. Thank God I still work and do not have access to the news during the day. It’s funny at work as when an alert goes off on everyone’s cell phone for either an Amber Alert or a Weather Alert. I don’t own an I phone. I think I’m the only person in the world that doesn’t have one.

  4. Thanks, Ingrid! Both your essay and the article were excellent.
    I find I have to not only restrict amount, but also be very discerning about the quality of the content I do read. I know that one can argue that quality is subjective, but as one who has worked as a journalist, and wrote a university-level course on advertising in joirnalism, I stick to sources that practice the true textbook definition of news, which is the factual: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. When journalists interject opinion, bias, florid adjectives, emotion, entertainment, etc, then it is what is taught is “yellow journalism.” Much of what the internet offers, I find, is “ yellow,” as is sadly true of what is broadcast/streamed on tv. When a tv news channel in the US repeatedly violates the factual, the FCC reclassifies it as “entertainment”, not news (and it must self-id as entertainment, even though it can use the phrase “entertainment news”). In Canada, in fact, one of the US “entertainment news” channels is listed in the channel guides among the Comedy offerings, not the news choices.
    Your modeling of an approach to restricting news consumption is timely and much-appreciated.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful perspective, Marie. True journalism is hard to find these days. I find that even my previously trusted newspaper sources are occasionally succumbing to the pressure to get readers with click bait headlines and poorly researched articles.

  5. I used to be obsessed with news, but have gotten where I don’t listen to it as much as I used to. It always focuses on the bad over and over and it does get depressing.

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