by Clark Zimmerman, LAc.
I do a cleanse every spring. In addition to avoiding sugar, alcohol, coffee, dairy and gluten; I also up my water intake, exercise and meditation. I typically begin reluctantly, and become a little impatient and crabby until I get over the hump and start to feel energized and more alive. When I did my annual cleanse this year though, something was a little different. I was avoiding all of the problematic foods as I normally do, and I was exercising and drinking plenty of water, but I couldn’t seem to get over the hump. I was still grouchy a week into the cleanse. Then my wife mentioned to me that she noticed that every time I read the news my mood would sour and I would become visibly distressed. She suggested I go on a “news diet” which involved avoiding the news for one week, instead reading something inspiring or that would promote personal growth. I reluctantly agreed and though it took some getting used to, something interesting happened. My mood lightened, my sleep improved, my conversations changed. I ended up taking a month away from reading the news and it seemed to have a greater impact on me than all of the dietary changes that I was making. I then realized how much of an impact being so plugged into current events was having on my health.
People used to get their news from the newspaper or from word of mouth. Then television came along, and now we have the many news feeds the internet, twitter and Facebook. It seems that everywhere you look there is the news pushing into our lives. It is one thing to be informed, it is another to be fixated. While we should be informed about the world we live in, we should also be careful not to become saturated and overwhelmed by the huge amount of information available.
Many of us start our morning by checking some sort of news source, which tends to begin our day on a stressful note. Then we check in throughout the day, constantly reminding ourselves of the conflict and anxiety that is part of being alive. Unfortunately most news sources owe their existence to the reporting of the dramatic and terrible things that are going on in the world. It is rare to read good news, because so often the good things that are happening in the world are underreported as they don’t garner as much interest from the readers. Media companies are first and foremost businesses so they mostly report on things that make them the most money. Unfortunately this gives the impression that the world is more dangerous and depressing than it truly is.
So how do we stay informed without becoming overwhelmed? The answer to this question is different for everyone, but I would suggest asking yourself whether your news intake is helping you become a better, more helpful person, or is it creating excessive amounts of anxiety in your life. One way to get some perspective is to do a news fast of some sort. It may be a few days, weeks or months. The trick is to give yourself enough time to create some room for perspective. Try to find where your personal threshold is to be informed enough to a helpful participant in the world, without becoming numb or overwhelmed by all of the pain and suffering which is a part of life. Another thing that I find helpful is to find sources of positive, solution based news to mix in with news of the worlds problems. If we find inspiration from the news it can create more joy and hope in our life, which can help us stay healthy and engaged in the practice of making the world a better place.