10 Ways to Maintain Sanity in the Face of 24 Hour News Cycle
Never before in history have humans been forced to absorb and process an endless stream of mostly bad news. How do we cope?
1. Turn it off.
Or turn on something else.
We need to turn away from the onslaught of negative news and judgmental portrayals of our fellow humans. It is too much for us to carry with us. There is so much music, poetry, literature, and so many wonderful podcasts, like Krista Tippett's "On Being, "that can lighten the load and brighten and change our perspective.
Also, heading out to nature, unplugged, taking a walk or some other exercise (maybe even unplugged?!) can reduce anxiety greatly. Allow yourself your daily news dose to stay informed and then turn it off and turn on to something that makes you smile.
4. Develop a prayer and/or meditation life.
In her book, "Illuminata: A Return to Prayer," spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson states:
"The purpose of daily prayer is the cultivation of a sense of the sacred. Sacred energy renews us. Lives with no more sense of spiritual meaning than that provided by shopping malls, ordinary television, and stagnant workplaces are barren lives indeed."
You do not have to follow a particular religion to "cultivate a sense of the sacred" by taking time each day in silence for gratitude, awe, acknowledgement, etc.
7. Seriously explore religious traditions.
In his Wall Street Journal essay, "Advice for a Happy Life," Charles Murray reflects on his own struggle with organized religion and the common modern assumption that "smart people don't believe that stuff anymore."
He encourages his readers to start researching the great religious thinkers of the ages; doing so allows the mind to open to new ideas, consider deeper possibilities and realities beyond what we are constantly told on television. In essence, we reflect and become deeper.
Murray adds, "A good way to do that is to read about contemporary cosmology. The universe isn't only stranger than we knew; it is stranger and vastly more unlikely than we could have imagined, and we aren't even close to discovering its last mysteries. That reading won't lead you to religion, but it may stop you from being unreflective."
10. Stop judging.
It is amazing how much media is consumed with judging others. From talk shows where couples accuse each other of infidelity before a roaring crowd of finger-pointers, to the intense partisan arguments which overtake our political discourse, to reality television which exposes people's messy houses and dysfunctional families, we have become no different from the crazed fans at the Roman Colosseum.
Again, Marianne Williamson in her book "Illuminata" calls judgment, though perfectly natural and common, "the hidden places where we deny love." She reminds us that "it takes discipline and vigilance to do the mental work necessary to purify our hearts." One way to stop judgment in its tracks, says Williamson, is to "look into the faces of people you see, and silently say, 'The light in me salutes the light in you.'"
This, she states, is the way to happiness.
13. Think about all the amazing people out there that are NOT on the news.
A recent read-through of The Moth Radio Hour compilation (The Moth, edited by Catherine Burns) reminded me of how GREAT we humans are, the truly wonderful and profound things that happen to us, and the uplifting and transformative power of story. If you don't want to read the stories, listen to the podcast, The Moth Radio Hour. Tell a story yourself, exploring your own depths and greatness. You will not be disappointed.
16. Get perspective.
Not only must we acknowledge that previous generations and ages were not blindsided by constant visual depictions and reports of the horrors of life, we must also admit our small place within the march of time. Our awareness of the world around us is unprecented. No wonder we can't sleep at night. It is important to note this is maybe not a normal or healthy level of exposure.
In a similar pattern of taking the long-view, author Steven Pinker, in his book, "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence has Declined," looks at violence throughout the ages and concludes that the human rate of violence has been shrinking over the course of thousands of years. In fact, we are evolving into less violent people.
Whether you believe his research or not, it is good to recognize our place in a world history that is larger than our minds, or certainly our news programs, can conceive.
19. Play with or read to a Baby or Small Child, for Real
It's a pretty simple idea. Get down on the floor and focus on playing. Sit with a child and read him or her a book. As the game continues or the pages turn, relaxation takes over. It's pretty wonderful. Kids keep us humble by reminding us what is important.
For a baby, nothing is more important than that moment. By interacting with a wee one, we can enter their reality, and forget all the ugliness blaring on the television. Observe children playing in the park; note the present way they indulge in their game; we should all try to find moments where we are truly absorbed in something, like doing a puzzle or working in the garden, that does not cause worry or stress.
These things are very much like child's play in their level of intent and the in-the-moment presence they inspire.
22. Clean out a drawer or closet.
Watching the world seem to spin out of the control on the news makes us almost feel short of breath. The reality that there is very little we can do about the bad things we are confronted with is a hard concept to live with.
The creative recovery expert and author Julia Cameron, in her famous book, "The Artist's Way," suggests cleaning out drawers and spaces and getting rid of physical things that weigh us down as a means of freeing our spirits, minds, and creative selves from what has become literally the weight of the world on our spirits. In this way, we find movement, productivity, and progress in that which overwhelms us, rather than the feeling we are drowning.
There are so many cliches relating to laughter I almost feel embarrassed including this. However, when do we really let go like we do when we are caught in side-splitting laughter?
To use one of the aforementioned cliches, laughter really is the best medicine, and it is really hard to laugh when watching even ten minutes of a typical nightly report on television.
We need to, on a daily basis, find something or someone who makes us laugh and have at it. Life is wonderful but it is also absurd and if we don't laugh at our own foibles we won't make it. One book that recently made me laugh heartily was Bill Bryson's "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid." Maybe you will enjoy it too.
28. Remember: The good DOES outweigh the bad, for sure.
Again, another cliche, and I do not have articles or books to back up this statement, but I know this is true. On the news, we hear many stories about violence and cruelty, but most of our lives involve countless, countless unmentioned and unrecorded DAILY acts of kindness and love. Small miracles, acts of grace are raining down on us if we choose to see them.
Maybe each night, after we turn off the television set, we can promise to acknowledge and be grateful for the bits of light cast our way and promise to brighten the way for someone else tomorrow.