Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the daily news? You’re not alone. And please don’t worry, I’m not going to try to sell you a new app or pill to alleviate your distress. What I’d like to do is share an alliterative mantra I developed for a little self-guidance around interacting with the news. It’s an easy four-step process: 1) Turn On 2) Tune In 3) Trans-“send” and 4) Turn Off.
I’ll start metaphorically with the notion of satiety. Satiety refers to the sensation that you’ve had enough to eat, and thus your stomach is satisfactorily full. This occurs during a meal (or snack time) when your stomach sends hormonal and neurological signals to your brain, which takes approximately 20 minutes. When we eat too rapidly, we continue to eat long after our stomach has reached a healthy capacity — and over time, our body eventually loses its natural ability to signal our brain (or sense the signal) that we’ve had enough. Our food shifts from a source of nourishment to a generator of chronic diseases. And if we become addicted to poor quality/empty calorie foods like sugar and processed carbs, we invite illness into our bodies.
Not long ago I realized this same hormonal function can be applied to our emotional relationship with the media. One day, as I listened to the seemingly ever-growing devastating news stories that surface on a daily basis, I asked myself, “Where do I draw the line? What is a healthy dose of current events?” We’re bombarded with news every day . . . every minute, every micro-moment. Besides print, TV, and radio news stories for which we have some control over our consumption, we now get constant news flashes across our computers and phones. It’s almost inescapable. Not only are we surrounded and constantly tempted by sources of fast food and faux food, but also fast and faux media (not to be confused with President Trump’s “fake news”). It’s a lot to take in and not always easily digestible — physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Personally, I feel it’s important to stay informed, so I’m not ready to banish all news media from my life. But it’s also important for each person to discern that fine line between staying in-the-know without overwhelming one’s psyche. Firstly, I try to choose my news sources discriminately. So when I take that first step of ingesting the news, it’s more than just a random act of reading or listening to whatever is served up from the media buffet barrage. Then I tune in. This means that when I hear about a tragedy that has befallen an individual, a community, a country (what can I say, it’s the predominant bulk of story lines), I don’t want to simply turn away or turn off the story without first acknowledging what has happened. I listen with compassion and take the third and most important step, which I have coined “trans-send.” I energetically send white light to the people and place involved, offering love and support. Paying attention to what’s happening in the world can garner greater compassion and action, even solidarity for a movement. Studies have shown that prayer, sending loving energy to someone, can make a positive difference — even when the sender’s doesn’t personally know the recipient’s.
However, if we over-indulge in the gory/melodramatic/hyped/salacious details, we can lose our sense of emotional connection and suddenly the story inflates into a soap opera or reduces to background noise. As well, many media consumers become overwhelmed, distraught, depressed, and immobilized. This leads to despair and inaction, even cynicism, causing us to emanate negative thoughts and energy — not what someone in distress needs! When we binge watch the day’s headline news, we bloat our spirit. And if it’s rambling, hyper-emotionalized, fact-less reporting, we become even more desensitized. On the contrary, our focused conscious caring really can energetically make a difference to both those featured in the news story as well as the listener/reader.
One daily practice I’ve adopted is to start my day and end my day with positive messages — listening to a meditation, a channeling, a self-improvement youtube video that uplifts my spirit and ignites my intention. In between my spiritual sustenance, I allow myself small doses of news periodically during the day. If North Korea blows itself up or Antarctica melts away, I kinda wanta know. Yet more importantly, I want those who are the victims and center of a tragic news story to have a sense that others are thinking of them and feeling for them. And once my prayer or rays of positive intention have been released, I then know for the sake of my own psyche that it’s time to step away, time to turn the news off.
So if you find yourself falling into a thoughtless lull while listening to the evening news or feeling angered and hope-less at the next breaking headline, take a deep breath, send loving light to those involved, and then take a media break.
Turn on, tune in, trans-“send,” and turn off. Namaste NPR.