Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

Managing a different type of diet- your media diet

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In the past months since the election, media consumption has skyrocketed. People who formerly did not spend much time on social media are now sending out actionable steps regarding fast-changing laws and appointments. Many of us are sending out SOSs to like-minded friends regarding social liberties, free press, and environmental issues. Moreover, subscriptions to major newspapers and media outlets, both print and online, have increased dramatically. This has major implications for our health and wellbeing.

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This is instructive. We all need to adjust our media diets so we can balance staying informed with staying sane. Whatever our feelings may be about the election , one of the main destabilizing influences is uncertainty. No matter what the outcome of certain appointments, executive orders, and changes in laws and amendments, most humans dislike unpredictability.

There are some things we can do to adjust our media diet so we avoid fatigue and distress. Here are some ideas from some experts who have experience in this area, both first hand and professionally:

  • Avoid reading news that may be inflammatory right before bedtime.  Since the election, many of us have had sleepless nights thinking about the possibilities of our changed government.
  • If you need to decrease your anxiety about changes ahead, simply focus on how the news may affect you and your life. This may help break it down into bite-sized pieces, instead of swallowing it all at once. Of course, part of the anxiety is the state of not knowing, and this in itself is stressful. Taking it a day at a time, instead of imagining the next 4-8 years, may help.
  • A behavioral design blogger, Nir Eyal, has installed his News Feed Eradicator for Facebook and removed Facebook notifications and Twitter apps from his smartphone, and left them only on his desktop. This is an excellent way to prevent getting sucked into looking at the news every time you use your smartphone.
  • Eyal also recommends limiting consumption of sensationalized news by reading a daily newspaper that reports more valid, complete and better researched stories.   When you’ve turned the last page of the paper, you’re done for the day.
  • The emotional tone of the news has increased. As consumers become satiated by the news, media focus becomes more intense and emphasizes the negative. Try to be a consumer of “slow news.”  Just like the slow food movement, news is best consumed in a measured, controlled way, as opposed to reading everything that comes your way in any and all forms.
  • Many of us would do well by consciously trying to find more uplifting news. Check out https://www.positive.news/ and share some of that information with friends and family. In the 12 weeks since the election, visitors to this website have increased by 93 percent, and its magazine subscriptions are up by 77 percent compared with the 12 weeks before the election.
  • Balance your news consumption with activities that are replenishing, or that are creative or movement-oriented. Many of us are uplifted by art, exercise, photography, reading fiction, cooking and any other recreational pursuits that transport us from the current reality.
  • Make time to be with friends and family for support, fun, and letting loose. Social contacts are more important than ever these days, but be sure to avoid letting the conversation constantly revert to current events that negatively impact your perspective.
  • Travel, get away, and disconnect from the news entirely to give your mind and emotions a break. Balance the need for information with the need to stay sane. You can be engaged, as long as you can avoid being enraged!

Go to https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/us/news-media-social-media-information-overload.html?_r=0 to learn more.

Remember that just as a food diet makes up our bodies, what we include in our media diet inhabits our minds. Be the master of your own fate and make conscious decisions about your media consumption, instead of letting it control you. What are some of your action steps to control your media diet?

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