4 Steps to Find Your Happy Medium with News Media
There’s a sweet spot somewhere between believing “no news is good news” and trying to keep up with absolutely everything that happens - a happy medium, or even “happy media!” Here are some insights and questions for staying sane while staying informed during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. Start with awareness
Notice your tendencies - why are you tuning in right now, right here, to this source? Is it just an old habit, or still the best choice for this moment? Are you multitasking while you listen or watch, or do you set aside time with a coffee or tea and take it all in gently? Do you find it hard to turn it off once it’s on, or do you set comfortable limits?
Consider your news intake to be part of your wellness routine - is it increasing your wellbeing, really? How does it feel in your body? Are you making yourself watch something because you think you should, but it feels terrible? You might want to reconsider something about what you’re choosing, whether the timing in your day, the type of media or the subject matter, and also your readiness for whatever it is at the time. I even give myself Reiki after hearing or seeing something disturbing or intense, especially on my adrenal glands. Deep breathing is another great, simple practice to help us engage with challenging subjects in a more healthy and empowering way.
2. Be mindful in choosing news sources
No one can keep up with everything all the time, so how do you choose? By topic, time of day, media device available, bandwidth, personal affiliation or perspective, locality, tone, level of in-depth research, soothing voices or familiar faces?
Set intentions - what do you hope to gain from tuning in to this source right now -
answers to a particular question?
comfort or social connection?
motivation to do something?
compassion for the suffering of others?
distraction or entertainment?
Combine various perspectives instead of relying on one source - it’s nearly impossible to be truly objective. Notice patterns and rhythms - what story does this news source tell over time? Do your detective work - cross-check information at least a few times for each news outlet.
Choose channels that speak to your situation - there’s a lot out there that we can’t do anything about, and that kind of reporting can get overwhelming, so be sure to take in enough practical information that’s actually useful to you, like what’s happening in your town, county or state, your professional field, circle of friends or other focused groups that you can actually relate to. As an aspiring innkeeper, I’ve found it helpful to follow the Vermont Department of Tourism newsletter for a perspective I really can’t get anywhere else. Yes, people are talking about traveling again at some point in the future, and you can bet they’re going to be heading for wellness destinations. While we don’t want to rush things, Vermont will be more attractive than ever as a safe spot to visit since our communities have come together to slow the spread of the pandemic.
Select the format that’s best for you - do you want all the stimulation of audio and video or would it be easier to take it in by skimming the headlines for a story you can curl up with on your tablet? And don’t forget that old-fashioned soft, crinkly newspaper! Our independent journal out of Burlington, Seven Days, has been one of the solid institutions holding us together and helping us cope, despite their own challenges, while other papers have cut back drastically or even closed.
3. Make Adjustments
Turn down the volume - literally! Intense information is a little easier to take in gently when it’s not blasting at you from the speakers.
Add your own soundtrack - it might make the news easier to take if you listen with some cheerful or relaxing music in the background in your own space.
Create the best atmosphere - adjust the lighting, sit somewhere comfortable, look out the window or sit outside, even try some stretching, meditation or energy clearing in the space before pick up your device. You’re probably already wearing your flannel pajamas, so go ahead and be as comfy as you can.
Send as well as receive - it can feel more empowering to send positive energy your newspaper, radio, television or computer, and imagine yourself blessing every person who writes or comes on the air or is mentioned in an article. That way you're not just a passive recipient. This also cultivates compassion, even for those with whom we disagree, and gratitude for all the people we hear about who are doing their best to help in this challenging time.
Give yourself time to process - our minds, bodies and emotions need to be able to absorb and sort through what we’ve learned. If we just keep piling it on, we can feel overwhelmed and confused, which defeats the purpose of trying to learn and be informed so we can make good decisions. It’s okay to not know exactly what we think about a story we’ve just heard, let alone what to do about it. Sometimes we need to journal or discuss things with others to fully understand our own point of view.
Take a break! Sometimes we need to keep on top of things, but eventually there always comes a time to just turn it off, put it down, and get on with the business of life. Some people do a media fast for a day or longer - does that seem like a long time to you?
Do something - whatever you hear or read, you can decide to take some kind of positive action in response, whether it’s self-care, helping others, doing research or something else that’s helpful so we don’t feel like we’re just victims of things happening beyond our control.
Share what you find genuinely helpful, uplifting and informative, to support the wellbeing of your friends and family. They might get the idea and start sharing more things you enjoy too. You can start with me! I love hearing from you so feel free to share your strategies for healthy news media consumption, and other good news you come across in your Happy Media adventures.