Want to Be Happy Now? Limit Your News Intake

It’s 2020, and that seems like quite the number.

If you’re superstitious, it might be a number to bet on, to hang your hopes onto.

Another decade. So much promise. What will the future hold?

If you follow the excitement on the news, you would think that we should all usher in the new decade with our widest smiles and our biggest hopes.

But matching your emotions to what you see on the news is a dangerous proposition.

Here’s why you should limit your news intake.

What’s the Point of the News?

It’s to keep us informed, right?

Sure, that’s usually the first thing we think of when we think of the news. These days, most of us consume our news while online, whether via social media or by going to our favorite online media sites.

But online news has a different agenda. They need to make money off of what they share. So the incentive is to show people what will keep them watching. That means fear-based stories, because fear is one of the most powerful drivers of human behavior.

More attention means more clicks on links and videos, means more time spent watching and reading, means more ad revenue for the media companies. There are different business models than this one, of course, but this is the business model that predominates in the wide-open expanses of the world wide web.

So if the goal of online media companies is to hook you with their news, is that the best option for protecting your mental health?

Handle Your Mental Health With Care By Limiting Your News Intake

When you spend large amount of time connected to the Internet, how you see the world starts to change. It has to.

With a mobile device now serving as an additional appendage for most people, access to information is only an arm’s reach away. While this modern luxury is mind-blowing in so many ways, it’s also life-changing.

What I mean is that the mind tends to latch onto whatever ideas and images are the most potent. An endless scroll of visually appealing updates from humans you know is more appealing than reading a physical book about someone you don’t. Scintillating tales that may or may not be true — and most likely aren’t true — can be more compelling than a boring old conversation with a real-life friend.

But there’s something so life-affirming with real-life conversations, whether in the flesh or on a phone. There’s automatic feedback. There’s the opportunity to learn immediately from your actions. There’s the benefit of getting emotional support and real-time validation.

Online, it’s not like this, especially with the rapid-fire news cycle. With news stories that flash by in the blink of an eye, it’s hard to keep up. Scratch that, it’s impossible to keep up. A friend’s getting engaged. Wait, no! Someone in the British royal family is getting engaged! Does a British royal count as a friend? I sure feel like I know them well at times! Why do I have so much emotion invested in someone I’ll never meet? It feels important. All my friends are talking about it online, so it must be important.

This is one of thousands of examples I could share about how our attention can be hijacked online at a moment’s notice.

Your Thoughts and Feelings Need Space

Online, there is no space. With the 24-hour news cycle, there is no space.

It’s all action all of the time. There’s very little breathing room. Everything feels so important. If you’re getting new updates about it every hour, it should be important, right?

Wrong.

You determine what is important, but if you spend most of your time checking the latest news updates (that includes the news missiles that arrive in your e-mail) you will base your emotions on something that you cannot control. Too much time online, and it’s hard to separate what’s meaningful from what’s not.

So my message to you today is to consider how the always on news machine affects your mental health.

You might be someone who can handle it without a second thought, but you’ve most likely built a system of checks and balances to do so.

Create space in your life for your thoughts and feelings. They’re too important to leave to chance.

Your incentive is not the same as someone who is trying to steal all of your focus.

Your incentive is you and your health. I think that’s the biggest incentive of all.