The News: Should We Pay Attention to It or Just Be Happy?

You don’t have to be a news hound to know the top stories in the headlines this week.  You can walk through the check-0ut counter at the grocery store, turn on your radio or TV, or surf around on your computer.  News stories, mostly bad or inflammatory, scream at you all the time.  It’s hard to escape.  I don’t mean to add to those voices, but I want to share some of today’s headlines:

BP: First try at inserting siphon tube in oil pipe fails

Thai PM warns of civil war as toll mounts

Death sentence over China kindergarten attack

Thousands of Non-Profits May Lose Tax-Exemption

Taliban Say They Killed 4 Afghan Interpreters

There were a few uplifting headlines  like California Woman Earns College Diploma at Age 94.

For the most part, the news stinks.

And I didn’t even include any political or economic headlines. Those are the stories that can get one’s panties into a real wad. The nicest people can turn into complete trolls when they hear something about politics or money that pushes a button. The talking heads on the news programs just inflame the situation further.

I’ve never seen such  incivility and bad manners in all my life.

Watching the news, reading headlines, following political commentary — it all just makes your veins pop out. Have you ever seen someone actually yelling back at the television and calling the commentator some unspeakable names?


I’m embarrassed to say I’ve had political conversations that that turned, well, pretty tense. With people I really like.  So many people  like to talk about the  news and recount how terrible things are and how the world is going to pot.  It makes you want to hyperventilate.  None of this can be good for you.

But unless you want to cloister yourself away and detach from any of the electronic devices we all have become so attached to, you are going to have that stinkin’ news in your face all the time. What to do, what to do?

There are people who have detached and seem to live perfectly normal lives otherwise.

They have no idea what is going on in the news and are completely blissful in their ignorance. I’m sure they are happier, less stressed and probably much nicer people.

But here’s the big question for you: do we have an obligation to ourselves, our children or grandchildren, and to society, to stay informed and try to change the world for the better?

If so, how connected and informed must we be? And how can we make a positive impact and create any real change for the better? Is it possible to stay informed and take action without turning into angry, stressed out, bloviating bobble heads?

As a former news junkie, I have been examining that question for myself. Through my work as a life coach and by reading some really great blogs and books about personal growth and life balance, I have come to the conclusion that it is possible to strike a balance between staying connected to important world events and remaining a calm and happy person.

Here are some ideas for achieving that balance that you might consider for yourself:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend reading or listening to the news. Give yourself ten or fifteen minutes to scan headlines and read a few full articles.
  • Don’t listen to or read news stories first thing in the morning or before bed. The early morning hours should be calm and positive to set the tone for the day. At bedtime, don’t fill your head with negative, upsetting or disturbing information.
  • Be discriminating about the news you read or listen to. Focus on the stories that are truly important, as well as positive and uplifting stories. Avoid salacious news with gratuitous images of sex and violence.
  • Avoid protracted conversations about bad news or controversial topics. Don’t give in to the need to offer your opinion unless it’s invited. And even then, it’s often best to keep quiet.
  • Be the voice of balance and reason, if you are involved in a potentially inflammatory conversation. Listen consciously more than you talk. Acknowledge the other person’s point of view as valid.
  • Stay open to a variety of news sources and opinions. The media is now about as polarized as the politicians. Listen to many points of view and read an array of outlooks on the same topic. Then form your own stance.
  • If there is a topic you feel particularly interested in or drawn to, learn as much about it as you can. Become well-informed so that you can speak intelligently about it and perhaps make a difference in your area of interest.

Here are some ways you can contribute.

  • If you want to become more politically active, read this article about how to do that.
  • If you want to contribute to helping the environment, here are 21 practical ways.
  • Show your support and care for our soldiers overseas.
  • Help the economy through small efforts and spending habits.
  • Make a contribution for relief and reconstruction in Haiti.
  • Read this list of 100 ways to make a difference in your community and pick one!

You can remain a balanced and happy person while staying informed about world events and news — even unpleasant or contentious news. By managing your media intake and taking small actions to make a difference, you will feel more in control of the world around you. And you will be making a contribution for positive change and peace. I think that’s why we are here, don’t you?

If you want to make bold changes for the better in your life, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary telephone coaching session at [email protected]

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Comments

  1. Jean, Great advice. I find I can get caught up in bad news, it can shape my mood and send my day in a direction that is almost subconsciously negative. Balancing being happy, healthy and informed isn’t easy, but choosing wisely and taking a break are great ideas. I’ll have to dig into some of your links once bootcamp is over.

  2. So sorry Barrie! I called you Jean. I’ve been chatting a lot with Jean from Virgin Bloggers and it just popped out. My apologies. Guess my brain’s full of A-list clubber names.
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Why You Should Eat Dessert First and Save the Peas for Later =-.

  3. Barrie Davenport says:

    Hi Katie,
    I’ve done that too! No problem. I always appreciate your thoughtful comments and being a regular visitor to my blog. Now I’m going to pop over to yours and say hello!
    Barrie

  4. Barrie:

    I ignore the news entirely, and the only show I watch is “Charlie Rose” — when he has an author on.

    When it comes to reading the newspaper, I read book reviews and dining articles.

    When peopel want to “fight” with me about politics or religion, I listen and for the most part don’t get involved. It’s not worth it.

    Nice post once again 🙂

    Steve

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thanks Steve. You are wise to remove yourself from all of the negativity. I like to learn about world events and different opinions, but not at the expense of my peace of mind! It isn’t worth it — you are right!
      Best,
      Barrie

  5. Omg what an awesome topice. I think about this issue ALL the time. I feel an obligation to stay informed and be a connected citizen (though how does that really help anything??) but then I do get infuriated with much of what you mentioned above. Political yakkers and environmental disasters are my personal hot buttons. I like your advice and will put them into practice so I don’t drive myself and others crazy.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Jodi,
      I think there is something to staying connected just to be an engaged citizen. But I have to strike a balance. Especially with politics. Yuck. It can get really ugly.
      Thanks for being such a great supporter.
      Hugs,
      Barrie

  6. Barrie:

    Good article. The news can have such an insidiously negative effect on our happiness and well being. I see it as a financial adviser. People watch the news and get whipsawed emotionally into making life destroying mistakes with their finances.

    Personally, I choose never to watch or listen to the news. Because of my profession and personal involvements being detached from the news is not an option. But by only reading the news either in the newspaper or online I can scan headlines and only spend a limited amount of time on any given topic. I choose which to spend time on and how much time to devote to it. In addition I choose to read only articles which are really necessary for me to have in-depth information on.

    The other advantage of reading is it lowers the emotional impact. Broadcast journalism (I use that term loosely) is amped up emotionally so that it keeps the listener riveted to the program. This greatly impacts your own emotions. This is by their design. But it still leaves you angry, sad, frustrated, etc. All negative emotions.

    So I think it is possible, as you have pointed out, to be news literate and yet protect yourself emotionally. Hope this has added to the conversation.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Doug,
      Yes, your comment did add very much to the conversation! Thank you. I guess as a financial adviser, it’s impossible to completely disconnect if you want to stay in business. I was in public relations for many years and had to read the newspaper and pay attention to all of the media every day. Then I started listening to talk radio (big mistake!!). I had to go through media detox! Now I take my news in small doses, just like you!
      Thanks for your very thoughtful comment Doug.
      Best,
      Barrie

  7. Hi Barrie,
    You have added a nice twist to the ever growing dilemma of a lot of people… to follow the news or not.

    For me personally I’ve stopped watching the news since 2004. I honestly don’t believe much of mainstream media. For the most part it is fear mongering.

    The interesting thing is I still know most of the issues because my friends and family talk about the news. So I get it in small doses–My own version of cliffs notes 🙂

    You offer good options and your advice makes a lot of sense.
    .-= Manal´s last blog ..How to Find the Light When the Tunnel Keeps Getting Darker =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Boy Manal. You have been “news free” for a long time. Good for you! I’ve really been weaning myself off of it, especially since our newspaper in Atlanta has really tanked. I don’t watch tv news anymore, so I really just picked info up from the internet. Now that I’m blogging so much, I don’t have time to read too much news. So I guess that’s one more great thing about being a blogger, right?! Thanks for commenting!
      Barrie

  8. Manisha Thakor says:

    Oooooh – what a delightful question you raise, Barrie! On one hand, it could be argued that a democratic society can only flourish if members are fully informed about the key events of the day so that they may vote in a manner that propels the country forward… but who is to say these days that “the news” is the best way for anyone to stay informed. We’re all so bombarded by information, breaking news alerts, emails, tweets, texts, pokes, and other various forms of modern day electro-shock therapy that its gotten darn hard To. Just. Think. Which of course is the whole point of paying attention to the news in the first place – to be able to think, marinate, and digest upon important issues and form opinions.

    After reading your delightful post – Me thinks I’m going to go on a selective news diet. Bravo!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Manisha,
      Yes, I think our founding fathers wanted us to be informed and involved. But I bet they never had any idea how overloaded with information we would become! I try to seek out the voices of reason on the news and in politics. There aren’t many, but I’ve seen and heard a few.
      Thank you so much for commenting.
      Warmly,
      Barrie

  9. Leah McClellan says:

    Hi Barrie,

    It’s a great thing to talk about. Me, personally, I only keep up with the news enough to know the basics of what’s going on in the world. I may scan headlines on CNN.com, I might listen to news radio in my car, or I might turn on CNN on the TV while I’m cleaning or something or need to take a break. Just enough to keep up.

    I also follow some news sources on Twitter and email. I’m subscribed to the presidential staff in several ways.

    So I tune in when I want to and ignore it when I don’t have time or the emotional energy for it. When I do watch or listen or read, I keep in mind that the media has to make a good story in order to get people to listen. It gets sensationalized–even the Weather Channel does that with tornadoes and blizzards lol (actually that’s what I watch the most of since I have friends around the country and the world–recently a friend in Oklahoma was severely affected by tornadoes and I was concerned and emailed her).

    It’s also about watching my emotional reactions to things. It’s just news. How I respond or react to it–or not–is my choice. But it’s definitely not a good idea to be constantly inundated by it. And I usually avoid people who are reactionary about it, or I just listen and nod. I don’t get into any arguments about it, which doesn’t earn me many friends of that ilk lol But that’s fine. I prefer to hang around people of similar attitudes. Lots of stuff goes on that’s terrible and most of the time we barely get even half the story, except stuff like earthquakes and so on; of course we can all agree that people are suffering and it’s awful.

    Anyway for me the balance is about being mindful of what my emotional reactions are, if any, to stuff in the news. Political stuff I generally let go in one ear and out the other lol If it’s something really good I write about it on the blog 🙂
    .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..Priorities =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Leah,
      Yep, being mindful of our own emotions is really the best defense against media sabotage! Even if we try to avoid the news, it jumps out at us all the time. It would be so nice to see headlines like, “Today More Than A Billion People Hugged Their Kids” or “Congressional Leaders Sing ‘If You’re Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands’ on House Floor.”
      It’s not gonna happen, but it would be nice!
      Thanks for your comment Leah.
      Barrie

  10. Personally, and its not for everyone but I just stay away from the news. Don’t watch it and life is so much more freeing. I find that if there is something I NEED to know, Somehow the message will get to me and I will benefit from that. Other wise it just bogs you down and it sucks! Have a great day 🙂

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi Richard,
      Yes, life is more freeing when you stay away from it. I love it when I’m on vacation and miss an entire week of it. Major world events happen and I”m blissfully unaware. So cool! Thanks for commenting.
      Best,
      Barrie

  11. Barrie, a timely post and something I have always been careful of – avoiding all the negativity in the media.

    It is incredible how saturated we are can be with negative news if we allow ourselves to be. I got rid of my TV almost years ago and I still have friends asking how I survive.

    I do catch up on the “news” online but limit myself to 10 minutes a day – though I do spend a bit more time on catching up with sports stories.

    I also avoid talking about the news with other people as they usually focus on the negativity and have their own opinion on just how bad things are. I am happy to get involved in debates about topical stories but only if it’s done constructively.

    At the end of the day it comes to knowing that there is good and bad in the world around us – it is up to us to decide what to focus on – and I know which one I prefer.

    Thanks Barrie for another thought provoking article – I hope many of your readers as a result begin to look for the good things around us:-)
    .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..How One Zen like Man Changed my Life – And Can Change Yours Too =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Hi there Arvind,
      Ten minutes a day is a great idea. Just enough to catch the headlines and read a couple of articles. The tv news can disappear as far as I’m concerned. Way too much negativity. As always, thank you for commenting. See you on the Bootcamp forum!
      Hugs,
      Barrie

  12. Eileen O'Shea says:

    Hi Barrie,
    Your blog’s name, Live Bold and Bloom, made me think of this poem:

    St. Francis And The Sow
    The bud
    stands for all things,
    even those things that don’t flower,
    for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
    though sometimes it is necessary
    to reteach a thing its loveliness,
    to put a hand on its brow
    of the flower
    and retell it in words and in touch
    it is lovely
    until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
    as St. Francis
    put his hand on the creased forehead
    of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
    blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
    began remembering all down her thick length,
    from the earthen snout all the way
    through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
    the tail,
    from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
    down through the great broken heart
    to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
    from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
    and blowing beneath them:
    the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

    Galway Kinnell , 1980

    May we “relearn our loveliness ” and, through words and touch, help others do the same. That’s the essence of loving kindness. Not always easy, but think what it would mean if more of us “flowered of self-blessing”. Pass it on, everyone!
    Eileen O’Shea

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Eileen,
      What a beautiful poem. I am flattered that my blog name conjured that up for you! I must admit, I sometimes feel like that sow (minus the fourteen teats and fourteen mouths sucking. Three was plenty for me!!). It would be nice to have St. Frances around to remind me of my perfect loveliness . . .

      Thank you Eileen,
      Barrie

  13. Great Article Barrie! I’ve thought about this alot over the years. For a long time I chose not to read or watch the news. I chose to be uninformed. Then I didn’t like feeling uninformed so I invited the news back into my life. At this juncture I’ve chosen informed not inundated as my approach. Just like your tip,
    “Limit the amount of time you spend reading or listening to the news. Give yourself ten or fifteen minutes to scan headlines and read a few full articles.” And a hearty yes to your other tip,
    “Don’t listen to or read news stories first thing in the morning or before bed.” The beginning of the day is precious, we set our thoughts and intentions and Bad News isn’t helpful. Same at night, we have the wonderful time to dream and take our last awake thoughts with us to navigate the dream. Having mediation or positive thoughts before sleep is like nutrients for the mind.
    Such an important article Barrie! So, so, so important!!!
    Thank you for this post!
    .-= Aileen´s last blog ..Zero Dollar Days =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Aileen,
      Thank you for the lovely endorsement. During the last presidential election, I think everyone became re-engaged with political news. But it was so divisive. I so wish we could have the news presented without emotion and have civil discussions and disagreements. We have our hot buttons, so I think less is better in the long run.
      I really appreciate all of your thoughtful comments Aileen.

      Barrie

  14. Barrie,
    It’s not easy to tackle the subject of news and politics gracefully, but you succeeded with this post. I confess, I was a little skeptical when I read the headline and braced myself for a rant about the state of the world and the media and the government. Thank you for not turning this post into something like that!

    My two favorite aspects of this post:

    First, that you find an alternative to the unattractive false dichotomy between “reading the news” and “being happy.” It’s perfectly possible, for example, to not read the news and simply turn into an uninformed, angry person – just as it’s possible to read the news and still choose to be an agent of positive change in the world.

    Second, I like how you focus on actions that each of us can take to not just talk about the news situation, but also change it for the better. The world has plenty of armchair critics and not enough get-out-and-do-something-about-it changemakers.
    .-= Jeffrey Tang´s last blog ..Distracted? 9 Ways to Maintain Focus =-.

  15. Great post Barrie!
    I remember reading somewhere that the daily amount of information on the front page of the New York times was more information than what human beings in the not so distance past would process in 20 years. Even if the news wasn’t so decidedly negative, the sheer amount of information is stressful.

    We won’t change the world by processing more information. We can only change it by becoming clearer and more conscious and acting from that state of mind.
    .-= Linda Gabriel´s last blog ..How to Hack Your Personal Storybook =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Linda,
      That’s a mind-blowing statistic! I guess when the news traveled by a courier on a horse, people didn’t get much of it. I wonder if over the next 200 years we will have so much input that our brains will grow, and we’ll walk around with pumpkin heads! It can be overwhelming. Ah, a little house in the woods with no phone or computer . . .
      Thanks for commenting Linda!
      Barrie

  16. Barrie, there is more of a groundswell against news these days so a big up for you for bringing it to the fore.

    I question whether there is actually ‘news’ anymore. With rolling 24 hour news programmes the content has degraded to opinion, conjecture, sensationalism and guess work. Pure hearsay.

    So you ask how we get informed? Well I generally hear about what’s going on as people often discuss the stories of the day (or regurgitate what they’ve heard or read) and, if I feel it is important to my existence (usually not) I follow it up personally in some form.

    I tend rather to inform myself with inspirational stuff or better still stop the fuelling the mind madness and be still, relax, enjoy nature and be with people who matter. That’s all good news to me!
    .-= John Sherry´s last blog ..5 Cracking Ideas For Cracking The Tough Times =-.

  17. To me, this gets back to the whole circle-of-concern vs circle-of-influence thing.

    If you spend all your time watching the news, you’re going to be all riled up over things about which you’re concerned, but over which you have no influence. You’ll achieve nothing, and you’ll be angry and stressed all the time.

    Far better to spend your time operating within your circle of influence, where you can actually get something done.

    For example, let’s say you’re concerned about the economy. Chances are, nothing you can do has any perceivable effect on the economy. So don’t spend all day watching/reading news about the economy, keeping up with all the latest stats, ranting with your coworkers about what the government should be doing, etc. Instead, learn just enough (and keep yourself updated just often enough) to understand what’s going on in general terms, and how it might affect you (layoffs, housing prices, interest rates, investments, etc). Then spend your time working on your own personal response to the situation. You might seek a part-time job to boost your income, or come up with a debt-reduction plan to make sure interest rate rises won’t hurt you too much, move your investments to something less risky, start your own business, grow your own food, reduce your living expenses, build up an emergency fund, etc.

    You don’t need to live in ignorance of what’s going on in the world, but you can’t spend all your time “staying informed” and never acting.
    .-= Darren (Green Change)´s last blog ..Thinking Different =-.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Darren,
      Thank you for that really thoughtful and informative comment. It could be a post all on its own. I agree with you. The most effective change we can make is within our sphere of influence. Whining and moaning does very little toward making things better. I hope you will visit again!