Let’s face it. Mindfulness is difficult in a world that seems to invite stress at every turn.
One huge source of stress is the news. News stories serve up conflict, disasters, and worse case scenarios. Watching the evening news on tv is like a trip to an alternate universe, especially for women who have empathetic qualities.
For women who want a balanced life, it’s hard to maintain a calm centre if we follow the news and absorb it on a regular basis. It can become almost addictive to watch and talk about the news because our bodies can respond with a burst of adrenaline that gives us temporary energy.
But with a mindfulness practice, you can tap into a stronger, deeper source of energy. In that energetic state, you are much less likely to allow your external environment to control or overly influence your state of well being.
In fact, going on a complete media diet every once in a while will allow you to maintain a more balanced perspective and peaceful life. By quieting the outer voices influence your thoughts and feelings, you can tune into guidance from within.
Here are five reasons why going on a media diet is a good idea.
1. Escaping the Blame and Shame Game
Social media can take a story around the world faster than ever before. Before we know it, the blaming and shaming has begun. The anonymity of the internet allows people to say things that they would never say in other social situations.
But what is really happening when someone blames or shames someone else? They’re in some pain themselves. By projecting that on to someone else, it becomes a vicious cycle of harm.
How to stop it?
Take a stand for connection, love and compassion and escape that vicious cycle.
And hand in hand goes:
2. Taking Responsibility
Responsibility is simply the ability to respond to situations instead of reacting.
We’ve all seen and even had those reactions, maybe even been a target of them.
But think about this for a moment:
If external conditions have to be a certain way for us to feel okay, we become a victim. If a partner or friend or colleague has to act in a certain way for us to be happy, we become victims, endlessly seeking an answer to our problems outside ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong.
It’s okay to feel sad or angry when something happens, but taking responsibility means that we don’t have to act those feelings out or tell the same story over and over.
Instead we recognize that it’s an inside job and take whatever steps are necessary to deal with them.
Unless we’re addicted to drama:
3. Letting Go of Drama
A few years ago a friend of mine heard a story in the news about a child who had been harmed. The child was the same age as my friend’s daughter and she spent some time being scared for her own child.
It was a natural reaction.
Fortunately, my friend realized that she was identifying with the situation, and took steps to deal with her own feelings about the story. But it’s very easy in that situation to get caught in the drama of it.
Drama is going to happen in your life whether you go on a media diet or not. However, it’s really an opportunity to look at your role in the drama, and to use it as a way to get clearer about who you are and what’s important to you.
4. Seeing Through the Illusion
In his book The Angels of Our Better Nature, author and researcher Steven Pinker shows us that we are really in the best of times. Regardless of the endless stories of war, child poverty, incarceration, mass shootings, etc, he has data that demonstrates that violence has been in a decline for a long time.
Are you surprised?
This points to media’s role in the portrayal of a world that seems increasingly insane. The emphasis on bad news is an illusion and it’s impossible to know what is true and what isn’t.
Staying away means we have a chance to see the good in the world.
And there’s another benefit:
5. Better Health and Well-Being
When we hear news that makes us fearful, angry, frustrated, our body goes into fight or flight.
Adrenaline kicks in enabling us to be ready to fight or run. But if we’re sitting watching news or on social media on a smart device, we don’t do either. Our body’s response serves us in a real situation, but not when we’re passively taking in stories of mayhem.
With nowhere for us to use up the adrenaline, we become adrenaline junkies. We use anger as fuel, and then need a constant supply.
With a mindfulness practice, anger and frustration can be transformed into passion, purpose and action by tapping into our creative source.
Try These Five Things Instead
If you’re still here, I congratulate you.
You’re ready to change how you respond to the world: you’re ready to try a media diet.
Or at least you’re curious.
Or maybe you’re ready to start by reducing your time with the media and seeing what happens.
Whatever you choose, you might want some alternatives.
So here are some ideas for what to do instead:
Mindfulness Practice #1. Get Out in Nature
Take a walk by yourself or with a friend.
Or just get out in nature and be.
If weather and time of year permits, take your shoes off and get connected to the earth.
Mindfulness Practice #2. Just Breathe
When we’re stressed, our breath can get very shallow.
To benefit your body, take five or ten minutes throughout your day to focus on your breath.
Allow it to slow and deepen.
Concentrate on feeling it all around your body, not just in front.
Use this free breathing meditation.
Mindfulness Practice #3. Create a Playlist of Uplifting Music
Whatever your musical taste, from classical to hip hop, create your personal list of inspirational music.
Name your playlist, eg, 27 Most Uplifting Songs Ever
Here’s one to start with – John Lennon’s Imagine, tuned to 528 Hz.
Put them on your phone or ipod or mp3 player so you can listen any time.
Mindfulness Practice #4. Seek Out Good News
The good news that happens in the world far outweighs the bad news, yet that is not the balance we experience tuning into our usual media outlets.
Or start your own collection of good news channels.
And finally, of course:
Mindfulness Practice #5. Do Something That Brings You Pleasure
Take a relaxing bath.
Call a friend on the phone. (and yes, people can still use their phone for more that texting!)
Read a vacation book even if you’re not officially on vacation.
Skip, dance, or bounce to keep the energy moving through your body.
Paint, write or draw and get your creative mojo on.
It’s a great way to have a stay-cation. Enjoy it.
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