AS A KID GROWING UP in Ogden, I remember hearing my grandparents, great aunts and uncles, talk about “the good ol’ days.” While I believe that we should always make the very best of “today,” and that in many ways these are the good old days, there is an old pastime I’ve come to miss—the Evening News.
Have you ever stopped to think about just how radically the nightly news format, frequency and delivery have changed over the decades? Network news had a humble beginning. Launched in February 1948 by NBC, Camel Newsreel Theatre was a 10-minute program anchored by John Cameron Swayze, and featured newsreels from Movietone News. CBS soon followed suit in May 1948 with a 15-minute program, CBS-TV News, anchored by Douglas Edwards and subsequently renamed Douglas Edwards with the News. Can you imagine, 10 and 15-minute news programs? Then on September 9, 1963, NBC did something radical— they expanded their nightly news Ryan Craner President report to 30 minutes, following a similar move by CBS!
The thing I miss about those days is there were basically two ways to get all the major headlines—the morning paper or the nightly news. Homicide, natural disaster, financial upheaval and political scandal came to us in easy–to–digest doses with nice long healthy breaks inbetween. Then came the advent of cable TV, and a news information swell began forming, finally building into a tidal wave with the Internet. Now, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from virtually every corner of the globe, hundreds of sources spew out an endless stream of news overload. In response, some might say, “What’s wrong with that? It simply means that we’re better informed than ever before.”
As a financial advisor, no one appreciates the benefits of instant access to worldwide financial and political news than I do. But, I fear that we’ve gone too far; that we’ve become obsessed or even addicted. This should come as no surprise. After all, news outlets are all about ratings because ratings equal advertising dollars. It’s a competition for consumer attention, and to win the competition the networks must keep viewers highly stimulated with novelty, provocative sensationalism, exaggeration, manipulation, illusion, contrived controversy, shock and awe. In too many instances, the news has become little more than entertainment— a quasi-Hollywood docudrama.
My concern is that too much of this high-octane, sugar-rich media diet can be harmful to our mental, emotional and spiritual health. In fact, recent studies suggest that watching the news can easily trigger significant amounts of stress. Continuously firing up our feelings of anger, anxiety or fear releases excessive levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline throughout the body. Over time, this can cause a cascade of physical health symptoms along with potential mental and emotional imbalances. This constant media over-stimulation can rob us of our peace of mind and the ability to truly be “in-the-moment” with loved ones, nature, spiritual pursuits and our selves. In short, I have some clients who are so preoccupied and stressed out by the minute-to-minute news, they are robbed of the full measure of peace and joy they should be experiencing in life.
So, in 2013, when it comes to the news, I’d like to see us all return to the “good ol’ days”—days when perusing the morning paper and catching the 30–minute evening report was enough. Here are some suggestions that might help:
1. Schedule Your News Media Consumption: News media can be like a black hole or a time warp. Once you’re connected, it’s very hard to get out, and you may find yourself wondering where the past 3 hours went. Limit the time you spend with news media by only accessing it at a predetermined time every day. For example, maybe you check in for 30 minutes in the morning at 8:00 a.m., and then again for 30 minutes at 8:00 p.m., leaving yourself all the time in between to be at peace and enjoy life.
2. Completely Disconnect Once A Week: Pick a day of the week where you can focus your attention 100% on “real life.” Shut off your TV, radio, computers, tablets and, if you’re really courageous, your phone. This day should be about giving your brain time to slow down and rest. Constant stimulation is not only addictive, but exhausting. On this day, focus on being fully present in the “now,” with everyone and everything by practicing “mindfulness.”
3. Practice Mindfulness: According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a pioneer in stressreduction, “mindfulness” means that “we commit fully in each moment to be present; inviting ourselves to interface with this moment in full awareness, with the intention to embody as best we can an orientation of calmness, mindfulness, and equanimity right here and right now.” I can tell you this is completely impossible when we stay constantly connected to the news media!
This year, spend less time focused on the news, and more time living fully in the moment with family, friends and life. Of course you should be informed, but work really hard to keep it in balance. And take some comfort in the fact that as usual, I will spend far too much time connected to the news and world events, creating enough stress for all of us!