The Azure Window in Gozo (as seen in HBO'S Game of Thrones)
Photo by Bruce Weinstein
My wife and I recently spent a week in Malta and Gozo, two spectacular islands in between Sicily and Tunisia. I decided to follow what Dr. Andrew Weil calls a news fast: some time off from the steady stream of horrific stories about our world that newspapers, broadcast and cable news programs, and Internet sites regularly present.
"I'm not advocating that you become uninformed about the state of the world," Dr. Weil states. "But in addition to the recommendations I make about how to nourish your body, I think it is important to become aware of what we put into our consciousness as well." He suggests that "images and reports of violence, death and disaster can promote undesirable changes in mood and aggravate anxiety, sadness and depression, which in turn can have deleterious effects on physical health."
I'm here to report that my one-week news fast worked wonders on my mental health. It was lovely not to hear a single thing about the U.S. presidential election for days on end. In fact, the only time the issue came up was when a shopkeeper in San Lawrenz, Gozo, asked us what we thought about Donald Trump. We didn't even have time to answer before he launched into a passionate monologue about his fears regarding a Trump presidency. I was both engaged by his deep-seated feelings about the matter and suddenly anxious in a way I hadn't been for almost a week.
You don't have to fly to a small island in the Mediterranean to engage in a restorative respite from the news. You don't even have to spend a week away from your news source of choice. Jeremy C. Park, president of the Lipscomb Pitts Breakfast Club, a forum that brings together members of the Mid-South business community for philanthropic purposes, regularly does news fasts, even if it's just a day or two at a time. "They give me a chance to recharge my battery, to focus on enjoying life and time with my family and friends, and to get out and serve in my community," he told me.
I've had the pleasure of presenting at one of Jeremy's business meetings and becoming friends with him, and I've seen first-hand how he is able to keep up with local news without becoming overwhelmed by the sense of despair that this news can promote. The programming mantra, "If it bleeds, it leads," may result in high ratings, but it can also result in high anxiety (with apologies to Mel Brooks) that doesn't always correspond to having useful knowledge. Yes, your local telecast helps you know more about what's going on in your city, but at what personal cost to you? And how important is that information in the first place?
I'd be keen to hear about your own experiences with the news fast. Post your comment below or write to me via my website.
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