I had been thinking about doing this for a long time but my thoughts weren’t being translated into action. But then, it’s never easy to break a longstanding habit, especially one that’s instilled in childhood. It requires a compelling reason and an enormous amount of courage—more so if you’re in my profession.
Then finally, one day, on a blessed morning, I gathered the courage—to tell my newspaper vendor to stop delivering the morning newspaper. I had had enough of starting my day with bad news from around the world [most of which had little to do with me and my life anyway].
For millions of people around the world, the newspaper is an integral part of the morning ritual. Such is the force of habit that on days when the newspaper is not delivered, there is a feeling of incompleteness. [I know people who find no joy in their morning tea or coffee without the newspaper.]
Injurious to wellbeing
What most people don’t realise is that reading the newspaper [or watching the morning news], is injurious to their wellbeing. By their predominant focus on what’s wrong, newspapers create the impression that our world is full of opportunistic, manipulative, and wicked people. Reading [or watching] such news gives rise to a disturbing feeling: an appalling mixture of sadness, disappointment, annoyance, irritation, hopelessness and, frequently, anger. These negative feelings, in turn, damage our physical and physiological health. Early mornings ought to be happy and hopeful—after all, they set the tone for the rest of the day.
By their predominant focus on what’s wrong, newspapers create the impression that our world is full of opportunistic, manipulative, and wicked people
Here are a few quick lessons from my experience of the past few days of living without a newspaper:
- I notice that I am less cynical and more optimistic
- I don’t miss anything important. [What I miss are stories of scams, scandals, crimes, cheating, match-fixing and doomsday predictions—all of no use to me]
- I have more time to myself, which I can now use constructively—exercising, meditating, reading, or just spending more time with family
- If there’s something important that I must know, I get to know it through others—there are always those who are up-to-date.
I am not alone
Funny thing is, ever since I gave up on news, I learnt about many more who have done likewise, making me realise that it’s not just me who thinks of news as being hazardous. More and more people are recognising that they are better off without it.
A few weeks into my news-free existence, I read a book titled The Four Hour Work Week, in which the author Timothy Ferris explain how ‘eliminating the unnecessary’ is vital to manifesting your dreams. As he urges us to go on a ‘low-information diet’, one of the things he suggests is—you guessed it—cutting out news.
I have more time to myself, which I can now use constructively—exercising, meditating, reading, or just spending more time with family
Then, a few months later, as if to reinforce my decision, I came across an interview of best-selling Swiss novelist Rolf Dobelli in which he explains why he stopped consuming news. Dobelli, who is the author of The Art of Thinking Clearly, credits his decision to another best-selling author, Nassim Taleb—best known for his path-breaking book The Black Swan. Dobelli says that seeing Taleb function without news, he felt he could too. So he gave it up. “I thought it was a very good concept, saves a lot of time and makes a lot of sense. News does not allow you to make better decisions about important things in life. It does not offer any competitive advantage. So I haven’t consumed news since then and it has been a very good journey. News is to the mind what sugar is to the body. It is not good,” Dobelli said. In the rest of the interview, he goes on to explain how one can function perfectly well without reading, watching or listening to news.
Some weeks after that, I began reading Reinventing The Body, Resurrecting The Soul by Deepak Chopra. In his very first chapter, he warns us about how news actually affects our physiology. He writes, “The brain takes in the information, converts it into chemicals, and lets the whole body know if there’s trouble in the world. Quite literally, you are metabolising the news and suffering from the toxins it contains.”
Consume less news
Every time I read about the perils of news, it feels like an endorsement of my decision—as if the universe was reassuring me. Perhaps you too should revisit your long-standing habit and cut down the consumption of news, if not altogether eliminate it. Try it for a few weeks. Believe me, what you will miss is utterly worth missing.
If the morning newspaper [or TV news] is a habit for you, try breaking it by replacing it with something more useful such as yoga, a morning walk or even reading a good book. Give this a shot for a month. You can always go back to reading/watching news if you don’t see your life improving. Going by my experience, what you’ll gain is worth a lot more than what you’ll lose. Believe me: starting the day by reading a newspaper is not a virtue it has been made out to be—if anything, it’s a vice.
A version of this article was first published in the February 2012 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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