FANNING: How to feel better by watching less news


By Ben Fanning, contributing editor  |  I noticed a few weeks ago that I was feeling anxious and paranoid.

What had changed? I ran through my mental list of family, friends, health and career…all OK.



Then I looked down at my phone and noticed something different. On my home screen, there was a list of news headlines from an Apple News app that had automatically downloaded.  Aha!

You see I hadn’t realized that every time I picked up my phone I was seeing the top news headlines…most of which were loaded with bad news.  This subtle change had slowly increased my anxiety and fear.

Bad news is irresistible

Intelligent news organizations understand that we, humans, have a “negativity bias,” which is a collective hunger to hear and remember bad news.  Thus when you watch, listen or read the news you’re probably getting a carefully curated dose of bad news.

It’s just like a radio station that plays the most popular songs.  The news plays the top negative stories to keep you engaged.  If you’re not careful, this can trigger a downward spiral of sadness and even despair.

Time to approach your news differently.

Try this to feel better right now

When I removed the Apple News app from my phone, I immediately felt better!

In the Four Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferris recommends going on a “Low Information Diet:”

“Just as modern man consumes both too many calories and calories of no nutritional value, information workers eat data both in excess and from the wrong sources.”

Here are five ways you can implement this strategy today ranked from least to most ruthless:16-1114-newsapp

#1 Set the timer when you read the news.  Set the timer on your phone for 10 minutes and when that time is up, stop reading for the day. Side benefit: Note how much faster you’ll read.

#2 Add a positive news source. The majority of news sources load up with bad news. Intentionally add a source with a positive perspective like:

  • TED
  • The Huffington Post Good News Section
  • Charleston Currents – That’s what we do here!
  • Upworthy
  • The Good News based in Pakistan…yes we rarely hear good things about this country but wow!

#3 Limit yourself to one to two headlines a day.  Only permit yourself a few stories a day, and you’ll become more selective.

#4 Reduce your news intake from uncontrollable sources.  As soon as you turn on the TV or radio, you’ve lost control. You’ve become a captive audience. Select your news before you listen by utilizing podcasts or newsletters based on specific topics.

#5 Go cold turkey.  I spoke with two of the most positive people I know this week and they both admitted they don’t watch the news.  Give yourself permission to step away from the news completely for a week and see how you feel.

What to do instead of watching or reading news

When you reduce your news intake you’ll immediately notice you have more time.  Try one these:

  • Be your own news.  Make your own story the positive one that hits the news.
  • Ask other people what is happening.  Strike up a conversation by asking them “What’s going on the world?”  Way more fun than reading the news
  • Take action. Replace news watching time with action on something you’ve been putting off.

Choose one of the actions above, and take a step back from the news today. Notice how this simple move improves your outlook and energy.

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