8 Ways To Be On An Information Diet (For Better Mental Health)
It happens little by little, and suddenly you feel like you are completely consumed by the news, social media updates, sensational YouTube videos, links to tabloid websites — often shared with you by friends and family. The whirlwind of constant bits of information sucks you in and you don’t even notice its effect until you find yourself in the middle of it, fully buried.
Important: Why You Should Care
When all of your mental receptors are constantly in the mode of receiving information – unfiltered and relentless, you expend a lot of energy, often without even realizing it. Our brains are simply not evolved to deal with such an avalanche of information to process. A lot of it seems important and we do our best to give it every bit of our attention. It doesn’t help that information spreaders use tricks like putting the words such as "must see", "important", "you won’t believe it" into the headlines. Our communication patterns since childhood taught us that if something is declared to be significant it ought to be that.
Turns out it’s not always true out there on the internet. Our compliance and curiosity are being taken advantage of, masterfully.
What We Don’t See When We Are On Autopilot
A keen observer may even accuse me of manipulating minds with the title of this article. I’ll admit it, I tend to play by the rules of the modern age to even have a slim chance to get to my readers. Yet, here I faithfully suggest that you try the below mentioned steps to take a vacation from the constant information flow.
Without self-awareness and restraining we constantly stress ourselves out and give up control to the forces that don’t have our best interest in mind. Excessive amounts of cortisol, a hormone that controls our mood, motivation, and fear, wears us down unnecessarily. The brain doesn’t always know the difference between a real and a perceived threat.
Breaking Free From The News
Ignore any links with sensational and manipulative titles. Allow yourself to skip them even if they were shared by your friends and family. You can still thank them. If they insist on knowing whether you watched or read it, you can politely explain that you either didn’t have the time or are currently going light on the news.
Say no to the news programs, even the short clips on YouTube that are so easy to get hooked on with the recommendation engine. It can get highly intelligent sometimes, it’s totally sinister. Also, definitely remove any general news apps from your devices.
Use ad blocking. I recomend Brave browser that is not too different from Chrome and Safari, but it comes with a built-in advertisement blocker that works most of the time. There are extensions for all web browsers that you can install, too.
Use extensions that hide the news in your social media sites.
Remove the social media apps from your phone. If you can’t commit to doing it as a permanent change, give yourself a timeframe: 3 days, one week, two weeks. Remove them and set a reminder to bring them back. "Hey Siri, remind me to reinstall Twitter and Instagram in two weeks." Then see how you feel.
Have specific time windows to check your inboxes. For example, you can agree with yourself to only check your phone or an email app on your laptop four times a day. Once in the morning for 10 mins, then once before lunch, once in the afternoon around 4:30, then once after dinner. It’s helpful to write these down on a piece of paper and put next to your work area. Stay with this schedule for three days, see how you feel.
Take stock of how information consumption makes you feel and choose healthy replacements. Think about replacing your "fast food" news and Netflix series items with "offline" activities. Choose to go for a walk, a bicycle ride, or a physical book instead. I find it helpful to build healthy "replacement links" (meaning connections or associations). If I get an urge to read the news, I instead read a few pages of a book. Instead of watching an episode of a show, I’ll walk around the block.
Make your policy known. Casually explain to people in your circle that you may not get back to them immediately. If you are concerned about missing something important, make sure you let the important people in your life know that you can be reached by a text or Whatsapp message where they’d ideally need to mention what the urgency is. Chances are, 90% of other people’s urgencies are not so crucial in your life.
If you read this far, you likely share my concerns about ever-present information streams consuming our minds. First comes awareness, then plan of action. I encourage you to try and limit your consumption of online media no matter what approach you’ll take. Just like with eating and dieting, you wouldn’t want to treat your body (some may even call it a temple) with unhealthy food, consciously. The same goes to your resilient yet tender brain. Treat it with care, respect, and consideration it deserves. Open up the mind’s channels to the things that make you happy and allow you to create positivity in the world around you.
My simple mantra is: if something is truly important, I will learn about it quickly enough. Gazillions of information sources simply won’t let you go on uninformed, unless you live in the woods without Internet connection.
Did this resonate with you? Do you feel affected by the firehose of manipulative media and useless information? If you feel so inclined, let me know what you think.