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One Simple Thing You Can Do to Reduce Anxiety and Increase Happiness

Discover the Hidden Culprit of Modern-Day Blues

Did you see the news a few weeks ago that humanity was going to take another giant leap forward with the discovery of a room temperature superconductor, LK-99?

Did you see the news a few years ago about a 4 year old girl on an inflatable unicorn floating out to sea and being rescued?

Did you see the news a few decades ago about acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer? Or the news this afternoon that a pedestrian was killed at an intersection in a large city at 3am? Don’t get me started on idiots in submersibles.

You know what all of this news has in common? It is exciting, nerve-wracking, fear-inducing, and completely freaking useless.

99% of all news is exactly like this. Empty information calories. Clickbait. It’s not fake, it’s just not important. And the other 1%? Hurricane about to make landfall under your balcony? Your anxious, fearful, news-reading neighbours and friends will tell you, I guarantee it. That’s what they live for, so you don’t have to.

Following the news doesn’t do anything positive for your life, and in fact can significantly detract from it. I stopped reading and watching the news myself a decade ago. When people tell me the world is going to hell, I don’t know what they’re talking about. Reading books, reading magazines, and talking to people, I get the sense that the world’s a great place.

Watching the news makes you feel powerless. It makes you feel anxious. It does not make you safer.

The only good reason to watch news is to have a smattering of knowledge of current events as a way of social interaction. It’s the major reason I follow sports, something to bond over with my kids and with my friends. I don’t need to watch the daily news to know Putin is an ass or that Trump is running for President. I found out two days after the fact that the orange one had been booked and had a mug shot taken.

Engaging? Yes. Relevant to my life? Hell no!

It wasn’t always like this. Fifty years ago, the news came on once or twice a day and there was context. But on June 1, 1980, CNN ushered in the 24 hour news cycle, and it’s been downhill ever since. Our parents and grandparents grew up in an era where watching the news made you educated, gave you context on world events, and alerted you to important political developments.

In 1973, ‘breaking news’ was the end of the war in Vietnam. Back then, the news was important. In 2023, ‘breaking news’ is Taylor Swift adding more concert dates. These days, the news is generated in newsrooms to fill empty airtime and sell commercials. Don’t fall for it. When the world changes, you should change with it.

You become what you surround yourself with. Be conscientious about the people in the your life and the things you read. After I read about being the average of the five people you spend the most time with, I deliberately spent more time with the five people who had qualities I aspired to, including my wife. More recently, I’ve signed up for email newsletters and follow Medium writers who teach me things and enhance the quality of my life, rather than the perpetual doomsayers that frighten and depress me.

I recommend James Clear’s 3–2–1 Thursdays, and I’m also trying an experiment with the News Minimalist, a new newsletter that only presents significant news. You might think that goes against my prohibition against news, but it’s more like a friend telling me the highlights. I don’t believe in watching the daily news, but I also don’t believe I’m 100% right all the time, and the world continues to change. Right now I’m 50/50 on continuing reading it, but you might want to give it a try if you can’t kick the news habit completely.

But here’s one simple thing you can do right now to make yourself less anxious and happier with the state of the planet. Delete the News apps from your phone or (baby steps) turn off notifications. And if you’re really desperate to find out what’s going on in the world, call your parents, they’d love to hear from you and tell you the latest news.

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