GRASPED How to Break the Habit

Changing direction so that you’re consuming less negative news will require an active, focused and consistent change of behavior, but the great thing about it is that you truly are in full control.

Once you break the habit by replacing the time you spend scrolling for negative information with positive, uplifting habits that nourish your soul, you’ll immediately feel the benefits.

To start, minimize your news sources. You don’t need to spend time on dozens of news sites, and once you limit the number of websites you visit, you’ll subsequently, limit the amount of negative news that reaches you.

If you currently visit more than five or six websites, chances are that a lot of what you’re seeing is just more of the same, catering to your habit of doomscrolling while also reactivating those stressors and anxiety triggers because you’re seeing a repeated announcement of the same frightening situations and events.

To change this, you’ll need to start monitoring the emotional impact that information is having, no matter the source.

If it’s feeding your anxiety and causing you to be in a constant state of panic, you need to start cutting that source off.

“Start to front-load happy stuff,” says Rutledge, “to provide an emotional buffer.”

Taking a break is one way to help and the easiest habit-breaker to begin with. Stepping away for a bit by shutting off your computer or placing your mobile device out of sight can help reset your brain and calm your fears.

A short break will also help you to be more logical and less emotional when you evaluate the content you’re seeing.

Rutledge recommends asking yourself:

  • Is this relevant and useful information—or am I just “rubber-necking” at an accident site?
  • How does this make me feel?
  • Is this interfering with other things I’d rather be doing?
  • Is this causing me problems like becoming angry or unpleasant to be around?
  • Am I actually investigating the information to make sure it’s true before I let my emotions carry me away?
  • Am I investigating the truth of the information before I share it?

This isn’t recommending that you bury your head in the sand like an ostrich, ignoring actual important events.

But if you monitor your news intake, and make sure it’s both useful and necessary to your life, you’ll be able to “avoid many of the paralyzing emotions that, in fact, make you less effective in the rest of your life, from relationships and work to social advocacy.”

Fear and anger actually decrease your ability to empathize with others and understand the world around you. You become so consumed by problems in the world that have no real impact on your life that in turn, it impacts your life.

Rutledge says, “Recognize that, thanks to the elephant, we are essentially hard-wired to doomscroll. Don’t beat yourself up. Just increase your awareness and control over your information consumption.”

Our brains evolved in very different circumstances from what exists today, and what worked for them at that time is no longer needed for survival. Your ancestors needed to look for those lions on the savannah, not examine “the firehose of information (and misinformation) that is flowing 24/7 during a pandemic and social upheaval.”

So instead of mindlessly doomscrolling and spending hours a day consuming negative news that you really don’t need to know about, recognize that your instinct is to do just that, and fight those natural habits.

Protect your mental space, and your time.  Be conscious of the amount of information you’re consuming every day and start segmenting it into a “need to know”, “want to know”, “don’t need to know”.

That will give you a clear picture as to how much information you’re taking in based on natural curiosity (and pure habit), and make it easier for you to weed out anything that doesn’t directly impact your life.

Assess your feelings as you read and stop if you start feeling anxious and stressed. And finally, always do your best to make sure the information you’re consuming is accurate and based on fact, not opinion, before you allow yourself to react to it, or share it with others.

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