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News Fast By K. Moore

Why Not Try a News Fast?

February 2018

I am a yogi and a Ph.D. Both of us want peace. After pursuing the issue more academically, I engaged in more physical and spiritual ways of contributing to peace.

I have a doctoral degree in Political Science and spent years in graduate school reading, researching, writing, and following the news meticulously. When I became an assistant professor that was no different. I still followed the news and brought current events into the classroom.

By this time, the news metastasized and my life had become hectic. Before embarking on a major life shift, I was talking with a friend who is a psychology professor who told me that she was embarking upon a news fast. News fast. I had never heard of it. Could I do that? Disengage with the source of my work, interests, and adrenaline? Absolutely!

I had an active meditation practice prior to my news fast and became a yoga instructor about 2 years into the fast. After five years of news fasting, I can vouch for the usefulness of such a practice, even if it is not something you plan to do forever. As a yoga and meditation instructor, turning off my television was key to deepening my practice and tuning into self; but also very much a part of my ability to tune into others. As someone who values higher learning and world politics and development, I think that this practice is important to start to create perspective and even empathy as some people can easily become desensitized to the events covered in the news and detached from the people next door. At the end of the day, I felt better, and realize with certainty that our brains do not work best when they are constantly on alert and being bombarded my negative messages*.

My suggestion is to allow yourself the space to calm and bloom. Create a neutral zone. I truly believe that a sitting practice and a news fast, even a brief one, is the first step to peace regardless of who you are. Here are some ideas about how to start and what I learned from my fast.

Successful News Fast

  • Figure out how much time you spend with television, radio, and internet. Plan to read, engage and connect with others, or take up new hobbies with that time. Remember that you are disengaging with news, but still engaging with life.
  • Leave the television off until you are ready to watch it. Only turn the TV or device on for specific shows.
  • Watching a program? There are many sneaky news breaks that are broadcast between segments on commercial television. The mute button is also helpful.
  • Evade the top of the hour and the half hour when many media outlets give news updates. If you are listening to a particular non-news program, tune in 6 or 7 minutes after the hour. Podcasts and streaming music are also good options.
  • Gyms, bars, and airports, oh my! There are screens everywhere. It is easy enough to ask a restaurant host to seat you away from screens. It is up to you to tune your cardio machine screen to sports, sci-fi, or perhaps a home reconstruction channel. Even better? Take your cardio outdoors or away from screens.
  • Still want to patronize your favorite website or newspaper? Try their Food, Arts, or Sports sections. Bookmark these pages to avoid being sucked in to the headlines.
  • Remove your news apps, banners and alerts from your phone.

How will you get news?

I have gotten many weather reports from the grocery store line. Have you heard? People talk. You are bound to hear the big stories of the day whether you want to or not. What’s even better, is that you can ask a follow up question and get to know the person in line with you. Connect. Alternatively, use the information you gather from your new acquaintance as a cue to find just that and nothing more.

I was pretty strict about avoiding news on television and on public radio, but I did listen to current programs about science, invention, research, food, art and music that occasionally mirrored what was going on in current events. That was okay for me. After about two years on my news fast I also began to read the summaries of certain current event programming on public radio. This kept me current, without drama and repetition and allowed me to be very intentional about the stories that I chose to follow. Overall, I have still had interesting things to talk and to think about; but, my interests and talk topics have stayed in a more neutral, positive, non-political zone.

How will you avoid news?

Shift the conversation. Keep it positive. It was very easy for me to find myself amongst convivial people who were eager to talk about the latest scandalously negative news. When I find myself in this situation, I try my best to shift the energy and the topic to more positive or at least benign stories revolving around sports, weather, or other interesting topics that I come across. People notice, but mostly go along with the topic change. Occasionally, when people have raised a question about this I would respond truthfully. Few people can argue that the headlines are healthy or positive, and most people conceded to my tacitly or overtly to changing the topic. Remember, you always have the choice to walk away and rejoin the group later.

Sit.

Want to watch a morning news show from 7:00-7:30am or an evening new show at 6:30pm? Meditate instead. Now you have the time. Mellow the craving and the habit of tuning in to the news and tune into your breath instead. Calm the parasympathetic nervous system. Everything is okay, right here, right now, with this breath.

 

*Just a few recent stories that support this idea:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/why-we-worry/201206/the-psychological-effects-tv-news

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/19/violent-media-anxiety_n_6671732.html

https://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-rolf-dobelli

 

Kelli N. Moore earned her Ph.D. from the University of Florida, specializing in Comparative Politics and International Relations. After teaching at the university level for 10 years, she took a break to pursue other interests. In 2015, Kelli became a yoga instructor and has been teaching yoga and meditation classes ever since. She is also known for interviewing people about kindness for the innovations in kindness website that she began in 2012.

Atlanta Journal Constitution

The Atlanta Journal Constitution, July 2015

The Atlanta Journal Constitution Shopping Blog wanted to delve into kindness.  Check out this recent post, with a contribution from Innovations in Kindness:

"Want Better Products? Try a little kindness" (by K. Moore):

http://shopping.blog.ajc.com/2015/06/16/want-better-products-try-a-little-kindness/ 

The intersection between adults, kids, and kindness...  Openness to new things?

Several years ago I visited Biltmore with a friend and her two children. We were canoeing down the river and I saw a bug. No surprise, perhaps I made an unfriendly exclamation. My friend told me that bugs were okay and told me that we were supposed to be showing kids how to be kind, gentle, and open to all creatures. Okay, I got it. No problem. To the extent that I use a pretty wide circle to encompass living creatures and what I should and should not kill gratuitously… I’m down with preserving life and fostering the “ooohhh” reaction rather than the “ick” reaction. Obviously, one leads to saving a life and moving on, the other reaction may lead to screaming, yelling, inventing tools to kill, and etc. What is more, I have written many times on my blog about not killing and opening that to bugs, ideas, etc (see challenge). So, I get it and I believe that this kind of training leads to kids and adults who are more gentle on the environment.

Later that day, I was fixing dinner, and had some beets. I was going to serve some to my friend when she pitched a huge fit. “I hate beets!” Despite my new way of presenting the vegetable, she was not having any of it. Closed down. No beets for her.

My friend Roland Heath, a local here in Atlanta once said, “I am just a human, standing at the center of my own contradictions.” I found that to be so true of so many issues and situations, if people could just be honest enough to recognize it, so much growth could happen. For me, it was striking the time my friend took to explain and redirect my bug reaction (which I happily did in the moment) and her big shut down about beets, which her kids also saw. I think there probably was a kinder response and a more open response, but I also recognize that sometimes we hard to work really hard to rewire our own behavior for the sake of our kids. We are not always successful, but showing that ability to change and having that example is a powerful one for kids to see, especially around kindness and openness to things we may not like.

Here are some tips to help your child become open to new things... (hey, it might work with you too!!)

Open To New Foods and People?

Atlanta Journal Constitution: http://parenting.blog.ajc.com/2015/06/22/how-to-teach-your-children-to-be-kind/ (Guest Blog by K. Moore)

Is your child a gracious guest in all settings? Is your child able to share different or unusual foods with others? Encourage your child to be (positively) curious and interested in different foods and cultures. Being welcoming and accepting of other people-even if they are different-is the cornerstone of kindness.  Here are a few things to think about to increase your child’s flexibility and openness to diverse people and settings right here at home:

  1. Go above and beyond on the next social studies project or just take advantage of time this summer.  Get tickets to a local performance or attend a religious service performed by the group of people your child is interested in.  More than 10% of households in Georgia have a second language spoken. There are immigrants and second-generation Americans representing dozens of countries here in the Atlanta area.  Take advantage!
  2. Visit restaurants with culturally different foods.  I love PF Chang’s, but in this case maybe a trip to a restaurant that serves Pho (*accent o) on Buford Hwy might be in order.
  3. Strapped for cash, like to cook, or need a fun activity? Find recipes representative of different countries and language groups. Hit up one of the local International Markets and make food at home. Want to spread the love? Invite friends and neighbors over to share in the cultural experience together.
  4. Encourage your child to try different foods when they are out with friends or sleeping over at a friend’s house. Ask what they liked about the new experiences when they return. Coach them on how to be gracious even when they come across a food that is not their favorite, recognizing that one solution is to eat something politely and not enjoy it.
  5. Make friends with people who look, speak, worship, and cook differently than you do… this is what it’s all about!

Finally, hospitality goes both ways.  We must be willing to give and to accept from others. Be Kind Y’all!