You are likely familiar with the old saying, “No news is good news.”
It’s a throwaway line that people use to try to help someone stop worrying about something they can’t control. The idea is that if they haven’t heard any news about the thing they are worried about, they should consider that good news and stop worrying. If there was bad news, the thinking goes, you would have heard about it. So there’s no point in worrying in the meantime.
By and large, it is probably a useful idea. Worrying about the future is seldom a helpful thing to do, after all. But for our purposes here, we want to suggest a variation on the old proverb:
“Less news can be good news—for your mental health and recovery.”
It turns out that many of us focus too much of our attention on keeping up with the news. And that can lead to problems for our mental health, which in turn can lead to problems for our recovery.
Wait. I thought it was important to stay informed.
We hear you. And it’s true. Part of being a good citizen and member of your community is staying up-to-date on what’s going on so that you can participate in efforts to make things better for everyone. Keeping up with the news allows you to make informed decisions about a whole range of things.
And that’s why we’re suggesting “less news” rather than “no news.”
Okay, but how do I know how much news is enough news?
That’s a fair question.
And the answer will probably vary from person to person. But here’s a good test. Next time you are scrolling through headlines or watching cable news or clicking through to the latest article your friend has posted, take a moment to notice how you are feeling. Do you feel a sense of anxiety or stress? Do you feel like you aren’t completely in control of your desire to scour the news? If so, it is probably time to consider a new relationship to the news.
And make no mistake. A lot of us are feeling that stress when we interact with the news. A recent University of California study found that continual consumption of news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been contributing to a decline in mental health in America.
Obviously, it is important to stay informed about the public health emergency. But it is also important to avoid fixating on the news.
So what would you suggest?
All Things in Moderation
Well, the key here—as in many things in life—is moderation. Here are some ideas that might help you stay informed without becoming obsessive about the news:
- Bookend your day with a news blackout. See if you can spend the first half hour after you wake up and the last half hour before you go to bed doing something other than rifling through the news. You could read a novel or write in a journal, for example. Just leave your screens off and let the newspaper sit for a bit. Starting and ending your day with a break from the news can be healthy and helpful.
- Consider a news consumption schedule. This idea is related to the first. Could you set aside a little time each day to do a deep dive into the news? Maybe you have a favorite newscast or podcast you can watch or listen to at the same time each day. Maybe you could commit to limiting your news scrolling to, for example, 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon. Maybe you can set your notifications on your phone so that you are not constantly interrupted by “breaking news” (much of which is hardly news at all) throughout the day.
- Give yourself a day off from the news. You might find that taking a break from the news each Saturday or Sunday (or both) allows you to more thoroughly enjoy your weekend and gives you more time to spend your family and friends.
I can probably do some of those things. But what does any of it have to do with recovery?
Good mental health and sustained sobriety are deeply intertwined. Anything you can do to support your mental health is also an investment in your recovery. In the case of news consumption, small but intentional changes to the ways in which you stay informed can make a big—and positive—difference.
Speaking of mental health and recovery, where can I find help when I need it?
We’re glad you asked!
At French Creek Recovery Center, we have the compassion and expertise necessary to help you address a substance use disorder, a mental health disorder, or both. We will personalize a treatment plan based on your individual and specific needs, and we will provide the resources and support you need to make positive changes in your life.
Here’s some news you can use: If you are struggling with drugs and alcohol or with mental health issues, the caring experts of French Creek Recovery Center are here to help.