How to Read News Stories Mindfully

Mindful thinking takes into account your thoughts and feelings about what you’re experiencing. When you do day to day activities like reading the news, mindfulness can help you pay attention to things you might otherwise not notice, or ignore feelings that might otherwise cloud your judgement. In fact, reading the news mindfully can help reduce your emotional response to what you’re consuming, improve your ability to analyze and comprehend the content, and even identify fake news that is attempting to mislead you.

EditSteps

EditUsing Mindfulness While Reading the News

  1. Name emotions as they arise. One of the tricks to practicing mindfulness as you go about your daily life is being more aware of the sensations you feel. Next time you read the news, make a point of paying attention to the way it makes you feel, and name particular emotions as they arise. For instance, when you read something that makes you agitated, pause and think to yourself, “this is anxiety” or “here comes frustration.”[1]
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    • This can have a powerful effect on how you feel, as well as your ability to analyze what you’re reading. In fact, media is often designed to appeal to particular emotions to keep you interested, not to mention make you feel a certain way about the story’s content.
    • Think of naming your emotions as a way to interrupt the part of your brain that’s making assumptions based on how you feel, instead of analyzing the substance of what you are reading.
  2. Bring your mind back to the article whenever necessary. Mindful thinking can provide you an improved ability to focus on what you are reading. Of course, it takes practice to quickly catch yourself when your mind begins to wander. Whenever you do catch yourself thinking about something other than the article itself, stop yourself and think, “right now I’m reading the news.”[2]
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    • This can be especially helpful if reading the news tends to make you anxious about the future, or regret something in the past.
    • Don’t judge the thoughts that arise in any way. Simply get back to reading the article.
  3. Pause to find your breath. When a particular article gets the better of you and riles you up, take a moment to pause. Focus only on your breath to help you calm down. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply and evenly through your nose for five seconds. Inhale all the way into your lower belly, allowing your abdomen to fully expand. Then exhale slowly and even through you mouth.[3]
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    • As you breath, think only of the sensations you feel, such as the air moving through the different parts of your body. Once your emotions balance out, go back to reading the article.
  4. Be persistent. Practicing mindful thinking can be frustrating at first, but will lead to an improved ability to stay relaxed, as well higher amounts of self-awareness and strengthened cognitive abilities. As such, patiently remind yourself to check your peripheral thoughts and feelings as often as necessary while reading the news.[4]
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    • Sometimes, your mood or frame of mind may make it harder to stay mindful while reading the news. If you experience emotional turmoil while reading unpleasant content, for instance, don’t hesitate to put down the article and do something else for a while.

EditThinking Clearly About the News You Read

  1. Read the news regularly. Get in the habit of reading the news during a certain part of your day. For instance, read the news on your subway commute, or right before your evening shower. Regularity alone will help prepare your mind to read more mindfully, which requires plenty of practice to master.[5]
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  2. Accept your thoughts and feelings as passing mental events. You may have found it frustrating to practice mindfulness in the past, especially while reading the news. It can help to view your thoughts a bit differently.[6]
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    • For instance, if you find yourself getting distracted by certain thoughts and wishing they would go away, try to think of these thoughts as ships passing by on the horizon, or semis driving by on the highway. Simply let them go and return to your article.
  3. Recognize that mindfulness will reduce your bias. Aside from the mental health benefits of thinking mindfully, you will also reduce the bias which would otherwise affect your thinking about news stories. Everyone’s experiences lead them to lean towards a specific way of thinking about different issues, but practicing mindfulness actually reduces your tendency to default to assumptions that you usually make without thinking about it.[7]
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    • Biases (which our brains develop as a type of cognitive shortcut to explain something complex) are especially apparent with regard to race and age. For instance, a young white woman is likely to make much different assumptions about the world then an old Inuit man.
  4. Meditate before or after reading the news. To maximize the benefits of mindful thinking, consider meditating before you sit down to read the news. Simply sit somewhere quiet and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing, and push any other thoughts away as they appear in your mind. Don’t judge or otherwise assess any thoughts, just let them slip away as easily as they arrived.[8]
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    • Try to maintain a single, comfortable sitting pose while meditating, but adjust your position if you develop any physical discomfort.
    • Shoot for ten minutes to start, and increase the amount of time you meditate as you get better at it.

EditDeciding What News to Read

  1. Diversify your news sources. One of the best ways to maintain a pragmatic and mindful perspective on the media you consume is by exposing yourself to multiple reputable sources. Is there one source of news that you read more than others? If so, make a point of reading as many articles from other sources as you do from the source or sources you’re accustomed to.
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    • Similarly, do you tend to read an article and feel like you have a good understanding of an issue?
    • Or, rather, do you consult multiple sources about the same issue before deciding how you feel about something? In general, it’s highly recommended that you do so.
  2. Recognize that fake news exists. Not only does intentionally false and misleading news exist, it has real-world effects on the world you live in. Examples include many people believing that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, despite this endorsement never happening. In fact, some publications intentionally use misleading headlines and news stories to manipulate readers’ political inclinations.[9]
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    • While mindful reading can help you maintain a better understanding of the media you read and diminish the effect of emotions to impact your mindset, it’s still extremely important to be able to identify and avoid reading and sharing fake news.
    • As soon as you find evidence that a source cannot be trusted, do not spend time consuming news from that source any longer.
  3. Ask yourself how an article’s title makes you feel. One of the most telling signs of an article that is designed to make you feel a certain way is that it will start trying to do so in the title. As such, mindful thinking can not only be used to remain calm while reading the news, it can also help you critically analyze an article’s content and even help you spot misleading media.[10]
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    • Do you have strong feelings about a certain title right off the bat? Do you already know you definitely want something to be proven (or disproved) in the article? Legitimate news sources will not rely on titles that manipulate readers in this way.
  4. Look closely at article URL links. In order to ensure you are reading articles that were written and published with journalistic integrity, there are few signs to look out for. Sometimes, it’s harder to spot a fake news site than you’d think.[11]
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    • In particular, look for letters after the “.com” portion of the URL if you’re reading and English-language website. If, for instance, the article ends in “.com.co,” it is likely a rough copy of a similar, more legitimate news source. This copy is likely designed to mislead you.
  5. Look for other signs an article is fake. There are extensive lists of warning signs to look for, as well as websites that rate new sources on their journalistic integrity. Use these resources to evaluate the news you consumer.[12]
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    • Another common warning sign is the high prevalence of an article on social media. There are bots designed specifically to feed you news articles you’ll be interested in, regardless of the story’s legitimacy.
    • In sum, stay mindful of what you’re clicking on, and make the active decision to read news that’s made as mindfully as you intend to read it.
  6. Tell friends and family members when they post fake news. Do so in a friendly and respectful manner, of course, and explain how you know an article is inaccurate or misleading. Conversations like these are important to help the people in your social networks read news more mindfully in general.[13]
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    • Just say something like, “Hey, I saw you posted an article about Donald Trump’s inauguration. I wanted to let you know the article uses photos from Barack Obama’s inauguration to mislead you about the attendance at the 2017 event. You can check yourself by right-clicking on the image and doing a reverse image search through Google. The exact photos that were used originally appeared in 2008 and 2012.”

EditSources and Citations

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