An Abundance of Potions

Day 23 – New Baselines

Good morning to all 233 readers. If you signed up more recently or want to revisit previous letters, the full archive is available here. You can also access it using the "view online" link at the bottom. —Jack

Today's challenge: Start a media elimination diet.

In a crisis, all news is crisis news. Most of it, however, is like the middle aisles of a grocery store—packaged and processed, designed to appeal to the bases parts of your mental palate. Most of it, while satisfying in the moment, sabotages well-being in the long run. The hard part is discerning between the healthy and the not.

On Day 2, you were challenged to move your phone far away from the bedside. Today, your task is to further cut your media consumption. One way to do this is to continue the food metaphor: Start a media elimination diet.

Elimination diets begin with just that—elimination. You cut what you don't absolutely need, and give yourself time to adjust to the new baseline. Then, gradually, you consciously add sources back in, paying attention to what happens as you interact with them. Do you find yourself holding your breath as you scroll through? Do your shoulders tense, your chest and stomach tighten? Does it provoke bad habits, and revive old vices? Do you feel more or less anxious throughout the day?

If you're able, start with deleting news and social media apps from your phone and tablet. Log out of the sites in your browser and clear your browser history, too. All of these acts introduce friction to the process, make your checking less automatic. For an added layer of friction, you can use Screen Time on Apple devices and Digital Wellbeing features on Android devices to further restrict access. You can also install third-party apps like Cold Turkey and Freedom to accomplish the same.

Quitting social networks altogether is not always feasible. You may depend Facebook and Instagram to communicate with loved ones, or Twitter or LinkedIn for work. In these cases, you can still do an elimination diet within these services using their Unfollow or Mute functions. By unfollowing or muting other accounts, you still stay connected to them—you can still contact them or visit their pages. You just won't see them in your timelines (and they won't know you unfollowed them). Here's how to do it on a few popular services:

If you want to go the distance on this challenge, another thing you can do is unsubscribe to newsletters, including this one. If it's not contributing to your mental and emotional wellness at this time, go ahead and unsubscribe below—no hard feelings!