Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Happiness Test

I was talking to a friend the other day about the fact that I don't watch the news.  EVER.

I stopped watching the news at some point between 9/11 and now. I don't remember exactly when.

But it was absolutely sucking out my happiness like a dementor. Every time I turned it on, there was some asinine political battle, a horrific crime, terrorism or a new reason to be fearful of food, water, air or the insect-borne disease of the day.

I shut down all news inputs. No news apps on my phone, it's never on TV, and I only listen to a local radio talk show that is funny and occasionally discusses local events that are of interest to me.

I developed a test for all sources of information that come into my eyes or ears. It's a very simple test. For any media type, the answer to the two following questions have to be yes for it to be allowed into my brain:

  • Does it entertain me (make me laugh, bring me joy, make me think)?
  • Does it give me power?
It has to do one or both to get in.

A lot of people who are news junkies, and yet distressed by everything they read or see, tell me "I want to be informed." Why? If the information doesn't give you any power, and just gives you anxiety - being informed has no value whatsoever. Examples of knowledge that give you power include:

  • Weather reports. It's good to know if a tornado the size of a skyscraper is headed your way - that's information you can use to run into the bathroom with your mattress and your shoes on. (ALWAYS have your shoes on when there's severe weather about - many people are injured after they've survived a severe weather event because they are barefoot. See? I just gave you power.)
  • Tutorials - education and skills always give you power.
I already know that I need to wash my hands a lot, avoid snakes and bugs, and to wash vegetables before I eat them. I know not to drink 86 cups of coffee in a row. (I know some of you will disagree with me on that). I know to have situational awareness when I'm out and about.

Blocking the barrage of terrible stories I can do nothing about has improved my quality of daily life more than any other single thing I've ever done, I think.

In social media, I just unfollow people who post (even once) about the news or politics. As a result, my feeds are full of art and funny people, or people who post just about their daily lives, which is much more interesting than news and politics.

I highly recommend trying my test for three months and see if it is not life-changing and calming for you. And I promise you will not be eaten by a chupacabra just because you didn't know about it rampaging through some area 2,000 miles away.

This spring we went on the annual pilgrimage to Santa Fe, and prowled the art galleries. There's always endless inspiration there. For some reason, there were more photography exhibits this year, and one of my favorite stops on Canyon Road had some incredible antique photographs, including many cyanotypes.

It should not come as a huge surprise to you that this is one of my favorite printing techniques since the result is a glorious expanse of shades of blue.

I had it written down on a receipt from the trip (this is why I never can find my ideas again) to do a faux cyanotype technique for a card, so I gave it a whirl today when I had a minute. It's very easy and fun. I made a little notecard set using four stamp sets.

Faux Cyanotype Card Set by Understandblue

Here's a closer look at the individual cards. This one features the ship image from Traveler.

Faux Cyanotype by Understand Blue
 This one features the dog from The Wilderness Awaits.
Faux Cyanotype by Understand Blue
This one features the train image from Traveler.
Faux Cyanotype Train by Understand Blue
And, saving the cat for last - this image is from Sitting Here.

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Isn't that color amazing? The ink I used is Blueprint Sketch Distress Ink, and I applied with my Clarity Stamp Stencil Brushes.

That gorgeous sentiment is from Flourishing Phrases - I think maybe in the top three sentiment sets in the catalog.

I actually had a little crafty time this weekend so I made a video too - enjoy!

So thanks for stopping by - I can't wait to hear how your news blackout goes! I think if enough of us tune out, someone might get the message that a GOOD news network is what we want. 



  1. Do love that Blueprints blue and dang it(!) I may have to buy those brushes!!

  2. I think you are the only other person I have met besides my husband that does a news black out! I gave up watching the news after Katrina. I was sick for days and sucked in every minute of the coverage. Some images are still blasted on my brain. After it was done I realized that all I had gotten from it was a huge dose of anxiety. I keep coming across people that loathe FB. They go on and on and I just shake my head. My feed is full of artsy things, cat things---just can't pass a cat by, funny posts and people posts. All things that make me smile! Nice to meet another non-news watcher! Your cards are gorgeous art. It won't come as any surprise to you that I really love the kitty one!

  3. I am going to follow your advice for the summer. I'll let you know my results. Feel free to hold me accountable if I post something that you would not follow, you can text me or have a code on the post so I can delete and not have my "friends" start a debate on my FB ��
    You up for it?

  4. FIRST love your project.. SECOND> THANK YOU... We turned our cable off probably 3 years ago and have never looked back. I also do not watch the news. EVER. I believe they fear monger and if I ever meet Dr Oz face to face I might punch him in the nose. All he does is try and scare people to death. I have finally taken a huge step away from politics, because I have decided it gives me anguish and not joy. NOW I need to start weeding through my FB feed. Thank you for encouraging me to take this one step further. Just the nudge I needed.

  5. Love your little card set today, but I really like your thoughts about the news. I am glad to hear I'm not the only one who feels like this. I feel myself getting anxious and upset and carrying that with me through the day when I watch the news these days. Ignorance is bliss. The older I get the more I realize there really is something to that.

  6. Fabulous note cards! I've been 'news-unplugged' for a couple years now. Best decision I've ever made. Nice to know I'm not alone. Hugs

  7. "I just unfollow people who post (even once) about the news or politics"

    That struck me as possibly being driven by fear rather than happiness.

    Sometimes news is fascinating - a story about a person or people that leads to deeper understanding. Sometimes news can move people to action. In my town, people banded together to successfully (!) save green space/animal habitat from developers, and this last week stopped an historical building from being torn down.

    Once news led me to contact Animal Control, which led me and others to befriend a woman who had six animals that were suffering, but she was meeting minimum legal standards. She gave them to us and they got good homes.

    Sometimes the news is funny - in fact most days. As a baseball fan, reading about the French press (coffee!) in the dugout.

    And yes, sometimes it's horrid, and you turn it off. (I read newspapers, rarely tv news.)

  8. LOVE this blue -- the exact color of my dining room walls. Love the cards.

  9. I love, love, love these. I'll totally be CASEing your idea. These are all great. Funny, happy people are the bomb!

  10. REMOVABLE LABEL PAPER???? Where has THAT been hiding??

  11. Your posts are helpful, entertaining, and inspiring... always enjoy the bits of history you throw in. The molasses flood in Boston? Who knew?!? These images you created are the coolest thing I've ever seen on a card! Can't thank you enough for sharing how you did this!

  12. I absolutely agree with you about avoiding the news! I've been avoiding it ever since I first became a mom in 1984. Watching the news made me very anxious and made me worry without end. I'm still on my no news kick, but my hubby will sit through 1 1/2 hours of news and avoid the living room during that time. I love your cards! I adore blue and white together!

  13. THIS! Have been off the news since around 1993 when a mentor friend of mine mentioned almost word for word what you said. Empowerment was the only thing she missed and you have definitely hit the nail on the head woman! I share your loathing of political and un-inspiring dribble and commend you for sharing your thoughts to us here. So enjoy your artsy-ness and hope to see you again sometime at another SU event. Take care and Hugs from AK :)

  14. Love the cards. And while I disagree with the idea of NO news, I understand the sentiment. As a citizen and recipient of the services of our community and government (both local and national) I feel it is our duty to engage by being at least somewhat knowledgeable about what is going on, and then participating and voting. But I agree there can be an overload of information. We tape one news broadcast (PBS for us in an attempt to hear somewhat unbiased news) and watch that at our leisure. I don't watch or read much other news as it seems sensationalized and frankly just too much. The TV isn't on at all during the day around here, but some news seeps in through Facebook and other social media. But I can manage that. I think you can find a sweet spot between all and none that keeps you informed but not overwhelmed.

  15. Lydia,

    I live in NY during 9/11 and was glued to the TV for months after. I noticed that I started to have health problems and anxiety and decided not to continue to watch the news. I dropped it completely and have never looked back. Friends make fun of me because I am not aware of things that have happened (mostly insignificant stupid Hollywood gossip stuff, although occasionally I am behind on a major new story as well!) but I feel much happier spending my life in the positive. Thanks for addressing such an important issue. I think many people don't realize how much they are affected by the news.

  16. Wow! What a great set of notecards! I am going to CASE them immediately! And, I too have been on a news blackout! I am not sure when it started but I just can't watch anymore because every single time I watch, there is a child who has been killed or abused. Case in point, we didn't have any channels on our cruise last week so we watched news and we all know what happened in Orlando. It just breaks my heart. So, your test is wonderful! I hope more people try it! Thanks!

  17. Love your little blue notes. It's funny how much we do, and then don't, have in common. For instance blue - sit down - it's my least favorite color. But the news ban - I've lived that for years and it is wonderful! Weather too....that will change in the slightest breeze and if it's big enough like a hurricane, I'll find out. Keep on being you!

  18. I already don't watch the news but I do still scroll through news sites and a lot of what I read is distressing. I think I will spend the summer following your test.

    I love your note cards-I think I'm going to try the recreating the faux cyanotypes! I love the blue, but I might also try with purple.

  19. No news really is good news. No cable and no news allows more time to improve what is closest to you - in your own yard, neighborhood or part of town. Most news is overly dramatized, inaccurate, and deliberately intended to create division, controversy and fear. Strong, empowered women should not allow themselves to be manipulated collectively by the new. We have too many important things to accomplish. Love the cyanotypes. So beautiful and mysterious.

  20. No news really is good news. No cable and no news allows more time to improve what is closest to you - in your own yard, neighborhood or part of town. Most news is overly dramatized, inaccurate, and deliberately intended to create division, controversy and fear. Strong, empowered women should not allow themselves to be manipulated collectively by the new. We have too many important things to accomplish. Love the cyanotypes. So beautiful and mysterious.

  21. These note cards are fabulous!! I went to an exhibit of cyanotypes about 15 years ago and they were so cool. I so want to try this technique myself. Thank you for the demonstration!!

  22. Yes yes yes!!! I am SOOO with you on avoiding news! Funny, I have pretty much the same test as you, as well as the same attitude. Thank you! Love your cards, especially the kitty cat one. I'm a sucker for all things feline! :) Great technique, which is going on my Pinterest board of things to try. ~ Andrea

  23. Your decision not to watch the news was one I made about 5 years ago - such an improvement for me - just feel so much better -calmer, more focused on the real day to day - Love it and love what you do, thanks!

  24. Your news blackout is really thought provoking, but seems extreme to me. I made what I consider a more moderate choice on my facebook activity earlier this year. I have a number of facebook friends who have very strong political opinions and who share political posts that to me go beyond informational and into the negative realm. I resolved, personally and publicly (via facebook), to be more positive and avoid the negative posts. I try not to comment on, like or share negative posts even when I agree with the basic point. My feeling is that if we are all kinder and more positive, we can nudge our communities and the world in that direction. If enough people adopt a position of positivity the influence can be great.

    I applaud the conscious effort of people to increase their happiness, because that can help us to be healthier, more productive and just all around better people (for ourselves, our families, and our communities.) That said, I am concerned that a COMPLETE news blackout creates an uninformed population. We can make our communities better by participating and being informed. I also feel very strongly that it is important to vote and to be informed about the choices. I am curious if those who are on news blackouts are voting, and if so, how they get information to make their decisions. I prefer the approach of limiting the amount of time and exposure to news; to me reading it is more objective and less upsetting than hearing the hype from TV news.

    I like the reference to "good new" channels. There are some sources that do provide some good news. If more of us demand the good news then it will find sponsors.

    I hope my response didn't get too heavy.

  25. These are so pretty--thanks for sharing the how-to video!

  26. I totally agree with you, Lydia. I have not watched the news in over 20 years. My husband and I even hide the remotes at hotel's breakfast areas because we do not want to start our day with the news. Much nicer to start the day with some nice music or at least use closed captioning so it works for people who like the news and those that don't.
    I am glad you posted this. You have given them permission to not listen to the news if they choose.
    :) Pam

  27. These cards are so striking; love them.


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