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Fact Check: Using Mindfulness to Identify the Fake News Manufactured by Our Thoughts

Updated: Apr 7

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FYI: This article includes experiential exercises. If you have access to a printer, you are invited to print this article now before reading it, so you can follow along with the exercises contained herein.

When I hear the term "fake news" I automatically think of former President Donald J. Trump during his then 2016 bid for the presidency. Donald Trump made the term popular by using it to slam media outlets that criticized him. He often accused mainstream media of spreading "fake news" whenever they gave him negative coverage. Now, "fake news" is a term everyone uses to describe false or misleading information, especially on the internet and social media. Did you know that the term "fake news" has roots tracing back to the late 19th century? I certainly didn't know. Merriam Webster's article, "The Real Story of 'Fake News,'" shares the following:

Secretary Brunnell Declares Fake News About His People is Being Telegraphed Over the Country.

Cincinnati Commercial Tribune (Concinnati, OH), 7 Jun. 1890

Fake News. The following is handed to us for publication: Sunday’s Enterprise says that I and a companion were run over by the Neptune and thrown into the water. As can be proved by more than one, we did not so much as get our feet wet, nor were we helped into the Neptune. Clarence Collins.

The Kearney Daily Hub (Kearney, NE), 7 Jul. 1890

Nowadays, we're all familiar with the idea of "fake news" spread by media outlets. But what about the "fake news" we create in our own minds about the world? Our perceptions and biases can sometimes skew how we see things. This internal "fake news" affects how we make sense of situations and how we interact with others. So, it's essential to understand how our own thoughts can mislead us in navigating our lives. Consider this article as a continuation of the discussion on thoughts and mindfulness from our last "Mindfulness of Thoughts: Nurturing Inner Awareness." Let's explore.

Mike trudged towards school.

The looming math lesson had him all jittery.

He wasn't sure if he could keep the class in check again.

Handling the class wasn't part of a janitor's gig anyway.

Now I'd like for you to pause and reflect. Take a moment to jot down a few lines describing how you understood the above sentences as you read them.

This simple exercise reveals some important points for us to consider. Our minds are constantly on the go making meaning of the world around us as we receive information through our senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste). To keep us safe, our brain often has to make rapid fire decisions or meaning as it intakes in information. Those meanings are often based on partial scraps of information and sometimes the meanings we make almost always go beyond the facts given. Therefore, the meanings we create often aren't a true reflection (you can insert fake news here) of what's actually happening. Then as more information is received, we are forced to update. Throughout this whole process, we think that we are just seeing things as it is but we're not. We aren't actually aware that it is "us" who are actively making meaning.

Were you like me and envisioned Mike as a child on his way to school who was worried about a math lesson? With the first two sentences, it would not be hard to imagine that scenario. When you read the part about his being able to keep the class in check, how rapidly did your brain shift him from being a student to him being a teacher? Then the final sentence, I had to do another mental shift to realize he was the school janitor. Quite a few assumptions were made beyond what was typed on the page/screen. This of course is a simplified example of that. Let's take another scenario or two to drive the point home.

Scenario 1:

You just had an argument with your coworker, and you are feeling down because normally you two get along great even sharing lunches together. Not long after, you see another coworker in the hall. You were headed over to speak but they rush off quickly saying they can't stop.

Write down the thoughts that would go through your mind.

Scenario 2:

Today is your lucky day! You and a coworker just killed that presentation, and your supervisor praised you both for your good work. Not long after, you see another coworker in the hall. You were headed over to speak but they rush off quickly saying they can't stop.

Write down the thoughts that would go through your mind.

Now compare your two responses to scenarios 1 and 2. Anything pop out to you about your thoughts in the two situations?

I hope this helps further illustrate the point that our thoughts are not facts. On paper, I'd love to say that I would respond objectively in both scenarios. The truth is even with me, I am aware that my moods and feelings have a powerful influence on how I would interpret the two scenarios. If I am feeling down, I would have most likely interpreted the first scenario as, "Oh no, now they feel a way about me and think bad of me." Whereas in scenario two, I'd probably most likely have a thought, no matter how fleeting, that the person was bothered or jealous. That's my truth. How about yours? I'd love to see your thoughts so if you feel comfortable, please be sure to drop them in the comments below.

The two scenarios show the relationship between our mood states and our reactions to others. However, the same is true for our inner world. Our moods and feelings influence the chatter that goes on inside of our brains about ourselves. In turn, our patterns of thinking about ourselves are shaped, often echoing themes similar to the feelings that shaped them. To clarify, feelings of hopeless feelings lead to hopeless thoughts. Feelings of kindness lead to more kind thoughts. You get the point. I wished I could say that the story ended there but it doesn't. Once you begin thinking more thoughts, these thoughts in turn generate more feelings. On an on the cycle continues. This is how vicious cycles that keep us stuck in painful emotions keep going. What do you do once painful emotions are activated? Drinking? Drugs? Sex? Spending sprees?

Mindfulness as a Daily Practice to Fact Check Yourself

Mindfulness, rooted in the practice of present-moment awareness and non-judgmental observation, offers a potent antidote to the distortions wrought by our inner "fake news" machine. It is imperative that we release ourselves from the grip of our feelings, or frame of mind, and our thoughts. Mindfulness invites us to explore each of these and thus fact check ourselves. The body scan offers the opportunity for us to engage in moment-to-moment awareness of our sensations, thoughts, and emotions within our bodies. Such practice eventually helps us to identify different feeling tones thus empowering us to recognize that we are not our feelings. Nonjudgmental awareness of these processes also opens our minds to accepting that we cannot force ourselves into inner silence. Our minds are going to chatter. We're going to have all kinds of different thoughts. But thoughts aren't facts. This expanded view and inner awareness of our thoughts will enable us to pause, reflect, and respond with clarity and intention rather than react impulsively to every mental narrative.

I definitely don't want to keep you here too much longer. However, I hope that this article reiterates the importance of cultivating a daily mindfulness practice. Whether it be meditation, deep breathing, or body scans, regular mindfulness practice assists us with training our minds to recognize the patterns of thought that often veer away from reality, leading us down paths of misconceptions, misunderstandings, and emotional upheaval. As we integrate mindfulness into our daily lives, we foster a deeper connection with ourselves and the world around us, anchored in authenticity and insight. As stated in one of our previous articles, mindfulness really can become the business solution, the money solution, the you solution. Give it a try. Please remember though. Wherever you are on this wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!

One more order of business.

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"In today's rush, we all think too much - seek too much - want too much - and forget about the joy of just being." ~Eckhart Tolle


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2 commentaires

I like your perspective on this. Controlling my thoughts and not letting the stories or fake news in my head control my actions is something I have been working on for a while. Lately I have felt stuck, and backtracking. So I am thankful for a new perspective on it to help me move forward.


I am definitely a person who reacts impulsively with my thoughts on a situation. Usually, once I step back and catch myself I can see it more clearly. I took scenario one the same as your thought process. By the time I got to the last line I was like, “Huh?!” This is a great post. Makes us think a bit. Thank you!

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