Breaking news about a broken government was getting me down.

Time for a "news fast."

Dr. Andrew Weil, a well known physician/author, suggests there are health benefits from taking periodic breaks when it comes to following the news.

A news fast - maybe for a day, several days or even a week.

According to Dr. Weil, we may experience an unhealthy level of anxiety, anger, worry, fear and frustration when we get hooked on keeping up with "breaking news."

He suggests that prolonged tightness of the jaws, so to speak, can harm a person's health.

So when I realized recent news was getting to me, I stopped following it for awhile.

Suddenly, I was freed to pursue other activities.

At -11 degrees, I was glad to be inside. I pretty much take for granted the fact that when it feels a little chilly in the house, I can simply adjust the thermostat dial. My ancestors would not have imagined such a comfort as they dealt with sub-zero temperatures, huddled in their sod house on the Minnesota prairie.

Outside, I noticed a cardinal perched on a tree limb. The bright red color of this bird stood out.

Then came a black-capped chickadee, which we see frequently as it acrobatically hops from limb to limb in search of food.

At -11, how the heck does that little guy stay warm?

I checked it out: a half-inch of feathers gives insulation that helps the bird keep its body temperature around 100 degrees, even when the temps are below zero.

The chickadee is also very active - related to the bird's need for food.

Back to remembering how cool it was to see that red cardinal. Humans can see things like that because we have three color receptors - thus giving us three primary colors, including red.

But birds have a fourth color receptor, one that can detect ultraviolet light. That's a big deal when it comes to the chickadee's hunt for food because the bird hones in on insects that spend the winter burrowed in bark crevices on trees and branches.

What's the importance of a bird being able to see ultraviolet? Some insects have wings that contain a hint of ultraviolet. Bingo!

You may already know some of these things about a small bird, but I doubt I would without my news fast.

Still in news fast mode, I got in my car and headed into town for errands. The radio comes on automatically, and just like that a station barged in with the latest news.

I listened - like a junky giving in to temptation - long enough to learn that the same fellow who just a few weeks ago announced that he would be proud to shut down the government was now proud to announce that the government shutdown was ending - temporarily.

Noticing the tightening of my jaws, I quickly changed the channel to "Willie's Roadhouse" and some country music.

Ahh - this is what Andrew Weil was talking about.