The Life Experimenter : Change Your Life, One Month at a Time

Life Experiment #38 – Give Up Watching TV For A Month

By Allen Rinehart

(Photo: dhammza)

For a guy that doesn’t have cable, I seem to be watching a lot of TV lately.  When I moved into my new apartment, I thought I was doing the right thing and in foregoing the cable and only getting high speed Internet.  The problem is the Internet has created an almost unlimted viewing portal of virutally any show that I care to watch.  My most recent addictions have been watching every episode of the The Bang Bang Theory,  The Office, Mad Men and The Walking Dead.

After spending an entire weekend watching the first two seasons of The Walking Dead,  I have to sit back and reflect on what’s really happening here?  What’s the point?  Is my life better as a result of all this?  Like everything else I’ve examined on this blog, TV watching is a habit.  It’s something we do on a somewhat unconscious level to relax and entertain.  But looking around there seems like healthier and much more fullfuling alternates out there.  That’s why this week I’m going to pull the plug on my programming and go 30 days of TV free.

Hypothesis: I believe this experiment is really going to get me to re-examine how I spend of majority of my free time.  I can re-evaluate the lost art of going outside and doing stuff like working out, learning a new skill…or even writing a lot more.  I feel like this is one of those habit changes that will trigger many other habit changes…lately I feel like I’ve been doing the same thing for months on end.

How Television Effects

Health Effects

Let’s start with the negative health effects of TV.  For one, we are mostly sedentary when watching TV.  Most people may not move for hours or days at a time while watching TV.  Compare this with activities with activities such as exercising, walking, cleaning the house or spending time with your friends or family. A great article on list several studies on the effects of TV and weight gain….the most interesting being that for every increase in TV watching time equals in subsequent increase in weight gain.  Also, there is a tendency for us to eat more when we watch TV then when we are not.  So if your your trying to drop those pounds this year, you might want to consider dropping your TV time as well.

There have been studies that show that we can improve the quality and amount of sleep we get by cutting out television prior to bed time.  So if you’re having trouble sleeping at night or find it hard to go to bed.  Try avoiding television an hour before bed time.  Also, I’ve noticed that I definitely drink a lot more alcohol when I watch TV versus when I doing almost anything else.

Social Effects

Even more disturbing then it’s effect on our health, is it effect on our social lives.  TV can be that friend to give use important news, make us laugh or cry or entertain us for hours on end.  Many people I know insist on constantly keeping the TV on in there house even when they’re not watching it or sleeping.  There’s the constant need for background  noise and talking.

TV can also replace social interaction time with other people.  Instead of going out and making new friends, we use television as an excuse to stay home and avoid people.  I know I’m guilty of this.  There’s been weekends where if I didn’t leave the house and chose to  watch TV all day.  TV watching can be an easy replacement for spending time with others.

Psychological Effects

There have been numerous studies that link television watching with depression.  It’s not surprising, considering the amount of violence and negative programming on TV, that a person wouldn’t be put into a negative state after watching TV for several hours.  Personally, I’ve decided what I wanted to watch based on the type of emotions I wanted to evoke.  Feeling sad?  Why not  put on a sitcom.  Need some romance in your life?  Tune in to a romantic comedy.  TV allows people to experience emotions through other people regards of if their real or not.

Furthermore, when people watch TV, there brains actually switch from an active beta waves associated with logical thinking to passive, alpha waves.  This is the equivlant to stairing at a blank wall for hours on end.  This produces the “relaxing effect” that we expecience when we wind down in front of the boob tube.  The same effect can be achieved through heaither means such as yoga or meditation.

How To Replace The TV Habit With Other Activities

So with all these negative effects, what’s a person to do to avoid watching TV?  My plan for this month is to replace the time I normally watch with activities that achieve the same effect but provide a healthier outcome.  I looked at the reasons I watched TV in the first place and replaced them with something else.

  1. Listening To Music Why Eating – I live alone, so my evening routine is to come home, prepare dinner, then put on the TV while I eat dinner.  This usually leads to into more eating, drinking alcohol and the continuing to watch more TV after I’ve finished eating.  Instead, I’ve decided to try listening some relaxing music while I eat.
  2. Exercise More – What better way to fill the void of sedentary sitting then with active workouts.  People always say that they never have time for exercise, but maybe that’s because their spending all their time watching TV.
  3. Get Out Of My Apartment More – I find that the more I get out of my apartment and more do, the less likely I’m going to end up watching TV.  Whether it be taking a walk, traveling to a new place, spending time with friend or joining a new group, there’s less chance that I’ll be sitting at home in front of a television.  I just be too busy to have that in my life anymore.
  4. Plan My Free Time – I find that the weekends that I have less things scheduled to do, I end up watching more TV.  TV and movies seem to be the default thing to do when nothing else is going on.  Bored?  Let’s watch some sports.  Nothing to do?  Let’s see a movie.  Maybe by consciously thinking out my days I can live a more fulfilling life.
  5. Learn A New Skills & Habits – It’s always been my goal on this blog to learn new habits and goals.  But lately, I’ve been putting this off when the excuse that my job with the Navy takes too much of my time.  I just realized that I’ve plenty of time to accomplish whatever what in my life.  So I want to use my new found time to take on habits such as reading more, writing more, learning meditation and yoga.

I have a good feeling about this trial.  Considering that it motivated me enough to take action and actually write about something new is comforting.  My only hope is that you will read this and do the same. Is there something you really want to do in your life, but feel like you don’t have enough time?  Want to start a new workout? Eat better? Start a business? Meet someone new?

Maybe a little less  TV is the answer…

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