What most surprised me were the results I got from my study, which found that the more kids are exposed to consumer culture, they likelier they are to become depressed, suffer from anxiety, or experience low self-esteem. I would have thought it was the other way around — that consumer culture was the symptom, not the cause. -Michelle Conlin
My family was out of town this weekend, so I spent the time watching the house and taking care of our two dogs, Sophie and Nipper. It was a super-relaxing weekend, and I always cherish the chance to get away from my regular routine for a few days.
But one thing that always messes me up when I’m staying at my family’s house? TV!
It’s true – my man and I don’t have cable. Truth be told, we don’t even have a television in our home.
I know this sounds like blasphemy to some – how could we possibly keep up the world without a TV?!
I learned to live without a television in Japan, and I couldn’t believe how much time it freed up in my life. I read more books, went on more walks, socialized with friends, wrote two novels – all things that couldn’t have been done if I’d had my regular TV habit.
When I moved back to the States, my man and I agreed not to move my television from storage into our living space. It’s still sitting in there, gathering dust. Every few months, one of us will ask the other, “Do you want to move the TV into our room?” The answer is always no.
We’ve been living like that for a year, and I honestly can’t say that either of us misses keeping up with the Kardashians. We stream or rent the shows we really want to watch (Mad Men, Breaking Bad) and go over to our friends’ house every Sunday to watch the shows we can’t stream (Chopped, Sweet Genius). This works for us.
When I’m at my family’s house, I tell myself that I’m just going to put the TV on in the background for a while, but it totally ends up taking over my life. Yesterday, I spent the entire day in front of the TV, and I felt terrible afterwards. I couldn’t even tell you what I watched exactly, but I was restless and irritated. The commercials got on my nerves. I kept telling myself that I should get up and do something else, but the big black box sucked me in. Today, I feel like I’ve got a TV hangover.
I could easily go on for paragraphs about why you should give up your television, but I’ll make a list for you instead.
Reasons to Give Up Your Television Habit
1. You’ll save anywhere from $30-$100 on your monthly cable bill. That adds up to $360-$1200 a year. That’s a lot of extra dough you can put into your envelopes.
2. You’ll be skipping out on countless hours of commercials and advertising, which is beneficial on so many levels – you’ll be removing the pressure to look like a model, buy products you don’t need and eat junk food. (Did you know we’re exposed to thousands of food ads per day via billboards, the internet, magazines and television? How many of those ads are for vegetables, fruit, water or quality meats? Right. None.) Plus, you won’t be tempted by endless ads for new cameras, handbags, beauty products or cars. Learning to love what you’ve got is a key component of living a smaller, slower life.
3. You’ll be loads more productive. When you’re not re-watching last season’s Project Runway marathon, you’ll find time to write books, be with family, go for walks, or do work that really matters to you.
4. You’ll control what goes into your brain. When you do choose to watch programming, you can pick smart programming that matters to you, instead of countless hours of reality tv gunk that a 3rd grader can understand.
5. You’ll, um, get off your butt. While I’m not an advocate of working out for two hours a day, six days a week – our bodies are designed to move. Our paleolithic ancestors walked miles each day, played, hunted and moved heavy things. Sitting on your butt all day truncates your hamstrings, increases inflammation and compromises circulation – leading to arthritis, weight gain and autoimmune issues.
6. You’ll reconnect to the people you love. Because we don’t watch TV, my man and I have all kinds of conversations we’d never have if the blue screen was in front of us. Sometimes, he’ll say to me, “Okay – you just won $10 million, what do you do first?” Other times, we’ll read together and tell the other one what we’re reading about. In short, our relationship is mega-deeper because we abstain from TV.
7. You’ll be able to hear yourself think. Ever notice when you spend the weekend in front of TV, you go back to work feeling like you haven’t had a break at all? That’s because your mind is focused on what needs to get done all week, and when you program it with television all weekend, it doesn’t get a rest. It’s still overloaded and fragmented on Monday morning.
8. Any news you need, you can get online for free. Network news is a bloodbath of negativity. ‘Nuff said.
9. You’ll sleep better. Studies show that constantly being in front of glowing screens is messing with our sleep. Your brain is super sensitive to light, and being near bright light all day affects your melatonin production, which greatly affects your sleep. An hour before bed, you should turn down the lights, turn off all your screens (that goes for Kindles, iPads, laptops and cell phones too). Your sleep will improve immediately.
You might be bored when you first give up your TV habit. That’s a good thing! Boredom will get you off your butt. Maybe you can go run those errands you’ve been meaning to for months. You can call friends you haven’t caught up with in a while. You can catch up on your reading, cake-making, journaling, collage-making, sewing – whatever hobby you love to do that television eats up.
You still might be thinking, “Um, no way Jen – I’m not parting with my TV.” If you’re too afraid to jump in, try swearing off any television for a week – you can DVR, stream or rent anything you truly want to watch. I think you’ll be so amazed by the results that you’ll consider spending less and less time in front of the box.
TV is not life. It’s designed so that you sit in front of it to consume advertising, so that you don’t live your life. Do you really want to be a contributor to something like that? Yeah, I don’t either.
How much TV do you watch? Have you ever tried giving it up for a while?