Do you ever get so lethargic after a TV binge on the sofa that even getting up to get a drink feels like too much effort?
That used to be me.
It mostly occurred in the evenings after a long day at work. I’d just collapse in front of the TV, exhausted, watching my favourite TV shows until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any more, because somehow, in my mind, to go to bed early would be a waste of an evening. It seems a silly way to think really. Yet I reckon like I did, most people do it without realising; mindlessly attached, controlled and dominated by that TV remote, tablet or smartphone.
The problem was I realised I was becoming more and more more exhausted, more and more lethargic and more and more de-motivated. I remember going through a particularly stressful period where I was barely sleeping – like at all, and snacking far too much. My health suffered, I was stressed and to combat the stress, I’d binge-watch TV – to try and ‘relax’.
I soon figured it out
It took me a while but I soon realised it was the TV that was the main culprit behind these bad habits and health impacts.
So I did a bit of research and discovered the negative impacts of watching too much TV were a bit of a downer to be honest. Increased risk of diabetes, isolation, expanding waistlines and even shorter life expectancies. But where it really concerned me, was the insomnia and related mental health effects.
It became clear to me that all that screen-watching – be it on a TV, tablet or phone, was not doing my health or state of mind any good, and there must be better ways to spend my free time that left me feeling more refreshed, and essentially more uplifted.
Time to detox
So I set myself a target – no TV in the evenings every other day, to start with. I calculated that an average weekday night is spent getting home from work, cooking dinner, washing up, and sitting down in front of the TV around 6pm for 4 hours. If I aimed to have no TV even for 3 nights a week, that was 12 hours of my life back! Kieran decided to go in on it with me, as we have one living room, so… he kinda didn’t have a choice!
Suddenly we realised we had all this time, all these things we wanted to accomplish that felt out of reach (because we never had ‘time’) suddenly felt within our grasp. Some nights we would read for an hour or so, and I’d do a bit of yoga and relax with a bath. Sometimes we’d bake or cook something new and interesting – a treat reserved usually for the weekends – but why? Why can’t we enjoy Monday evenings as much as Saturday ones? Were we really enjoying sitting on the sofa doing nothing at all? We began to realise we weren’t, not really anyway; this was so much more fulfilling.
We began to take long walks in the evening, or I’d use the opportunity to read up on subjects that interested me such astronomy and physics whilst Kieran would work on his writing. I soon started going to bed sleepy but energised, tired but satisfied – my sleep improved, as did my health and overall quality of life. And I stopped snacking – I was too busy! Ironically, filling my evenings up gave me more energy than before.
So we decided to take it further, and go full days with no TV, every other day if we can – and we don’t miss the TV at all on those days. We started to realise we were no longer controlled by it, we were free!
There are so many benefits of having ‘No-TV’ days, but to give you an idea of what I’ve experienced, I’ve listed what I think are the main 5 reasons I urge you to give it a go.
1: You reconnect with people
It’s incredible how distracting having the TV on can be when socialising – even if it’s with your family. Mindlessly replying whilst fast-forwarding through the adverts, not ever really paying too much attention. TV-bingeing can cause isolation, and a separation from genuine connections. Turning the TV off allows you to have real conversations, deeper connections, and re-connections with people you’ve lost touch with.
2: You stop comparing yourself
It’s all too common these days to watch TV shows with beautiful characters, living in stunning homes, with interesting lives and fascinating jobs. It causes you to compare your life – even with the really fictional characters, and somehow come off worse. No matter how happy and satisfied your life is, you’ll often always think you need the new car, or a better phone, or a nicer kitchen, or a better job, or to be in better shape. When in reality, you don’t want or need any of those things. You’ve just been tricked by your mindless, subconscious state into thinking you do.
3: You do sleep better
Even on the nights where we do treat ourselves to a bit of TV, we turn it off around an hour before bed, put phones and tablets away and either go for a walk or read a book. It may sound strange, but I cannot tell you the improvement it’s had on our quality of sleep. I fall asleep quicker, deeper and stay asleep for longer – waking up more refreshed and motivated as a result. The reason? Probably because my brain has had the peace and quiet it needs to ‘switch off’ before bed.
4: You don’t snack as much
I’m a serial snacker at heart. I used to simply refuse to watch TV without something to graze on. But sitting there mindlessly eating, when I wasn’t even really hungry, was not doing my waistline any good. When you turn off the TV and get yourself more in the present moment, you’re not acting mindlessly, which means it’s easier to say no to snacks as you realise you’re not even hungry. Plus it often means you’re substituting TV-bingeing for reading, walking, craftwork etc which is more hands-on and therefore not as likely to want to snack anyway.
5: You’re in the present moment more
I find I appreciate the little things so much more when I stop and just be in the moment. A walk to our favourite coffee shop is now such a treat to do in the evenings. Or maybe taking my time cooking dinner, and really enjoying the process because I have all evening and no rush to collapse in front of the TV; I’m already in a more relaxed state, all the time. Things don’t bother me the same, maybe because I’m in a more relaxed state of mind more often, it allows me to cope with the daily problems life throws at you.
As you can see from my experience, there’s been clear health benefits to giving up the TV. If you’re interested in giving this a go and beating your screen addiction, here are my top 3 tips that I use to break the TV habit:
1: Put remotes, phones and tablets in another room in the evenings
At first you may find yourself going into the back room to check if you’ve missed anything, but after a few nights, you’ll start to miss it less and less. If you can’t close your TV away, consider putting your remote in the back rooms too. Again, after a few nights, the urge to go and get it will wear off. And if you’re worried about missing a call? Put your phone on loud so you’ll hear it. That way you’re not constantly checking it ‘just in case’ and you can truly forget about it.
2: Have a plan of what to do instead
Don’t turn off the TV and think, “now what”? Make a list of some hobbies, activities, recipes etc that you keep putting off. Have something to do that makes you excited to turn the TV off. It gets easier and easier to just not turn it on in the first place. Trust me.
3: Make your hobbies easy to do
We know how easy it is to reach for the remote. To kick the habit, you need to make your alternative activities just as easy to do. Dedicate a place in your house to easily store what you need for your crafts. Or make your books easy to get too. Prepare ingredients if you’re baking. You get the drift – because if you’re thinking it’d be nice to bake a cake right now but you have nothing in the cupboards, you know what you’ll reach for instead.
Don’t get me wrong – sometimes the best nights are a takeaway and a film – and I love so many awesome TV shows that I would never fully give up watching TV. But the difference is now the TV is a treat, another enjoyable activity to be present and mindful with.
And for all that extra free time? Our evenings are now spent baking, reading, studying, relaxing, exercising, outside in nature and generally feeling amazing and excited for every single evening.
I dare anyone reading this to try it and see how it makes you feel.
Have you tried detoxing the TV and screens from your day-to-day? How did it make you feel? Comment below with your experience!