If you want to be healthier, happier, more energetic and more productive, then try this one change: watching less TV.
Many of us don’t realize just how much TV we watch. However, surveys put the average American’s TV watching time at around five hours a day; which isn’t much less than the time we spend sleeping! This has a huge impact on our state of mind and our ability to complete other tasks and if you try cutting down, you might just be amazed at how much more you start getting done and how much healthier you feel as a result.
Here are some of the top reasons to spend less time watching TV…
You’ll be More Active
When you come home from work, you might find yourself too tired to exercise or to be productive and clean the house. Even without the television then, you might not find that you suddenly get the dream physique that you’ve always wanted.
But at the same time, the television does encourage more sitting. When the TV is on and you’re interested in what you’re watching, you’ll find that you can’t easily get up to make a cup of tea, to tidy the plates or just to take a look out the window and stretch your legs.
And of course you might find that watching less TV actually does mean you find the time to exercise.
Either way, anything that encourages you to get up and to get moving should be considered a very good thing. Studies show that sitting for three hours or more a day can actually shorten your lifespan by two years (1). This is because the human body simply wasn’t designed to spend large amounts of time sitting and it’s far better for the heart that we either be asleep or active.
You’ll Talk to Your Family (!)
This might sound horrifying but when you turn off the TV, you’ll find that you naturally speak more to your family and that you get to know each other better as a result. If you find that you often sit around the television eating and not saying anything, this is a great way to start learning about each other’s days and to have a joke and a laugh. You’ll be closer as a result and that can also improve your mood.
Not won over by the thought of talking? Well, surveys suggest that couples who have a TV in the room actually have less sex than those who don’t. That should be reason enough!
It’s Better for Your Brain
TV isn’t the source of evil by any stretch of the imagination and there’s no need to completely cut it out of our lives.
However, there are some negative impacts that TV can have on the brain and these are exacerbated the more TV you watch. For one, your brain finds the television stressful and tiring. That’s because the TV demands your focus and attention, which in turn requires energy from you. At the same time, the bright lights, loud sounds and constant moving are all highly stimulating which can lead to your brain becoming more ‘wired’. If you’ve just had a very busy day in the office and are feeling tired, then TV is not a good way to relax and unwind.
In fact, even the light waves from the television are somewhat damaging. This is because the brain interprets the light from screens as being the same as light from the sun. As such, it can alter the internal ‘body clock’ and trigger the release of cortisol – the stress hormone. Cortisol acts to make us more awake and alert and is the opposite of the sleep hormone melatonin.
As such, if you’re watching TV just before bed, then you’re going to sleep with your mind wired and with your brain thinking that it’s the middle of the day. This, as you might imagine, is not highly conducive to a deep and restful night’s sleep.
You’ll Do More Interesting Things
In terms of activities and productivity, you can think of television as being the equivalent of ‘empty calories’. That is to say that you’re certainly doing something (just as you are certainly eating when you consume empty calories) but you’re not actually getting much benefit from it.
Now think of all the other useful things that you could be doing instead of watching TV. Perhaps reading a book? Maybe playing a board game with your family. Perhaps learning a language, exercising, or taking up a new hobby like painting? You could set up a side-business, or you could take up gardening! Even just tidying or catching up with your correspondence will help you to feel more on top of things and less stressed.
Sound tiring? Actually, when you do something more active you’ll find that it’s quite invigorating and the exact opposite of tiring! When we feel exhausted we get the urge to just collapse but in reality this only makes us more tired and more resigned to not doing anything. And it means we have less energy still going forward.
And sometimes we actively use the TV as a way to procrastinate from the things we really should be doing – even the things we want to be doing. Some of us will even use the TV to procrastinate rather than going to bed!
TV Can be a Bad Influence
Even if you’re a grown adult, TV can have quite a powerful influence on you and that’s not always a good thing. Watching most TV means being bombarded with adverts, which can negatively impact on our spending habits. It also tends to mean watching very beautiful people who live in luxurious apartments – which can cause us to feel worse about our own lives via a phenomenon known as ‘social comparison’.
TV can even influence your worldview and political stance. The paper can be guilty of all these things too but the television has a particularly powerful ability to influence the way we think through its clever use of images, music, script and more.
The Little Things
There are also countless small things that TV can impact on negatively:
- It encourages you to eat sitting on the sofa, resulting in worse digestion
- It encourages you to spend less time cooking and thus consume more junk food
- It makes every day seem repetitive and blend into the next
- It costs money through the electricity bill
- It is bad for the environment
How to Start Watching Less TV
So maybe all that has been enough to convince you. In which case, you might now be wondering how to go about making the change and watching less TV.
One thing to consider doing is completely cutting out television for a week or two. By doing this, you can instantly see the benefits of not watching TV and it will highlight just how much TV you were watching previously. While you might not want to be completely ‘teeveetotal’, you can nevertheless benefit from trying it just for a little while. Think of it as a purge!
Otherwise, try making some rules that can curb the amount of TV you watch. If you find you often come home and then just flick on the TV and watch whatever is on, then that’s a bad habit that you might seek to change. Make the rule for instance that you’ll only watch specific programs and films that you’re interested in.
Alternatively, you might make the rule that you’re going to eat at the table with no television. Perhaps you remove the TV from your bedroom. Maybe you limit TV to one hour a night (most things can be recorded anyway), or just to weekends.
There are plenty of ways to limit the amount of TV you watch, so the trick is simply to come up with some rules that work with your lifestyle and that you think you can stick to without too many negative consequences.