After a long day at work, I often come home and make some quick dinner, pay some bills, and maybe vacuum or do the dishes. Then it’s time to nurse the baby and put him to bed for the night. I grab a snack, my favorite bubbly beverage and settle in for a few hours of catching up on my favorite shows.
Before long, what started out as relaxation from a long day turns into guilt. Should I really just be watching tv? Isn’t there something more productive I should be doing? Didn’t I promise myself last night that tonight I wouldn’t just plop down in front of the television? Tonight was supposed to be the start of whatever project has been sitting on the sidelines because I “haven’t had time.”
I just want to relax and watch TV without feeling guilty for a little while!
It’s a routine so many of us get into. We feel we deserve to sit and relax and veg out sometimes. However, the moment we try to the wheels of guilt fire up and start trying to convince us that we’re being lazy. We should be DOING something and not just wasting time.
Constantly, we’re bombarded with the message that life needs to be lived in a constant state of progress. Numerous studies show that tv is bad for us, like this one and this one and these studies make us feel worse about ourselves. Why do we enjoy something that is so bad and causes us to be so lazy? And didn’t I read that it’s probably making me fat, too?
It’s time to get off of that roller coaster and stop listening to what everyone else is saying for a minute. I’m going to throw something a little unconventional at you here.
I don’t think TV is bad.
So then why do I feel the need to be productive non-stop? Why is something I enjoy, that I don’t think is bad, feeling like such a terrible thing and consuming me with guilt? Why can’t I just watch tv without feeling guilty every single time? After pondering this for a little while, I finally figured out the problem.
Watching TV isn’t the problem; it’s the way we do it.
When we come home and sink into our sofas, settling in for an evening of television, we ARE wasting life. And as the studies point out, it really isn’t that good for us either, especially in the long, uninterrupted doses like we’re prone to watch in. Life is to be lived, not watched through a box disconnected from those around us.
By watching TV all night, every night, we’re effectively removing ourselves from life and sitting on the sidelines. Hours pass and we have nothing to show for it except for a decrease in imagination and an increase in our waist size.
I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t I just say that TV isn’t bad?
It’s true, I don’t think it is. But only if we don’t allow the tv to have the control. Even though I had been the one making the choice to sit down every night, it was almost as If there were no other options; I was just on autopilot. After so much time, I kind of forgot that choosing something else was an option. When we become so used to doing one thing over and over, we tend to forget what the other choices are.
Don’t believe me? Think about this: what did you do before you had a smart phone when you were standing in line at a store? How about when you were waiting for a dinner timer to go off? What about while you are waiting for your spouse to get dressed so you could go out for the night? At one point in time, we did SOMETHING other than check our Facebook, email, Twitter, and SnapChat.
But does anyone remember what it was….Anyone? I certainly don’t. And when I first started to put down my phone and force myself to do something else, it was like torture figuring out what else there could possibly be.
The television is no different. At first, it was hard. It felt like choosing to not watch left me with no other “relaxing” choice. All I could think of to do was chores or working on something “productive.” I just wanted to relax!
Making TV Watching Intentional
What really sealed it for me was the “detox” break I unintentionally had when I went on a family vacation. Our vacation was a cruise; we were completely disconnected from everything that came from a glowing box. Granted, they had one channel that played movies and another that played the “cruise ship highlights” but we were rarely in the room unless we were sleeping, so we never watched it. When we got home, I was determined to not fall back into the same old routine and so I developed a system to be more mindful in watching television.
The goal isn’t to eliminate television entirely. It is possible to watch tv without feeling guilty. It can be an enjoyable, relaxing activity again. We just need to reprogram ourselves a little bit.
Here are some strategies I’ve found that you can put into place to take back control and start enjoying the time you use to relax and watch tv, without feeling guilty
3 steps to Change Your TV Watching Habit
- Turn off the TV. Simple enough, right? Wrong. It’s a stronger pull than we realize. We’re trying to break a mindless habit. If necessary, take the batteries out of the remote, unplug it, or even move it to a less convenient area of your home. Whatever it takes to take away the temptation.
- Identify something else that isn’t productive that is enjoyable. I enjoy reading, taking family walks, yoga and board games. Make sure that your substitute activities aren’t something as disengaging as the television. Stay away from movies, video games and the internet (this includes your phone!). We’re trying to reconnect with life, other people and/or use our body or mind. The problem with TV is that we disengage while we watch; we are doing nothing and nothing is happening to us. It is a completely non-participant activity.
- Once you’re used to not watching television all the time, bring it back. Now that the dependence on it is broken, plan some TV time. That’s right-PLAN it. Preferably in short bursts, not the entire evening. Incorporate engagement with others for the rest of the day. For example, we usually spend 30-60 minutes watching one or two of our favorite shows after Zachary goes to bed. By the time we sit down we’ve eaten dinner as a family, gone for a walk with the dogs, maybe gone to the store or library, had several conversations, played with Zachary, and done chores. Some of the evening was work and some was alternative relaxation and fun. We stay away from the internet during the rest of the evening too, unless it’s a necessity (like managing our budget and paying bills).When we sit in front of the TV, there is no guilt. We’ve made a conscious decision that we want to watch a show or movie and to relax at the end of the night. Since we’ve been actively engaged the rest of the evening, it no longer feels like a waste of time. We’re not on autopilot anymore. We have a choice again.
Watch TV Without Feeling Guilty!
Watching TV is one of our favorite relaxing activities but before we made the decision to do it LESS it never felt relaxing. There was always a nagging feeling that we should be doing something else. That feeling has vanished since following these steps.
We reset our evenings to live more intentionally, and they’re more relaxing and happier because of it. We can now relax and enjoy the activity in the moment, rather than constantly thinking we should be doing something else.
Do you think this would work for you and your family? Do you think watching tv less could allow you to enjoy it more? Have you done something similar in your own family? Let me know below!
-To your Better Life-