The 9 Step Television Diet
Over the holiday break, I traveled back to Canada to visit my parents. Since I don’t watch TV at home, I decided I would indulge my senses and watch a little. “Hey, it’s the break. Relax, let it loose and watch all those shows I miss out on.” At the end of two weeks, I was an addict. I sat and watched so many random shows that I’m embarrassed just thinking about it.
Coming from a life where the TV never gets used, I found that the change in me was swift and noticeable. My holiday daily routine went something like this: sleep in, lazily walk into the kitchen looking for food, turn on the TV to see what’s on while I eat, watch TV for several hours, spend some time with my family, eventually return to the TV and watch for several more hours.
At the end, I felt so drained and tired. Even with knowing how it made me feel, I continued to repeat this each day until the day I left. Like I was under a magical spell. What’s worst, after coming home, I downloaded all the missed episodes of Tila Tequila’s ‘Shot at Love’ and watched them. Even knowing that it was trash for my mind, I did it anyway.
Yikes! Now, I needed to do something about it.
Perhaps you can relate. I don’t mean with trashy reality shows, but how TV has the ability to grab a hold of us.
I wanted to understand: why do we keep turning the TV on?
Before we’re about to turn on the TV, it feels as if it is the best thing to do at this moment. It’s easy; just one flick of a button. When we’re watching it, we don’t have to think, we just sit back passively while absorbing the bright lights and sounds, characters and plot lines. We seemingly forget everything else while we are entirely focussed. Television becomes a nice excuse to delay our responsibilities.
We watch TV, even if there isn’t anything good on. We find ourselves surfing through all the channels, hoping to find anything to keep us there. I feels so much easier than any alternate, which would mean leaving our comfortable position. Before we know it, we’ve been staring at the TV for longer than we planned and delayed what really needed to get done.
Let me ask you, how do you feel after getting up from watching TV? Do you feel good about yourself? Personally, I feel terrible; guilty of procrastinating and frustrated with my lack of willpower.
Here are some effects of TV watching based on my experience:
- Mental Clutter – Most things on TV are useless and uninspiring. We are drawn to them to satisfy our curiosity and fear of being alone without things to do. It almost gives us a sense of temporary purpose and a great way to kill time. Most simply becomes unnecessary noise that clutters my mind and inner space.
- Mentally Draining – I feel tired and drained. Literally, after staring at the screen passively, my head is numb and I feel sleepy. This is because our brains are actively working to process the highly visual and auditory information, even though we are sitting there passively receiving the information.
- Highly Addictive – I want to watch more. After watching the show we’ve planned to watch, what do we do afterwards? The natural tendency is to click around and see what else is on. It’s not unusual to set out wanting to watch one show and ending up watching several more hours of unplanned TV ‘action’.
- Time Consuming – Due to its addictive qualities, it has the tendency to suck your time. You are not able to do other things more empowering or beneficial.
- Feeling Crappy – I never feel good about myself after I finally pry my eyes from the TV set. With the exception of some documentaries and shows, most shows don’t leave you empowered or inspired.
- Procrastination – You get drawn in. You get distracted and delay your tasks. You encourage yourself to procrastinate. I noticed this tendency in myself, as I am procrastinating to complete this blog post.
- Kills Imagination – I remember reading a study several years ago on child development and imagination. They concluded that reading tends to stimulate imagination, and extensive TV watching suppresses imagination. When we are watching TV, we are passively receiving and processing visual information, and little imagination is required. Whereas when reading, you are actively reading words and then converting them into visual information or meaning.
- Bad Posture - It’s easy to slide down into couch when we relax. When we are absorbed by a riveting show, we tend to disregard any physical sensation and rest in the same position. This can’t possibly be conducive for our physical health. On my flight home from my holiday, I could barely sit up because of pain in my lower back.
- Guilt – Naturally, we feel guilty when we haven’t accomplished what we’ve set out to do. Once you realize that you are no further ahead than you were when you started, your conscience jumps on you.
Solution? How to Overcome TV Addiction?
Well, pleading with myself to stop watching these silly shows didn’t work. I needed more motivation.
Here are some strategies and tips that helped me in conquering my recent TV addiction.
I hope they can be of help in your life.
1. Focus on Your Food When Eating
It’s so tempting to turn on the TV while we eat. We tell ourselves, “I’m gonna be eating and doing nothing else. Might as well be entertained as I eat.” But before we know it, we’ll end up spending more time than necessary in front of the television, and not really tasting or enjoying our food. Also, I tend to overeat when I’m distracted, which leaves me feeling bloated and lazy.
Next time you eat, try fully focusing on the wonderful aromas and flavors in your food when and on nothing else. Concentrate on the taste and texture of your food. Feel it giving you energy as you eat. This is actually a form of meditation that can center you. Try it!
2. Break Old Routines
If your habit is to turn on the TV immediately after you come home, then try changing your routine to break the habit. What can you do for 10 minutes after coming home instead of flicking on the TV? Connect with a friend? Read an inspirational story? Have a snack? Get exercise? Do some Yoga or Meditation?
3. Plan Your Escape Route
Before turning on the TV for a specific show, know exactly what you’re going to do after the show. It helps to write the task out on paper along with reasons why you should do this task. For example, “After watching the Amazing Race at 9pm, I will go out for a run because it makes me feel healthy and gives me energy.”
4. Get Used To Using the OFF Button
Once you know exactly what you’re going to do immediately following a show, practice turning off the TV once the show is done.
5. Use Television As A Reward
Instead of saying, “I’ll go do my task when I’m done watching my show.” Develop the discipline to reward yourself with the show when you are done with the task.
6. Ask Yourself Why?
Find a quiet place without interruption. Close your eyes for several minutes and focus on your breath. Then ask yourself: Why do I want to watch this TV show? What do I have to gain? We are all intelligent beings and we all know the answers deep within us. When I asked myself this, I realized that it was because these shows provided a convenient excuse for me to avoid my responsibilities. It was easier and more comfortable than ‘work’ that has long term benefits.
7. Simple Reduction
List out all the shows you watch and see which ones you can cut out. Start with eliminating one show and gradually release the unnecessary shows one by one. Remember to ask yourself when evaluating each show, “What am I gaining from watching this? Is it going to bring me lasting happiness and fulfillment?”
8. Television Allowance
Give yourself a self-imposed limit to TV watching in a day or week. This will force you to put your television appetite on a diet. Try starting with half the hours you currently watch. I have reduced myself to watching one hour of TV a week: “The Amazing Race” every Sunday.
9. Visualized Pain
Did you know that we are willing to go to more extremes to avoid pain than we are to gain pleasure? We tend to choose TV over a responsibility because in that moment, we fail to see the pain of not following through on our responsibilities.
Try this: Close your eyes. Visualize the pain you would feel by not doing a task. Make it as real as possible, feel it with all senses. Intensify the feeling. Double the intensity several times if you can. After a few minutes, imagine the pleasure and freedom after you’ve completed the task (and are rewarded with the show). Again visualize and feel it with absolute intensity.
Hypothetical Situation: You have a report to complete before tomorrow morning at 9am. To visualize the pain, you could imagine the stress created from procrastination later on that night and the agitated feeling you’ll experience the next day from lack of sleep. For pleasure, you could imagine the wonderful feelings of self-empowerment and freedom now that you have your report completed. See yourself sleeping at a reasonable hour and feeling refreshed and energetic the next day.
What are your thoughts on TV watching? How does extended TV viewing make you feel? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.