Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Turning off the television (or how I have no self-control)

At start of this year I gave up watching television.  I intended to last the whole year, but I only made it to mid-March (when I got sick and wanted nothing more than to watch a Grey’s Anatomy and drink ginger beer).  I originally made the resolution because I have discovered that I am a happier, more balanced individual when I do not watch television.

I love television just as much as the next person.  In fact, I may love it more.  I have little to no discretion when it comes to quality—bring on trashy reality shows!  It’s like a train wreck; I just can’t look away.  When I’m watching Toddlers in Tiaras or 19 Kids and Counting, I know that it is not a productive use of my time.  I know that when I finish an episode most of the time I will have wished I had done something else—read a book, gone for a walk, wrote a blog post, stared at a wall, etc.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I think there is a time and place for everything.  When I’m feeling crappy the only thing I want to do is curl up on the couch and watch guilty pleasure television, minus the guilt.  I am not above watching television by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, the problem is how not above it I am.  I have extremely little self-control when it comes to television.  Most people can watch one show, turn off the set, and walk away.  Me?  I become obsessed.  I can’t stop myself.  Once I start, I have to keep watching.  Even though I know I am happier doing other things, I keep going back for more.

It may not sound like a big issue (who doesn’t spend a little too much time in front of the tube?), but it negatively affects my life in a serious way.  Henry and I were spending less time at the dinner table and more time on the futon with plates in our laps.  We had fewer interesting conversations because screen time was replacing face-to-face interaction.  I spent less time reading, even though I find much more joy in a book than a show.  When I started dreaming about tv characters, I knew we had a problem.

So I gave it up cold turkey.  The result: more time spent with my husband, more time spent reading, more time spent being active, more time spent with family, all of which added up to a happier me.

After my slip-up in March (which I feel no guilt about, because I was sick and watching tv when I’m sick makes me feel better), I watched in moderation.  That lasted approximately a week before I was back to full-fledged addiction.  Part of my steep slide into television oblivion was a result of my circumstances: we had just moved to Texas and I had A LOT of free time on my hands.  Watching television filled the time beautifully.

The number one thing I despise about television?  At the end of the day, it makes me feel worse about myself, my life, and the way I spend my time.  Watching television goes hand-in-hand with so many other bad habits.  When I have a lot of screen time (either television or internet), I eat terribly (maybe that connection isn't logical, but it’s true).  So for me, television equals being unproductive, eating junk food, feeling bad both physically and mentally, and spending time in front of a screen instead of with human beings.  Not much positive to say about it, is there?

Other people can stop at one show.  Other people can watch in moderation and not let it take over their life.  I envy those people.  I am not one of those people.  We have never had cable and do not actually own a tv (we watch shows on our computer) specifically because I know I would watch horrible tv non-stop.  Now that we don’t have internet (which is a whole different story) in our apartment, it’s easier than ever to give it up.*

Inspired by my friend over at Inviting Joy who recently got rid cable, I am taking a television break.  Henry and I may still watch an occasional episode on DVD together, but I am cutting myself off during the day.  Here’s to making positive, productive changes in my life.

* Except for when I go to the public library and rent an entire season of Grey’s Anatomy and proceed to watch the entire thing in a week.  Then it’s pretty easy to watch an insane amount of television even without cable, internet, or an actual tv set.  What can I say? I'm resourceful.

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