How to Give Up Television

How much television do you watch every day? The national figure is seven hours every day. Isn’t that astounding. Seven hours? That is the equivalent of a full time job if you include Sunday in that figure. An even more alarming statistic is that 70% of what we watch we have absolutely no interest in. We are really just watching television just to see what’s on. If you are looking for a hidden gold mine of time to devote to your personal development, improving your relationships and enjoying really entertaining activities, television is usually a good place to start.

Several months ago I made the decision to give up television entirely. Initially I found it difficult to find useful and entertaining activities to fill the vacancy television created, but after a few months off of the tube and I can say it is wonderful. The extra time I gained from television was crucial in meeting a few of my goals I reached this June. Moreover, this extra time allowed me to pursue activities such as volunteer coaching for soccer and Toastmasters.

Why Drop Television?

If you are currently locked into the radiation emitter, then you may be curious as to why you may decide to dump television. I’ll go over some of the positive benefits of the habit as well as some things you may not have thought of. Here are the major reasons to drop television:

Reason One: More Time

Although I doubt most the people who visit sites like these spend a full seven hours a day watching television, you probably spend a lot more than you realize. By giving up television completely you will suddenly find yourself with a flow of extra time to pursue new activities. If you are time starved like most people in today’s society, retaking the television time can be a good start.

Reason Two: More Energy

Obesity, stress and fatigue are common problems of the typical Westerner. I believe that the television drains far more energy out of you then you think. Although the act of watching television doesn’t expend much energy, by watching it so much you exhaust your ability to use energy. Like someone who is stuck in bed for weeks, your energy ‘muscles’ atrophy to the point where it takes considerable force to concentrate and focus. This isn’t even considering the fact that television may be replacing exercise in your daily routine.

Reason Three: Better Entertainment

I’ll be the first to admit it. There are some fantastically entertaining shows on television. Some of my favorite shows were Family Guy, Star Trek, Friends and Law & Order. Suspenseful and humorous, many of these shows were worth watching. Unfortunately, I started to notice that the quality of the entertainment was fairly hit or miss. While some shows provided consistent entertainment, for many getting true laughs or suspense was rare and hard to come by. More than that, I noticed I was wasting time watching episodes with no value whatsoever, just to catch a glimpse of a good one. By eliminating television I spent more time in social activities that consistently provided more entertainment.

Reason Four: Gain Sensitivity

Television is very desensitizing. With flashy plots, moving colors and gimmicky ads you start to lose sensation for everyday experiences. The beauty of the clouds or smell after a rainstorm lose value when compared to the high impact experience of a car explosion or intense colors of a Five Alive advertisement. By giving up television you ensure that your everyday experiences becomes a little more vibrant. Now this isn’t to say that you should never seek extraordinary sensations to expand your mind, but by constantly consuming them you become dependent on that stimulation.

Reason Five: What do you have to lose?

Honestly, this was the biggest reason for my experiment. If giving up television works out great, then I have installed a great new habit. If I decide that it was better before, then the trial was still successful. That is the beauty of experimentation, you are free to experience both sides and then pick the best option. The worst case scenario is that you miss a few of your shows for a few days. Come on, it isn’t like they won’t be syndicated until the end of time anyways!

Start with a 30 Day Blackout

The first way to start your habit conditioning trial is to do a thirty day blackout of all television. I tend to allow DVD movies as they are usually a very distinct form of entertainment, usually watched with friends and aren’t usually watched to excess. But other than that small caveat, you must go completely free without television for thirty days. This is meant to break your addiction so you can decide to pursue television or not through a conscious decision.

I’m serious when I say no television for thirty days. If a friend wants to watch a television show with you, leave the room and ask him to tape it. If someone has left the television on in a room, turn it off immediately, or leave the room. If everyone is watching television with supper, eat alone. This may seem harsh, but cold turkey is the only way to snap out of the habit of watching television as an automatic response when you are bored, eating or sitting in the living room.

Replace Your Sources of Entertainment

Real serious TV addicts may come to one conclusion. They really don’t have very many other entertaining activities to replace television. Others may find they have a devolved social life because of the tube. Replacing your sources of entertainment and solutions to boredom are critical in replacing the TV addiction.

Look around for other activities in your area. Brainstorm a list of fun, interesting or exciting things you always wanted to try but didn’t feel you had enough time. I’ll start the list for you:

You need to make sure that all of the benefits you received from television are somehow compensated for by another source. Finding better and more efficient forms of entertainment, solutions to boredom or things to do while eating will be critical in shaking off your television addiction. There are plenty of sources, you just need to access that latent grey area between your ears to find them.

Other Possibilities for Television Usage

This television trial wasn’t my first trial with television usage. There are other ways you can utilize television to get more out of the television you are already watching. One of my first trials was over a year ago when I decided to try the habit of using a VCR recorder to tape all my favorite shows and to never watch television live. I ultimately found this was inefficient, but you need to experiment to find what works for you. Here are some possiblities:

No Live TV

Tape all your shows and watch them without commercials. This can be great if you mostly watch TV alone or you have a few key shows you like to watch. By taping shows in advance you are distilling what you deem to be better content from the mass of garbage out there. It may not be an effective strategy if you like to watch television with family or friends as they may not put up with your strange methods of optimization. I eventually found this habit was causing me to watch boring episodes of shows I had taped simply because I hadn’t taped anything else. It is also easy to go overboard and tape too much so you are right back where you started. Find what works for you.

Pre-Assigned Television Watching

Another experiment I did a long time ago when I was still new with the idea of changing habits was to make a rule that you could only watch television if you assigned it in advance. This one could work if your family or friends tend to watch television as a social activity. By deciding days in advance that you will watch only certain shows, that can help cut the 70% garbage rate, but still mean you can watch television with friends.

I eventually settled on no television at all, with the exception of rented/bought DVD’s but you need to find what works for you. As I mentioned in my reasons for giving up television, what do you have to lose? The very worst case will be that you decide you currently have the best possible television watching habits, in which case you missed one month of television. Otherwise you may be surprised to find a very superior form of entertainment or social contact. Whatever you settle upon, make the decision consciously.


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