Lately, I have realized that my desire to turn the TV on has almost completely disappeared. In fact, I have found that the idea of turning the TV on actually makes me feel anxious. I sat down recently and really brainstormed how this has taken place. After all, I didn’t intentionally stop watching so much TV. It just sort of happened. Because of this, I have found more time on my hands, I see more connection in our family and marriage, and have cultivated more creativity in my life. Since our family has seen massive benefits from less screen time, I put together a mix of 18 different strategies you can put into play in your own home that will help you watch less TV this year and just maybe start living a bigger, bolder life.
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The benefits of less TV
I think we all know at our core that too much TV is never a good thing. In fact, I’m sure most of us grew up being told that. However, as we grow into adulthood, and start facing the pressures of the “real world,” it’s pretty hard not to want to zone out with some TV at the end of the day.
Even though the desire for some serious relaxation tends to pull us to the couch, a study mentioned in The Happiness Advantage shares that people can genuinely only hold interest in watching TV for 30 minutes or so.
I presented this information to my husband Tom and while he was hesitant at first, we both realized, it’s usually about 20 minutes in then we want a snack, or we grab our phone. Really, the TV doesn’t hold our interest for that long.
Yes, some people don’t really watch TV
A quick scan of the internet shocked me in that I see a lot of articles that center around people shaming those who don’t watch TV or even believe people are lying about not watching TV.
The truth is, 99% of households in America do have TVs, so I guess it makes sense that we doubt the 1%.
However, part of me can’t help but wonder if there is a little shame involved in cutting someone else down for claiming they don’t watch TV. After all, people love to go after successful people like Chip and Joanna Gaines when they state that they don’t own a TV or that they spend a lot of time with their kids.
I can’t help but wonder if seeing successful people like that makes some of us feel…small. We doubt our own capabilities and therefore put the blame on others who have shown us that being out-of-the-ordinary is actually possible.
Anyway, for those of you considering no longer being part of the “norm,” here are some ideas on how you can effectively cut down your TV time (or hell, maybe eliminate it altogether).
Set the sleep timer
Having a timer set for our TV time is a genius idea in order to help us reduce the amount of time we spend watching it. Now you could set a timer on your phone, sure. But chances are that “snooze” button would get pretty tempting.
However, if you cut yourself off at the source by having the TV turn off after 1 hour, you are guaranteed to stick to a healthy time limit.
Remove the batteries
Again, in the book The Happiness Advantage, author Shawn Achor talks about how the best way to quit a bad habit is to make it hard to maintain that habit.
He uses his own example of reducing TV time by removing the batteries from the remote control and placing them down the hall in his desk drawer.
Sure, it only takes 30 seconds to get the batteries and put them back in, but a lot of times, that extra 30 seconds isn’t time we’re willing to put in.
At the end of the day, if you truly want to watch less TV, find ways to make it harder to watch it!
Leave a game on the table
Along with the fact that making bad habits harder to have is a wise choice, making good habits easier is just as helpful.
That’s why our family has started leaving games on the kitchen table like Scrabble, Bananagrams, Boggle, and Sumoku. In doing this, we have made it really easy to get distracted with a game instead and have even started playing games while we eat dinner.
This might sound odd, but not so long ago we were sitting and watching TV while we ate. Why not play a game together instead? It’s definitely more fun and we get some face-to-face time with our kids.
Make the coffee table more fun
Ok, one more along those same lines. This one is especially good if you’ve removed the batteries from the remote.
Leave other distractions on the coffee table like magazines, books, games or crossword puzzles.
You’re already sitting down, you don’t want to go get the batteries, chances are, you’ll reach for something right within arms reach. You still get to relax but you can do it without the TV blaring.
Plan other activities
If you know you tend to resort to TV time when you’re bored or when you don’t have anything else to do, plan something to do!
During our debt payoff journey, our family was forced to find so many free or affordable things to do in our area in order to save money.
The thing is, you don’t have to go for a run or visit a museum in order to plan another fun activity. Even taking the time to invite a friend (or your spouse) out for Happy Hour after work can be a great way to unwind while still socializing and getting some quality time in with someone you value.
Be lead by reading
Maybe you hate reading like I used to. I get that. However, if you have ever found a book you did like, try to find similar books on the shelves and give one of them a try.
Then, let yourself be lead by books.
What I have found is that when you read a book the author will mention a different book or another author will write a review for the book you are currentlty reading.
As you start to read more, you’ll find it becomes easier and easier to be lead to different books. This is kind of like finding a new series to binge watch. If you can do that with Netflix, I’m sure you can do that with books too.
Fill the silence
I know some people who are highly productive individuals that just like the sound of the TV on. It’s comforting for them. For me, soon after I had kids, I began to detest the sound of the TV. There was just too much stimulation and noise for my taste.
However, if you like that comforting sound of the TV on but don’t want to keep getting caught up with the screen, try opting for a podcast or an Audiobook. A lot of times Audible has great promotions that are super affordable! 10 Easy Ways to Start Consuming More Books.
Make less TVs
Maybe you don’t mind gathering together to watch TV with the whole family, but you don’t like falling asleep to it every night.
One great way to cut back TV time is to have less of them.
Not only has eliminating TV from the bedroom proven to be romantically beneficial (insert eyebrow raise), but it can lead to better sleep as well.
Make a habit of moving
For our family, I really think the turning point for TV was spending more time hiking. However, I get that not everyone wants to sleep in their minivan and spend their days on the hiking trails. Fair enough.
However, a quick after-dinner walk with the family could be a great habit to start. Heck, even just making a habit of turning the TV off to clean up the kitchen after dinner could be a genius way to move and reduce TV time.
Create less options
If you are currently tempted by satelite TV, Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services, why not try limiting your options?
Not only will reducing the number of services you have on TV help you be less tempted into watching more, but you could also start reducing your monthly bills as well!
Don’t seek new shows
If you’ve just finished a show’s series on Netflix, consider pumping the breaks before you start asking around looking for a new show.
We are so often so quick to fill our time with other people’s recommendations that we never really get the chance to ask ourselves how we want to spend our time!
Become present (pay attention to how soon you start moving)
Try this mini challenge: set a timer and start watching a TV show or movie. Let yourself get completely absorbed in it. Then take notice of when you start feeling fidgety.
How long does it take before you start craving a snack? Did you keep watching the TV or did you reach for your phone?
Pay attention to how long TV is actually entertaining to you. Chances are, you might not be as caught up as you think you are.
Make TV time a big event
Instead of making TV a nightly habit, consider turning it into a big event. If there is a new show or movie on your streaming service, make a plan for Friday night to get together with your family, friend or spouse to watch it.
Get popcorn, grab some drinks. Feel free to turn TV time into a whole event. This might make it seem a lot more fun and intentional and take away the temptation to make it into a habit.
Watch only the best
Confession time: we watch TV shows often.
Yes, we have eliminated our TV time in a big way, but that doesn’t mean we don’t still watch TV.
The thing is, we have made a hobby (can I call it a hobby) of purchasing the DVDs from our favorite TV shows. When Friends was taken off Netflix and everyone else was in a panic, I didn’t sweat it for a second. I have had all 10 seasons for years.
By choosing to watch only your family shows (our go-tos are Friends, The Office, Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother) not only are you watching something you know you already love, but you don’t have as much guilt turning it off. After all, you’ve already seen it.
Plan a self-growth time
Have you been wanting to accomplish something big in your life but keep feeling like you don’t have enough time? How about after your 1 hour (or so) of TV time, give social media a break, avoid the TV, and focus for 1 hour on that thing you’ve always wanted to do.
Not quite sure what to do? The book The Artists Way is an amazing guide to helping you re-connect with your inner child and bring your creativity. Don’t worry, it’s not just for artsy people. The exercises in this book can work for anyone and take about an hour a day!
Who says you can’t just give cold turkey a go? Sometimes, to make matter worse, some TVs might require a whole mini re-program sesh before you can even use the TV again. (Maybe this is just an old school TV thing — and I’m still recovering from the power going out when I was a teenager?)
Even just unplugging for one week to see what else you end up accomplishing with your time would be a great way to challenge yourselves as a family.
Turn the volume down
Most of the time we want the TV on because we just want something easy. We don’t want to have to think. If you feel like it’s becoming too easy to spend hours and hours spaced out at the TV try turning the volume down.
This is a sneaky way to force yourself to be more engaged and/or make your brain more aware of how much time it’s spent just trying to hear the words to something.
Rather than just spacing, this forces us to become more aware of the amount of time we are spending on our bums in front of a screen.
When my husband and I were talking about less TV, we wondered if documentaries had the same “zombie-like” effect. After all, documentaries can make us more informed, right?
Well, my bonus thought was, if this is the case with the TV that you are watching, a great way to become a more active participant would be to actually take notes. Turn your brain on. Get those brain muscles active in some critical thinking.
You might think this is a total joke, but as someone who has 5 notebooks all for jotting down good ideas, thoughts, note and quotes I assure you, I’m dead serious.
TV is not the devil…but…
No, TV is not the worst thing in the world, but at the end of the day, I think you’ve got bigger and better things to do. I believe you have a contribution to make. I bet you have loved ones you could call. People to spend your time with.
If you feel like you don’t, maybe it’s time to explore something outside of the house so that you can. Maybe you could try out spending more time alone with a journal … I have journal prompts for that!
At the end of the day, if you have been getting sick of how much time you spend watching TV, hopefully this post gave you a few ideas on where you can get started!
Did I miss something? Drop it in the comments.