17 Ways to Beat Your Television Addiction
Escape couch potato syndrome with these tips to get your boob-tube time under control
Tired of wasting the equivalent of two months of your life every year glued to the tube? Spending more than an hour sitting in front of the television each evening? Like kicking any habit, half the battle of TV addiction is acknowledging the problem and making the commitment to change. Assuming you have the commitment, here are specific tips on getting the job done:
1. Give your extra TVs to charity. Allow your home one TV in a room dedicated to nothing but reading or TV watching. Donate the rest to a school or charitable organization in your community. You’ll not only get the tax deduction and a feeling that you did good, but it will be that much harder to veg out in front of the tube!
2. Only turn on the TV to watch a particular show. In other words, don’t just turn it on and go surfing for something worthwhile. Hours are quickly wasted, switching from one show to the next, watching all and none at the same time.
3. Then, when you sit down to watch a particular show, set a timer or an alarm clock in another room for the length of the show. When it beeps, you’ll have to get out of your chair to turn it off, a signal to also turn off the tube.
4. Throw out the remote control. It’s amazing how much less television you’ll watch if you have to get up every time you want to change channels or adjust the volume. Plus, it eliminates all those hours you spend channel surfing.
5. Rearrange the furniture. Design your family room so that the television becomes not the focal point of the room, but an afterthought that requires twisting around or rearranging the furniture to view.
6. Hide the television. Put it behind an armoire, hang a blanket over it, or stick it inside a cabinet. Do whatever you can to ensure it fades into the background and can’t be seen for what it is — a dangerous time sucker.
7. Eat meals, especially dinner, with the television OFF.
8. Set a rule that you can’t watch TV if the sun is shining. Instead, you have to go for a walk, ride a bike, or get some other kind of healthy physical activity for at least an hour before you can turn on the tube. This rule also works great for your kids or grandkids.
9. Make a TV-watching plan each week. Sit down with the viewing guide and pick out the shows you want to watch that week. Watch only those shows, and when they’re over, turn the TV off.
10. Set a rule that you must read 30 pages of a book or magazine before you can turn on the TV. Depending on how fast you read, you may never watch TV again!
11. Create a list of one-hour evening projects. List everything you can possibly dream of: cleaning a particularly messy cupboard, organizing recipes, touching up the paint on your bedroom walls, sharpening kitchen knives, sorting through your sewing materials. Then create an old-fashioned job jar, and try to do one each evening.
12. Switch to games. With your spouse and/or children, relearn the fun of Scrabble, backgammon, or even chess. Get out the playing cards and have a hearts or gin rummy battle. Play Ping-Pong, pool, or darts in the basement. Go outside and practice your golf swing with practice balls. All of these are more fun, healthy, and life-affirming than sitting in front of the
13. Develop a fast-moving news routine. Most news shows are scheduled down to the minute. So investigate the handful of shows you watch and figure out when they run the features you are most interested in. For example, the local weather is on the Weather Network at eight after the hour; the recap of the day’s headlines on CNN at fifteen after; the sports scores on ESPN SportsCenter shortly after. Add it all together, and you have a total national news briefing in about 15 minutes. Sounds like the perfect evening television routine. Watch it when you get home, and then turn off the television for the rest of the night.
14. Say no to Jaws for the 15th time. Often we can be strangely drawn into watching things we’ve seen many times before. There’s something comforting in the repetition. Well, resist it. Watching the same James Bond movie or Trading Spaces episode again and again is unhealthy for your body and your brain.
15. Get outdoors every night. Make it a point to leave your home or apartment at least once after dinner, if only for a short walk around the block. Too many people consider their day pretty much done once they’ve eaten dinner, when in fact, evening can be a wonderful time for getting things done and having fun.
16. Change your TV-viewing chairs. Make them somewhat hard and upright — chairs you don’t want to lounge in for hours. Move your most comfy chairs to the living room, and use them for listening to music and reading.
17. Say no to pundits and celebrity talkfests. One way to cut down on television is to rule out certain types of shows. We suggest, start with any show in which you are watching a person talk. It is rare that a television interview or conversation is deeply insightful. Other categories to consider boycotting:
- Entire ball games. Why spend three hours watching a baseball or football game when the critical action can be captured in five minutes?
- Any show with a laugh track. How good can it be if it requires canned laughter to tell you a scene is funny?
- Shows filled with guns and violence. Who needs the mental baggage of all that killing and mayhem?
- Reality shows built on a cruel premise. If it torments the participants, or causes them ridicule, or extols values contrary to yours (like all the shows glorifying plastic surgery), then don’t watch.
What does that leave you with? Quality news coverage; good movies; shows you can learn from; shows that celebrate people and the good in life.
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