You might feel more bored—at first
If you're a TV junkie, abandoning your TV—or merely turning it off—is asking the impossible. But hear us out: Giving the screen a rest can make your happier, richer, and slimmer. Just don't expect anything to happen right off the bat. In fact, it's normal to take a few steps forward before you take a few steps back. "You may be used to turning on the TV when you get home to entertain yourself, but TV rarely helps us experience the true joy of life," says Mike Dow, PhD, psychotherapist and author of Healing the Broken Brain. While you may discover some extra time that you have no idea what to do with, gradually you'll find activities you've been meaning to pick up or projects you've been meaning to tackle but have been continually putting off. "This reminder might even help you become more organized and get rid of clutter in your home," says Kelsey Patel, a Beverly Hills-based life coach. "If it's been awhile since your last closet or garage clean-out, take a few evenings off TV to organize, box up, or drop off the items you no longer use or need, and see how it feels to create more space in your home." As they say, less is more. Here are the things to finally get rid of next time you clean your closet.
You may feel less scatterbrained
Especially these days, with the plethora of electronic gadgets at our fingertips, it's easy to find yourself multitasking when watching TV—from checking email to paying bills to playing mindless games. But the more you multitask, the less efficient you are at actually relaxing, which is most likely the reason you're watching TV in the first place. And, according to several studies, watching less TV might even lower your risk for being diagnosed with dementia later in life. "On the other hand, activities like exercise, board games, dancing, cooking, or learning a new language have all been associated with a decreased risk for dementia development," says Dr. Dow. These brain games are proven to help prevent memory loss.
You could become happier
There's a negativity bias that we often see through the media, which can increase our propensity to focus on the negative in our own life. "Advertisers know that showing you the newest, greatest, and latest gadget can actually make you more stressed and less happy with what you have," Dr. Dow says. "The 24-hour news cycle, political news that frustrates you, or scary news that frightens you can increase your levels of the stress hormone, cortisol." And high levels of cortisol can wreak havoc in your immune system and even age you. Once you quit the boob tube, you might notice an uptick in self- and body-image. "Without your exposure to advertisements, you'll be less likely to compare yourself to unrealistic standards of beauty through doctored images on the screen and advertisements that are created to profit off your insecurities by pushing products that you supposedly 'need,'" explains London-based life coach and founder of Mindset For Life, Michelle Elman. Borrow these body confidence tricks from plus-size models to feel great in your skin.
You relationships could get stronger
In the days before On-Demand, most people would at least socialize with the people around them during commercials. But now that we can fast-forward right through them, we're more likely to stay mum. Once you do cut out TV, though, you might notice that the types of conversations you have will change, usually for the better. "Instead of having superficial conversations about the latest episode of your favorite program, you'll find new ways to bond with people, and therefore the conversations will tend to be deeper than you'd have previously experienced," says Elman. You may be more encouraged to pick up a board game with your kids, spark a meaningful conversation with your spouse, or even call an old friend who lives far away. These are the secrets of happy families.
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You'll sleep better
Although it can seem impossible at times to keep your eyes from fluttering, TV viewing can be a stimulating activity for the nervous system. "Cognitive stimulation creates electrical activity in the brain, causing neurons to race," explains Christine Austin, certified master health and wellness coach. "When watching an action drama, the body can get stressed and go into a 'fight or flight' response, releasing cortisol." This can be quite unsettling, especially when we're trying to relax. What's more, the light emitted from the TV may play a role in delaying the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. And watching TV often causes us to become accustomed to the high speed pace in which we're receiving information. Reading, or otherwise relaxing without looking at a screen, will make it easier to get a good night's sleep, says Helen Odessky, PhD, psychologist and author of Stop Anxiety From Stopping You. Here's what you can do during the day to ensure the best possible sleep at night.
Your physical health might improve
Unless the only time you watch TV is while you're on the treadmill, you'll likely sit less and move more once you quit the habit, improving your health and burning more calories, potentially leading to weight loss. "Even people who go the gym regularly can benefit from moving," says Dr. Dow. "Just one hour of sitting can increase your risk of future disease, which is why it's sometimes referred to as 'sitting disease' by doctors." You may also start to eat more intuitively, enjoying your meals more and even eating less. "Watching TV is a passive activity, meaning that you're not necessarily asking yourself whether or not you want to continue watching what you're watching—you usually just watch it until it's done," explains Katherine Schaffer, an New York City-based licensed psychotherapist. "The same goes for eating while you're watching TV—you're not usually checking in with yourself and asking whether or not you're really hungry—you usually just eat until your snack is done."
You could become more thoughtful
How often do we say or think, "I just don't have time for that?" In fact, 75 percent of parents claim to be too busy to read to their children at night. "Being 'busy' has become part of modern expression, but we have more control of our time than we realize," says Austin. With more time in your schedule, and less distraction blaring from the TV set, you might think to do things for others that you wouldn't normally do, like reading to your child more often or sending a handwritten card, either for a loved one's birthday or just because. "The cutting back of meaningless tasks to accomplish the meaningful is empowering," reminds Austin.
You could get a better grasp on your finances
"With the rise of programming costs, ditching traditional cable and satellite providers is gaining momentum," explains Austin. "If your current programming costs you $100 a month, $1,200 can provide a pleasurable annual vacation or the opportunity to invest in that home improvement project that you have been contemplating." And there's another monetary potential—just think of the cash you'll save by avoidance of annoying and manipulative advertisements, especially if the kids are watching! The time saved from sitting in front of the TV might also encourage you to seek out other ways to save. "Take a night to see where your money is going each month and what you're bringing in," suggests Patel. "You might be surprised at what you might find and how you might save or use that extra money." Adopt the habits of great money-savers.
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You might become more selective
If and when you do decide to put TV back into your life, you'll most likely be more selective about what type of shows, channels, or programming you watch. "After taking a reasonable break, you'll realize that time is precious and learn to devote it only to programs you're truly interested in, instead of just watching whatever is on," explains Dr. Odessky.