I stopped watching TV almost 14 years ago and most apprehensions I had about missing out on news and information were short-lived. It is probably one of the most significant steps I took towards self-improvement, because it instantly released an additional hour or two per day for other tasks, which I then believed I did not quite have time for. Over the years, I have tried to impress upon various people including the colleagues at my workplace on the advantages and almost everyone who followed this simple rule confirmed that their life had changed significantly.
Many people that I come in touch with me ask me why I did this, what are the advantages and how on earth I can manage life without TV. So I thought I should write a comprehensive article on it.
5 Biggest Reasons You Should Not Watch TV
TV induces trance-like states
Psychology generally define trance as a state of limited awareness or as a kind of altered state of consciousness. Trance has for time immemorial been associated with hypnotic states. Meditation produces strong trance states. Trance states are much more common than is believed. The normal aware state is called ‘Beta’ whereas ‘Alpha’ waves are associated with a deep relaxation or trance-like state. When in Alpha, a person experiences a passive learning experience, intentionally or otherwise whilst discarding critical and logical thinking skills.
Way back in the year 1969, a man named Herbert Krugman conducted a series of experiments regarding the effect of television on a person’s brainwaves. What he discovered was quite important and at once, startling. Krugman found that in less than one minute of television viewing, the person’s brainwaves switched from Beta waves – brainwaves associated with active, logical thought – to primarily Alpha waves. When the subject stopped watching television and began reading a magazine, the brainwaves reverted to Beta waves.
In this altered state, you are extremely susceptible to all kinds of negative influences, from crime, violence and sex to programming yourself with negativity, from having your belief systems poisoned to affecting your outlook on life and the world in general. Since your critical thinking skills are subjugated by the induced trance-like state, even advertisements have a more-than-normal impact on your decision-making abilities.
Waste of time
The one common excuse we all have for the things that we have to do or ought to do or want to do is “I just don’t have the time”. We all have 24 hours a day, be it Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi, no one had a minute extra per day. Where corporate time-management skills are a pre-requisite from a work perspective, it is equally important that we spend every minute of our life optimally in our best and highest interests. Just banning TV from my life, has given me so much more time each month to do the things I love and ensure I have ample time for the average householder’s duties. The Nielsen research showed the average American watched an average of 5 hours of TV per day. I am not sure what the corresponding numbers are for the average India, but I am sure it would be at least 2-3 hours per day – that is almost a month and a half extra time per year.
As mentioned earlier, in your highly susceptible altered state of mind, TV influences you to buy things that you normally wouldn’t buy. Stand-alone advertisements, integrated product placements, direct messages, subliminal messaging, all of these spur you to buy things when you see them. Quite obviously, heavy TV viewing is inextricably linked to higher material aspirations as well. Rather than make conscious decisions using all our faculties on the things we need, the TV images play on your fears and desires to trigger the ‘I must have that’ feeling. We fail to distinguish between what is ‘need to have’ and ‘nice to have’. Consumerism is almost never a solution for happiness – yet most commercials tell you exactly that to get your ‘buy in’.
Lack of social skills
Every hour spent in front of the idiot box is an hour that you could have utilized so meaningfully with your family, your friends, in social or professional networking, on reading, writing, hobbies, learning or any other activity you enjoy. A family that watches TV together and perhaps even laughs or cries at the same time whilst watching TV isn’t bonding with each other, they are actually bonding with the content on the TV.
Watching TV takes away the time for exercise, for both young and old, leading to obesity in families. Watching TV is a double whammy – not only does it take away the time to exercise, at the same time it inculcates undesirable habits like being a couch potato, eating unhealthy or junk food and giving in to the temptation of sugary soft drinks. Some people think television is also the main culprit behind attention deficit disorder but this is aggravated by sugary soft drinks. If not controlled with a proper diet and exercise, this problem will ultimately lead to further obesity. Eventually, TV addiction concomitant with junk food will cause high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Sports broadcast on TV discourages children from participating in local sports and league games because they prefer to watch the sport instead of playing them.
5 Best Steps to Stop Watching TV
By now, if you have made a decision to ban TV from your life, the next challenge is how you can go about achieving this. This is not a challenge for some people, but for others, it could be a major challenge, depending on how long and how addictive their TV watching pattern has been.
Even moderate viewers are known to experience ‘withdrawal symptoms’ if they stop watching TV for a prolonged period of time. Way back in October 1975, two sets of experiments in South Africa and West Germany, where several families volunteered to turn off their TVs for just a month led to depression, increased anxiety and frustration compounded with the inability to know what to do with the extra time they now had on their hands.
Find replacement activities.
Bad Habits can be successfully changed by replacing the old habit with a new one. Make sure the extra time is immediately and fully utilized with rewarding and fulfilling replacement activities such as Jogging, swimming , playing sports, cycling, aerobics, going to the gymnasium, catching up with friends, attending a workshop, reading a book, writing, blogging, travelling, hiking, doing a course, organizing your life/home/office, meditating, socializing, starting a new business or venture, etc. Taking up a mini-course on something you always wanted to learn or on self-improvement is perhaps the best idea.
Disconnect your cable TV subscription.
The compulsion to watch TV can only be quelled by disconnecting any cable or satellite TV subscription – this ensures that you do not fall back into those habits in uncertain moments. If you are serious in your pursuit, do it tomorrow. You get your time back and also save money at the same time.
If you are uncertain or apprehensive, plan to gradually reduce your TV time to NIL. Make sure that for every few minutes that you have reduced TV watching time, you have another activity planned at that exact hour. If you are a heavy TV watcher, start off by limiting your TV time to just 2 hours a day at a specific time. Fill in all other time slots through proper planning. After a week, reduce this to an hour and a half and once again find an alternative activity. After yet another week, reduce this to an hour and finally to thirty minutes before completely doing away with this habit. When you have finally reduced it to NIL minutes per day, make sure you stick to this program for 21 continuous days.
The 21 day Transformation
In today’s day and age, it is a well known fact backed by research that it takes 21 days to break or form a new habit. 21 days is the time required for new neuropathways to be fully formed in your brain. There are innumerable examples available online to confirm this fact. It is also more efficient, because this is the minimum time required as well as the shortest possible time to transform yourself.
Make New Goals
On the very first day that you decide to stop watching TV, sit down by yourself for a couple of hours and make an exhaustive list of what you would like to do in your spare time. List out specific goals for yourself and make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. goals – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Work on your personal goals every single day, even if it is only for 30 minutes each day. You will be amazed at the results and make sure you write back to me on your achievements.