When I told a friend of mine that I would not be watching TV in January, her response was, “you picked one of the longest, coldest, darkest months of the year to go without television???”
I had to admit when she put it that way I was a little nervous I might not get through the whole month but I did with one exception. I found out that my favorite vintage TV show was back on the air. So, I allowed myself one hour a week. I still call that a success.
So, what happened when I stopped watching TV? For starters, I read more. I finished four books, started two more and listened to a lengthy audiobook. I was very pleased as reading again was one of my goals when I started this little experiment.
Another aspiration was to sleep more. The first night I did but then it got more challenging again. My insomnia not only thundered back, it brought a friend- an ear worm named Mr Jones. During the first week, I heard the catchy Counting Crows song and it stayed with me for the rest of the month. Every quiet moment and especially between 1AM and 4AM that song plagued me. It felt like I would never get it out of my head. (The antidote turned out to be Everybody Have Fun Tonight (Everybody Wang Chung Tonight) Who would have guessed that?)
My suspicion is that without the distraction TV normally provides my brain, my “monkey mind” (as meditators like to call it) was going into overdrive to deal with the change. Our brains don’t like change and we are hard-wired to resist it. It’s a well-intentioned effort by our brains to keep us safe. Familiarity is good. Change is scary to our brains because we don’t know what is going to happen. Even something seemingly insignificant like not watching television can have an impact if it is departure from the norm.
My brain may have been on to something because without the mind-numbing diversion of television, I started to become very aware of how tired I have been for a very long time. Chronic Fatigue is not a new thing for me but I have learned a lot over the decades on how to deal with it. I realized during this challenge that I had stopped doing things that helped and started doing things that didn’t. One example is my diet had become less than stellar.
I have remained a vegetarian for over 20 years and dairy-free for over 10 but I had started eating eggs again a little over a year ago. Worse than that, I was relying too often on processed foods like dairy-free cheese, margarine, bread and pasta. Of course, I had become used to eating these things in front of the TV to boot. Now, I am preparing food mostly from scratch again and including lots of fruit, salads, veggies, nuts and seeds. Eggs are off the menu again. I am starting to feel better and… (drum roll) SLEEP BETTER!
I have one caveat to share before I wrap this post up. I noticed that when I stopped watching TV that my internet time increased. I was watching a lot of Youtube videos. Youtube is a good resource when you want to learn about something you are thinking about trying. I realized though that I was swapping one screen for another. I didn’t need to watch 20 videos on how to make Kombucha. One or two would have sufficed. Not to mention- I received The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz for Christmas.
Going TV-free for January turned out to be a really worthwhile challenge. I am making changes as a result that are having a positive impact on my life. So, I decided to keep going to see what other improvements can be made. What do you think would improve your life if you stopped doing it?