We Didn’t Watch TV for a Week and Wouldn’t Do It Again

The LD staff decided it was high time we all made health a priority. Enter Wellness Wednesdays, a series of weekly health challenges by LD writers (and editors!) where we commit to seven days of healthy habits and share the results with our readers. This week’s challenge: no television.

This Week’s Participants: Kelly and Katy

Saying Goodbye to the TV Time Suck

Kelly: I was inspired to try the no TV challenge after reading a Washington Post article about a woman who gave up TV and as a result — qualified for the Olympics and got her PhD. While my goals are much less lofty, I’ve read the studies that say how damaging prolonged TV-watching can be. One report said that the average American watches more than 34 hours of television each week — that’s 34 hours that I could be learning a new language or finally getting back to that book I keep putting down, etc. I wouldn’t call myself a couch potato, but I do watch a few hours of TV when I come home from work at night and often movies and/or a few episodes of a show every weekend. However, this week, I challenge myself to put down the remote (including Netflix on my laptop) and be productive, whether it’s exercising regularly, reading, or learning something new.

Katy: I feel like I’m always trying little challenges like this. For example, a couple weeks ago, I took a two weeks hiatus from social media to see how my productivity and energy would change, as well as what I’d actually miss about constantly being connected. Really, I didn’t miss much at all, so I thought this would be another good experiment to observe the same sort of things. I’m not an obsessive television watcher, but I do love discussing shows with people. Plus, I tend to watch TV to pass the time while I eat meals, even though I know that is a poor choice for a variety of reasons. I am optimistic that I won’t miss watching TV too much, and I hope that this challenge will give me more time for more fulfilling activities, like pleasure reading and listening to podcasts.

Day 1:

Kelly: Unfortunately for me, it was not a great day to start the no TV challenge. It was cold and rainy here in DC, meaning all I wanted to do was curl up and watch some Netflix (Private Practice is my new show). It was too nasty to go for a run, but I stayed strong and did not turn on the TV. I took my time making dinner, getting a little more intricate than my usual go-to options of take-out or pasta. I recently bought Big Little Lies and read about half the book before electing to go to bed early. I noticed that I usually say that I want to go to bed by a certain time, but oftentimes end up extending it to finish an episode or movie — a bad habit I need to break.

Katy: Mondays are typically my busiest days, so I didn’t expect to have much of an issue with staying away from the screen. After a day full of classes and homework, I usually like to sit down to a meal and watch some Great British Bake Off (I have seen each series at least once), but today I decided to sit down with a new book, even though I typically find it difficult to eat while reading. I had a major craving for curry noodle soup from my favorite Thai food joint, so I brought my journal and Just Kids by Patti Smith to sit down for a soul fulfilling evening by myself. I wrote a little poem and read while enjoying my soup slowly. I found myself enjoying my meal more without being in front of the screen, and it felt like a form of self care just to be taking life a little slower.

Day 2:

Kelly: I slept like a rock last night, which could be attributed to the fact that I actually went to bed early and I wasn’t watching TV right before bed (screen time can mess with your REM cycle). It was easier to avoid TV today as I had to work later than usual and take care of a few chores around the house. Since I was already on a roll, it was easier to convince myself to get to those pesky chores I always put off, like finally unpacking that last box from when we moved. I felt productive and more energized throughout the evening and I didn’t really miss not watching television. I went to bed early again, but had more difficulty falling asleep, most likely because I spent my evening moving around.

Katy: Today was a weird day for this challenge. I definitely broke the rules and watchedTV, but no fear-I don’t think this instance necessarily counts! I work as a Personal Care Assistant for a young woman with disabilities, and one of the things we do while I work with her is watch TV (she loves her Power Rangers) so I did take in a few episodes of those masked heros. Other than that, I didn’t really think much about it. That’s one of the good things about being busy- you have too much to do to really consider any leisure time.

Day 3:

Kelly: It was a little tougher to be TV-less today. After my extremely productive day yesterday, I ran out of things to do around the house after work. After twiddling my thumbs trying to think of something to do, inspiration hit. Luckily for me, my two dogs were feeling particularly energetic so I decided to take them both on a run with me for the first time. The result: the least graceful run ever attempted. After we got back, they were exhausted and much calmer than their usual hyped-up evening selves, which made it all the easier to get them to go to sleep on my time. I’m already noticing an influx of inspiration when I want something productive to do rather than watch TV.

Katy: Over the past few days, I have noticed that this was the perfect week to do this challenge. Each day has been packed to the brim with homework and social activities, so I haven’t had much of an opportunity to watch even if I wanted to. The only times that I have been tempted is before bed as a bit of a stress reliever, and at the gym. I usually watch TV on the treadmill to give my mind a break while I work out (my go to shows are Chopped and House Hunters-the ultimate break from reality). Instead, I’ve been listening to more podcasts, which I already love to do, so the challenge has given me a chance to indulge more of those habits.
Day 4:

Kelly: I’m noticing a pattern emerging. After getting home from work, I slip into my usual routine of taking the dogs out and then going for a run (this week, I’m more committed to making sure the run actually happens). However, after my shower, I usually spend about thirty minutes puttering around, looking for something to do other than sitting on my couch and binge-watching TV for hours. Today, I went on Pinterest and printed some of my favorite recipes that I’ve been meaning to try. Instead of going straight home, I stopped by the grocery store and picked up some supplies. As I’m not a great cook, the experiment took much longer than prescribed, but all in all, it was an evening well spent without the TV being on.

Katy: I definitely had a little trouble with going TV-less today. After a week that seemed to simultaneously flash by and move sluggishly, I finally had a little free time. All I wanted to do was cuddle up in some blankets with my cats and a glass of wine and turn my brain off. It took all my willpower not to pull up Big Little Lies (I am almost to the season finale) and enjoy an evening of shallow pleasure. I even texted Kelly with my woes. Instead of succumbing to temptation, I decided to begin watching a movie. I feel like television has lost it’s allure because of binge culture, and it being so accessible through streaming services while the experience of watching a movie still remains pure. I decided to rewatch Beginners, a movie I saw right when it came out. I watched about half of it before reading a bit and going to bed satisfied and relaxed.  

Day 5:
Kelly: Fridays are days that I typically don’t spend a lot of time on the couch and this week was no exception. Working late meant a longer commute on the way home. When I did finally get home, my husband and I went out to a late dinner, stopped by the grocery store afterwards and took the dogs on a late night walk. By the time we got home, TV wasn’t even on our minds, sleep was all we needed. Fairly obvious to say, but days spent away from home or focused on other things are days without TV. I’m not the person who rushes home so they won’t miss an episode of whatever show is on TV. For me, TV is a source of mindless entertainment when I have nothing else going on to distract me. I’ve definitely come a long way from the days when I’d use to have Netflix constantly playing while I did homework and wrote papers.

Katy: Fridays are typically packed with social activities, and this week was no exception. After classes, I hung out with my roommate and went to the gym before going to work for a little while. I watched clips of Snatch Game from Ru Paul’s Drag Race with the roomie, but no full episodes. Then I went over to a friend’s house for a bonfire, which lasted late into the night and ended with falafels at two in the morning. While TV is a great way to distract myself or give me a break, it was nice to have more face to face time with people this week, especially since I’m often tempted to stay in and indulge in some alone time most Friday nights.

Day 6:

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Kelly: Today, I failed – somewhat. The TV did not turn on throughout the day as we had a housewarming party at our new place. The entire day was spent cleaning in the morning, prepping food, talking, eating, etc. However, by the time seven o’clock came around, my husband and I were exhausted and we reached for the remote. While we didn’t binge-watch television, we did watch the final episode of The Office, which technically is watching TV. I had no issue turning off the TV as the credits came on and immediately opened my book to read for another hour, but technically, the no TV challenge got the best of me.

Katy: Today was a great day, honestly. I finished Beginners, and it made me truly appreciate the joy of experiencing a film. The beauty and emotion of watching something for an hour and a half or so, and then stopping, is something that I haven’t experienced in a while. I love watching movies with my mom, and I immediately texted her afterwards, saying that we’ll have to watch the film together when I go visit her next month. Then I gave myself time to just relax in bed, reading and cuddling with my cats, something that I don’t typically allow myself today. I got to spend the rest of the day hanging out with my friend who just returned to the U.S. from the U.K., and making cupcakes with some friends.

Day 7:

Kelly: The final day! Today was the day I really noticed progress — my challenge was rubbing off on my husband. He was picking up his book instead of the remote throughout the whole day and felt better not watching TV. Luckily, in the final day of the challenge, it was beautiful weather and not too hard to avoid Netflix. Before the challenge started, Sundays were usually the days I watched the least amount of TV anyway, busy with weekend errands, meal prep for the week, long runs, etc.

Katy: To be honest, this was the only day that I felt SO close to breaking the challenge and watching an episode or two. I got home from a day of nonstop activity, and all I wanted to do was finally watch the latest GBBO addition to Netflix. Thankfully, I just did some homework and chilled with my cats instead of breaking the progress I had made. The temptation I felt made me realize how much I consider TV to be a reward for productivity, rather than a simple break from reality. Hopefully after this challenge, I’ll watch more for the experience of the narrative and less for the meager satisfaction of a job well done.

Cue the Credits

Kelly: In conclusion, I did notice one excellent result of the no TV challenge — I was sleeping better than ever. Not only was I going to bed earlier, but I was sleeping through the night. That alone is worth giving up TV before bed. I was undoubtedly more productive.  luckily for me, I had just moved the week before, meaning my pile of to-dos was astronomical. Without television consuming my evenings, I finally got to the agenda items I’d pushed aside, including expanding my cooking abilities and consistently exercising. To be honest, picking up the remote while eating dinner or when I got out of the shower had become such a habit that I had my husband hide the remote occasionally. It became easier throughout the week as I developed a routine of other things to do when I got home from work, even though Saturday night, I technically broke the rules of the challenge. While I think cutting back television is a healthy option for me, I don’t think I’ll be cutting it out of my life completely. An episode of a show here and there, or a movie, isn’t going to destroy my sleep cycle or my productivity.

Katy: With a few exceptions, this challenge went exactly how I thought it would. My business and constant activity made it easy to forget about watching, and I feel like I accomplished a bunch of stuff this past week. That being said, I definitely did miss watching TV, even if I can acknowledge that my reasons for getting a few episodes in aren’t exactly great. I think this challenge has helped me appreciate what TV should actually be for, and I hope to treat it as more of an experience than a reward from now on.

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