…watching Motorway Patrol.
Don’t tell me you haven’t been there too. TV has a way of sucking us in, even when we’re not interested.
‘But there’s nothing else on! I’m waiting for the news to start!’
To be honest, we don’t watch much TV anymore (in fact we went nearly two weeks last month without even turning it on), but I do spend a lot of time on the computer when the little fella is asleep, which is just as bad, if not worse than zoning out in front of the TV.
I did some scouting around the net (‘cause that’s what I do) and found that the average time consuming media (TV, internet, texting, smart phone aps, games etc) is around 6 hours per day, which equals over 40 hours per week, or over 2,000 hours per year. That’s a lot of time in front of a screen.
I also read an article that postulates a correlation between happiness and screen time – the less time in front of a screen, the happier you are likely to be. Although the supporting study was sketchy, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s true.
I know from my own experience that reducing screen time has a positive affect on me and my family as a whole. I feel more balanced, more content. While there is certainly a withdrawal factor involved in disconnecting (and then there’s the whole ‘I work on the internet’ thing), it’s well worth the separation.
Here’s a few more benefits I’ve discovered along the way.
How your life will change if you switch off
You will have more time
Obvious but true. The less time you spend watching TV or surfing the net, the more time you have to do other things.
You will be here, now
The more time you spend in front of the screen, the more time you are somewhere else rather being in your life at this moment. And we only get one go at this.
Most of us know more about the Amazon rainforests or the Sahara desert than we know about the ecosystem in our own backyards. We have a superficial knowledge of many things, but have forsaken the depth of knowledge that comes from repetitive experience.
By spending less time in front of a screen you will spend less time experiencing life vicariously and more time being in the here and now.
Life will slow down
I watched a cartoon not long ago, and I couldn’t believe how quickly the frames flashed on the screen. There is no way the little fella could have taken any of it in – in fact I had a hard time keeping up myself.
The same goes with computer games and even reading stuff on the internet. Internet articles are often (not always) purposefully short and dumbed-down because the average net user flits from site to site rather than taking the time to concentrate on a whole article (obviously not you, seeing that you’ve read this far).
On the other hand, real life tasks are much slower. They involve concentration and physical effort. And slowing down means a less stressful life.
You will think again
Information at the click of a button has come at the expense of discovery.
Why waste time problem solving when the omniscient Google has all the answers at the click of a button?
As individuals, we have not yet reached the so called ‘final frontier’. The unknown is always just beyond our own experience. We are each explorers, discovering what has been discovered a million times before, and will continue to be rediscovered long after we are gone. Having all the answers at our fingertips can rob us of the joy of exploration and discovery.
You will be more creative
Creativity needs space and silence. You need time to ruminate, uninterrupted, undistracted.
Creativity also involves a certain level of risk. You need to experiment and possibly fail to be creative.
This week I had a conversation with a reader via email who was talking about this very concept: ‘some of my best crafted items’ she said ‘start out as a can’t-work experiment.’ I couldn’t agree more.
I tend to turn to the internet for inspiration and direction, however, rather than experimenting. Whereas a few years ago I would get out pencil and paper to design quilt ideas, for instance, and then sew them, now I just waste time browsing Pintrest and I neither design nor sew. There’s a big difference between being inspired to create and just looking at what everyone else has done.
Your health (and weight) will improve
I decluttered our wardrobe the other day and had clothes ranging from size 10 to size 18 (I’m pleased to add that I’m back to size 12-14). Sitting on my butt for 12 hours a day in front of the computer has definitely contributed to my expanding girth (although I’m proud of what I’ve created here).
There is a definite correlation between physical activity levels and screen time (there have been studies on this but linking to them would mean more time on the net searching them out again and I’m trying to cut down 🙂 ).
You will fear less
House break-ins, gang wars, terrorist attacks, school bullying, kidnappings, murders, tsunamis… There’s no doubt that being exposed to all the bad things in the world, day in and day out, affects the way we think and increases our fear of just about everything – regardless of whether that fear is rational or not.
Bad stuff happens. I often wonder if the world is really becoming a more dangerous place or whether we just see the bad things more thanks to 24/7 news coverage and mobile phone cameras.
I’m not suggesting we all bury our heads in the sand when it comes to current affairs, but there are the facts of an event and then there is the constant and excessive stream of coverage that does nothing except get under our skin and into our minds distracting us from the things we have actual control over.
It is better to focus on our sphere of influence than to worry about things we cannot change.
You will consume less
Less screen time means less exposure to marketing. And less exposure to marketing means less consumption, which of course, saves you money.
How to reduce screen time
Media, in it’s various guises, is an addictive habit. An opiate that numbs the brain, keeping us engaged, even when we’re not interested.
Because of the screen’s ubiquitousness, to reduce time spent in front of it we have to make a concerted effort. Of course, you could get rid of your TV and check your email at the library, but if that’s going too far, here are a few ways alternative to reduce screen time.
The best way to watch less TV, surf less internet, play less games is to turn the machines off altogether. A machine that is turned on is one that can easily suck you in.
If you like a bit of background noise as company, try some music or the radio instead, which takes less attention away from other things.
2. Watch your favourite shows.
And turn the TV off for everything else. Many shows are available on the internet now. There is less advertising and when the show ends, there’s not another on it’s heals, ready to capture your attention and steal your evening.
Alternatively, your could record your favourite shows to watch at your own leisure (and fast forward through the ads).
The only TV show we watch at the moment is StarGate (nerdy, I know). We watch two episodes on the net back-to-back one Friday a fortnight. It’s like a date night in, we watch it under the blanket and eat chocolate. Because we watch almost no TV, it becomes something special, something to look forward to rather than something to tune out to.
3. Limit your screens.
Spend less time in front of screens by limiting them to one room in the house. The bedroom, for instance, isn’t a great place for the TV.
4. Turn the computer on with a specific purpose.
Like TV, it’s easy to get sucked into the internet and waste hours mindlessly surfing. If you’ve ever used Stumble Upon, you will know what I mean. Here’s how I cut down on internet use (which is how I waste most of my time):
I write a list of things I need or want to do on the net (like the banking, writing a post, checking emails, checking facebook etc), then when I get through the list I turn off the laptop and hide it in the drawer.
This alone has freed up many hours a week for me. Turning it off and putting it away is an important step because it makes it impossible to ‘just quickly check facebook’. I’ve even started writing articles for this blog the old way: with pen and paper. The first draft of this post started out on paper.
5. Hide the mobile phone.
Turn it off, put it away in the drawer, hide it – at least for part of the day. While I don’t have one myself, mobile phones can be just as addictive as the TV or the net. And they are certainly distracting. It’s hard to tune into life when you’re being bombarded by text-message ding-dongs. Your companions in the flesh will thank you for not being distracted by your phone.
I realise that many people don’t have landlines these days, so turning off the mobile phone might seem like a scary prospect. But it’s ok not to be contactable some times. Every time we leave the house, we are unreachable. Every time I unplug the landline (no, I’m not interested in what you’re selling Mr Telemarketer) we are also blissfully unreachable. It’s liberating. We don’t need to be slaves to the ding-dong.
As I finish writing this, it is 8pm on Wednesday night. Today we spent the morning at the park, ate avocado, tomato and cheese sandwiches, dug holes in the yard, watched a lizard scurry along the pavers and read Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes 273 times. And now it’s time to read a book in bed with a cuppa. And maybe do a little writing…
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.