Recently I’ve been asked by a few people how I have “so much time.” Each time the question was posed I thought it was worth pointing out: I have exactly the same number of hours in a day as everyone else… I just spend fewer of them in front of the TV.
Although I recently wrote about the benefit of using technology to live a healthier, more fulfilling life, now, in stark contrast, I’ll explain why I think TV limits people’s lives. (I’m sure anyone who knows me is groaning about this, but it’s a post that was bound to happen!)
It’s not that I’m completely opposed to watching TV because I think it’s evil–I’m sure there are plenty of lovely, meaningful programs that people get a lot out of. I just never really liked watching it myself.
What’s not to like, you ask? Well, commercials are annoying; having to watch at a specific time is confining; and waiting a week to find out what happens next gives me emotional turmoil. I realize that with the advent of Netflix, etc. these points can be moot. But still, I don’t really like watching TV. I think the real reason is that there are so many other things I like doing better.
But, despite my own personal preference, there are plenty of real, scientific reasons that regular TV-watching isn’t great for your health and happiness either.
It’s not that TV itself is harmful–it’s probably not. But there are other things associated with it that are. How often do you watch TV standing up? Not much, probably. Studies have shown that more sitting equates to earlier mortality (read more about the negative health effects of sitting here). We sit so often during our daily lives anyway (thanks, desk job) that any additional hours sitting lifeless in front of the TV are pretty detrimental.
Another downside of TV-watching, at least in the traditional sense, is advertisements. Americans are exposed to thousands of advertisements per day, a good chunk of those in the form of TV. Numerous studies have connected media exposure and mental illness, most notably depression (here’s one example), and I think a large part of that is ads. It makes sense: the more we’re told how much we need or don’t have, the less complete and happy we feel.
I’m not an anti-TV martyr trying to convince you that you shouldn’t watch TV ever–if you really like it, then go for it! I’m just offering a reminder that there are plenty of options for downtime other than reaching for the remote.
Americans spend, on average, 2.8 hours in front of the TV each day. That’s over a thousand hours per year. If you’d really like to invest those thousand hours in your TV, then great, you’re likely on the right track. But if there’s something else you’ve been yearning to do “if you had more time,” then busting into those TV hours is a good starting place.
So, if you’re down to spend (at least part of) your daily TV hours another way, here are 50 ideas:
Things To Do Instead of Watching TV
- Go for a walk (perhaps check out a new neighborhood for a change of scenery)
- Read a book
- Write a book
- Write a letter/email to a far-away friend
- Clean your house really thoroughly (with safe cleaning products of course)
- Clean out your closet and donate unwanted clothes (or host a clothes swap with your friends!)
- Call a friend/relative to say hi (bonus: take a walk while you’re talking)
- Cook a delicious homemade meal
- Plan and host a dinner party
- Go through your cookbooks/bookmarked recipes/favorite food blogs and make a list of recipes you want to try; make your menu and grocery list for the week
- Join a fitness class
- Go for a hike
- Go for a bike ride
- Do yoga (or just some stretching)
- Make your lunch for the next day so you don’t have to eat out
- Do yard work
- Start a blog
- Learn how to code/build a website (try codecademy for free)
- Volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about
- Do a craft of your choice
- Practice (or learn) an instrument
- Practice (or learn) a foreign language
- Decorate your home
- Make art for your home (or as a gift)
- Join a class to learn a new hobby (photography? figure skating?)
- Research something you’ve been wanting to know more about
- Plan a vacation–even just a weekend getaway to see/do something new
- Attend an interesting local event
- Write an article and submit it to a publication in your field
- Practice Random Acts of Kindness
- Plant a garden
- Start a journal
- Train for a fitness goal, like a 5k
- Wash your car (don’t forget the inside too!)
- Do a task or chore for someone else so they don’t have to do it
- Mend clothes that need some fixin’
- Play a sport you enjoy (join a league?)
- Host a board games night for friends/family
- Go to trivia night at a local bar or restaurant
- Bake healthy treats to take to work or your neighbors
- Have a picnic in the park (if the weather’s not great, host a picnic party in your living room)
- Plan and host a theme party (Murder Mystery, etc.)
- Write a Bucket List and start working on checking things off
- Plan and host a girls’ night (or boys’, depending who’s reading this…)
- Plan and take on a 30-day (or 100-day!) challenge (clean eating, exercise, 1,000 words a day, etc.)
- Make a financial plan and set steps to meet your financial goals
- Update your resume and LinkedIn profile
- Do at-home spa treatments
- Join a fun group on Meetup.com