Is it just me or has January been about 5 years long now? I mean, I’ve been busy with everyday life, starting a new job, and traveling quite a bit, so I haven’t really had a chance to sit down and talk through some of my 2019 intentions and what I learned from them. But, somehow it’s still January and I don’t feel like I’m running that far behind schedule with sharing my reflections. Maybe that’s just me learning to offer grace for myself. Either way, I’ll take it.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I used to have a serious TV addiction. I could break down every plot and character evolution, we could sit for hours and talk through the whodunnit for some of my favorite murder series, and I’d watch some episodes multiple times just to make sure I didn’t miss anything. Real Housewives of (insert literally any franchise here)? My guilty pleasure. Floribamashore? Absolute trash that I could not look away from.
Hear me when I say that none of these are bad, TV isn’t the root of all evil, and this is not a post to try to convince you to throw your television out the window, but as I was heading in to 2019 it really hit me how much time I waste watching TV and getting consumed with fake storylines. Conversations around brunch were centered around the most recent Kardashian drama and there was very little conversation about what was actually happening in the here and now.
It also hit me how much I was using television as a coping mechanism and escape from reality. When J was sick or having bad days, our thing was to lay in bed pretty much all day and watch Law & Order or Criminal Minds, and oh how my heart longs for those lazy days with my man again, but I was holding on to those moments and getting lost in TV in an unhealthy way.
Finally, it became super clear to me that there was no time for TV in 2019. I started off the year launching a new website, an online business, working full time, starting a podcast (the list goes on and on, but now I’m just getting annoyed with how busy I was last year trying to do all of the things), and I knew that if I wanted to accomplish everything on my “dream to done” list, I needed to get lost in my goals and intentions and not in false narratives.
Thinking through all of these factors + my deep desire to be more intentional with my time, I decided to cut back on TV and started off the year with a New Year’s resolution to only watching 2 hours of TV a week, 3 max. There wasn’t a lot to it, but I did set a few ground rules: limited TV time unless I was traveling, if I didn’t use all of my TV hours one week, I could roll them over to the next week (within reason – I couldn’t save up 10+ hours to have a lazy weekend in front of the TV, ha), special occasions like family gatherings, holiday weekends, or big sporting events like the Superbowl were small exceptions. Oh, and before you ask – Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube totally counted as TV time in my little rule book.
Let me tell you, it started off pretty rough. Not so much because I missed TV, but because I realized how much my life and even some friendships revolved around it. Not too far into the year, The Bachelor and The Voice kicked off – both shows that I LOVE but are multiple hours long and span across multiple days. I was out of TV time for the week before 9pm on a Monday. Could I do without these shows? 100%. But that meant sacrificing dedicated friend time since I met up with a group and we watched them together over wine. At first I’d still go over and work on something or read a book, but that started to feel like “cheating”.
Luckily, most if not all of my friends were really supportive of this change. While I would never go into someone’s house and tell them what they can and can’t do with their free time, I was so grateful for the friends who started to adopt my TV rule and opted to sit and chat with me or get out of the house and go try something new instead. Trips to the farmers market, trying out new bars and restaurants, and lounging by the pool to dive into the intricacies of each other’s lives became the new norm instead of catching up over the newest Netflix series.
There was a ton of personal growth and obvious benefits to limiting my TV time, but the 2 biggest wins for me were:
- Freeing up mental space for things that really matter. Before my TV break, I could get lost in thought or conversations about things that weren’t even real.
- Leaning into myself and my emotions, no matter how scary, and not looking for the next distraction to keep myself…from myself.
While I love a TV show that makes you think long after it ends, it wasn’t healthy for me and I was totally using it to cope from my own grief or distract me from what was going on in my life.
It wasn’t all rainbows and growth though, it’s a scary thing when you’re alone with your thoughts for the first time in a while, but I think the hardest part for me was that I had no idea what was going on in the world. Ever. I didn’t watch the news, I never knew what movies were out, and I was left out of a lot of conversations where people were catching up on the latest series – ahem, still don’t know what You is all about.
Looking ahead to 2020, I wasn’t sure at first if it was something I wanted to keep going, but at this point not watching TV has become second nature. I’ve gotten more comfortable with silence and sitting around for hours at a time to watch a show or series almost makes me feel guilty because there’s so much more I could be doing with my time. I have to be careful though, because there’s a delicate balance in allowing yourself simple pleasures in life (like being still or enjoying a little TV time) without feeling like you should always be doing something. Sometimes it’s okay to just be, but for me, that doesn’t look like spending copious amounts of time in front of the TV anymore.
I don’t have any “rules” for 2020 and TV because at this point watching TV has become the last thing on my “what should we do today?” list. Will I watch it sometimes? Of course. But now it’s just natural for me to pick up a book or try something new instead.
Maybe you’re like I was and have an unhealthy relationship with TV or maybe you just want something else to fill your time. Here are a few of my favorite things that I started to incorporate to replace TV time:
- Meet up with a friend after work for drinks or dinner. It’s easy to come straight home from work, turn on the TV and tune out the world. Get out every once in a while and check in on your people.
- Read a book. Sure, you’re replacing one storyline with another, but I think everyone can agree that getting lost in a book feels a little more uplifting than a TV drama.
- Take up a new hobby. You know that thing you’ve always wanted to do or try but you don’t have time for? Would you have time if you weren’t watching so much TV? If the answer is yes, try to cut it out and see how much more free time you have.
- Get comfortable with silence. Sometimes it’s okay to just be and dwell in a space that might be a little uncomfortable. We retreat to TV sometimes because it distracts us from everyday realities – but sometimes we need to face whatever it is we are hiding away from.
Again, not trying to convince you to not watch TV by any means, but even starting with replacing junk TV with something educational or historical so you’re not completely vegging out could be an awesome start, too. If you give this a try this year, let me know. Would love to hear what you learn about yourself, because I promise you will learn something when you take the time to lean in to yourself.
Rooting for you always,