Watching television can be a relaxing activity. At times it can be social as we enjoy watching a sporting event with friends or discussing our favorite television series with family or coworkers the day after it airs. However, television, with its seemingly endless number of channels airing programming 24 hours a day, 365 days each year, can suck us in and provide an unhealthy escape tool when used to excess.
With the average American watching between three and six hours of television daily, we can expect to spend between seven and ten years watching television by the time we reach seventy. Wow! Imagine all of the things we could get done if we turned off our televisions!
Since starting to work at Brookhaven Retreat, I have found myself reading more and have all but given up television. Reading allows me a relaxing escape that stimulates my mind more than a television program would. I have enjoyed reading novels, self-help books, educational books and journals, as well as, catching up on the news in magazines.
Not everyone will want to take my rather extreme approach of cutting television out entirely (though it may be a fun thing to try for one or two weeks to see its effect on your life). What is the recommended amount of television that we should watch each day? In children and adolescents, no more than one to two hours of television daily is recommended. Without evidence of significant benefits of television watching and mounting evidence of its contribution to health problems such as obesity, I would say that the one to two hour rule per day applies to you and me too.
My recommendations for reducing television viewing include:
- Choose television shows you want to watch in the upcoming week ahead of time. Limit yourself to a few programs that you truly enjoy. Then stick to your limits. Turn off the television after your program is over.
- Get the television out of your bedroom. Watching television before bed can lead to a tendency to stay up later than intended as one show leads to the next. Additionally, falling asleep in front of the television can lead to poor sleep quality.
- Choose alternatives to television in order to relax. Possible activities include reading books or magazines, listening to music, talking to a friend over the telephone, taking a relaxing soak in the tub, writing a letter, playing a board game or card game with your family or doing a crossword or jigsaw puzzle. Time spent playing games on the phone or a computer are, technically, lumped in with television watching and should therefore be counted towards your daily allotment of television.