Recently, I traveled back to Canada to visit my parents. Since I don’t watch TV at home, I decided I would indulge my senses and watch a little. I thought, Hey, you’re on vacation. Relax, let it loose, and watch all those shows you miss out on. At the end of two weeks, I was an addict. I sat and watched so many random shows that I’m embarrassed just thinking about it.
Coming from a life where the TV is never on, I found that the change in me was swift and noticeable. My daily routine went something like this: sleep in, lazily walk into the kitchen looking for food, turn on the TV to see what’s on while I eat, watch TV for several hours, spend some time with my family, eventually return to the TV, and watch for several more hours. At the end, I felt so drained and tired. Even knowing how it made me feel, I continued to repeat this each day until the day I left, like I was under a magical spell.
Perhaps you can relate to how TV has the ability to grab a hold of us. I wanted to understand: why do we keep turning the TV on? How does one overcome TV addiction? Well, pleading with myself to stop watching these silly shows didn’t work. I needed more motivation. These strategies and tips are what I eventually used to help me conquer my recent TV addiction.
1. Focus on Your Food When Eating
It’s so tempting to turn on the TV while we eat. We tell ourselves, “I’m gonna be eating and doing nothing else. Might as well be entertained as I eat.” But before we know it, we’ll end up spending more time than necessary in front of the television, and not really tasting or enjoying our food. Also, I tend to overeat when I’m distracted, which leaves me feeling bloated and lazy.
Next time you eat, try fully focusing on the wonderful aromas and flavors in your food and on nothing else. Concentrate on the taste and texture of your food. Feel it giving you energy as you eat. This is actually a form of meditation that can center you. Try it!
2. Break Old Routines
If your habit is to turn on the TV immediately after you come home, then try changing your routine to break the habit. What can you do for ten minutes after coming home instead of flicking on the TV? Connect with a friend? Read an inspirational story? Have a snack? Get exercise? Do some yoga or meditation?
3. Plan Your Escape Route
Before turning on the TV for a specific show, know exactly what you’re going to do after the show. It helps to write the task out on paper along with reasons why you should do this task. For example, “After watching The Amazing Race at 9 p.m., I’ll go out for a run because it makes me feel healthy and gives me energy.”
4. Get Used to Using the OFF Button
Once you know exactly what you’re going to do immediately following a show, practice turning off the TV once the show is done.
5. Use Television as a Reward
Instead of saying, “I’ll do my task when I’m done watching my show,” develop the discipline to reward yourself with the show when you are done with the task.
6. Ask Yourself Why
Find a quiet place without interruption. Close your eyes for several minutes and focus on your breath. Then ask yourself: Why do I want to watch this show? What do I have to gain? We’re all intelligent beings and we all know the answers deep within us. When I asked myself this, I realized that it was because these shows provided a convenient excuse for me to avoid my responsibilities. It was easier and more comfortable than “work” that has long-term benefits.
7. Make a Simple Reduction
List all the shows you watch and see which ones you can cut out. Start with eliminating one show and gradually release the unnecessary shows one by one. Remember to ask yourself when evaluating each show, “What am I gaining from watching this? Is it going to bring me lasting happiness and fulfillment?”
8. Give Yourself a Television Allowance
Give yourself a self-imposed limit to TV watching in a day or week. This will force you to put your television appetite on a diet. Try starting with half the hours you currently watch. I’ve reduced myself to watching one hour of TV a week: The Amazing Race every Sunday.
9. Visualize Pain
Did you know that we’re willing to go to more extremes to avoid pain than we are to gain pleasure? We tend to choose TV over a responsibility because in that moment, we fail to see the pain of not following through on our responsibilities.
Try this: Close your eyes. Visualize the pain you would feel by not doing a task. Make it as real as possible, feel it with all senses. Intensify the feeling. Double the intensity several times if you can. After a few minutes, imagine the pleasure and freedom after you’ve completed the task (and are rewarded with the show). Again visualize and feel it with absolute intensity.
Hypothetical Situation: You have a report to complete before tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. To visualize the pain, you could imagine the stress created from procrastination later on that night and the agitated feeling you’ll experience the next day from lack of sleep. For pleasure, you could imagine the wonderful feelings of self-empowerment and freedom now that you have your report completed. See yourself sleeping at a reasonable hour and feeling refreshed and energetic the next day.
Don’t give up. You can break your addiction!
Originally published on ThinkSimpleNow