“Action may not always bring happiness but there is no happiness without action.” ~Benjamin Disraeli
Back when I was a ballroom dance instructor, I never watched TV. This was because online streaming wasn't yet available, and I worked Monday through Friday from 1pm-10pm.
But over the past couple of years (and in a new career as a solo-preneur), it's become way too easy to watch TV episodes on my computer. My one or two favorite shows a week turned into binge watching other recommended series.
It all started out innocently enough. I enjoyed it as a way to unwind. But it slowly turned into an avoidance tactic.
When I didn't want to deal with the mounting laundry, or all the papers to file in my office, or those emails that had me cringing, I escaped into another TV show episode. It was great. I could get swept away into someone else's drama for hours.
But when I spent an entire weekend in bed streaming movies and shows for thirty-plus hours, I knew something had to change. Moreover, I knew I was going to have to do it myself. It wasn't like I was addicted to drugs or alcohol. No one was going to have a TV show intervention with me.
I decided to put myself on a twenty-one day TV show detox.
Here is what I learned:
1. To be more spontaneous.
Before the detox, it felt like I needed time to completely turn my brain off. I needed time to shut it all down.
Yet, when I no longer had TV shows to use as an escape, I realized that “need” was a story I was telling myself. I didn't really need to turn off my brain. Rather, my ego had convinced me that it was important.
What blossomed as a result was the ability to say yes to last minute adventures with friends. I had more time in my day because I hadn't wasted it escaping into TV Shows. I learned that it wasn't downtime I needed; it was creative time. Adding more fun and play in my life, felt great.
Action: If you too have declined last minute offers to stay at home and watch TV, ask yourself: Is it because the activity is truly not your idea of fun? Or, is it because you're living in another story? Perhaps it’s the “I'm too tired” story, or, “I need to turn off my brain” story. Acknowledging the fact that it is a story is the first step toward change.
2. To choose activities that fed my soul.
Usually after watching an episode or two, my negative self-talk voice would start saying things like, “You're such a slacker. Look how much time you're wasting, again! You are so unreliable. How can you help anyone, look at yourself?”
It wasn't until I banned TV that I realized how much my negative self-talk relied upon my all-consuming TV habit as its trigger, and why it was so negative—I was yearning for activities that fed my soul.
Of course, I still allowed myself downtime during the detox, but I chose activities that allowed me to relax without checking out mentally, like reading or connecting with friends.
Action: Instead of choosing TV as a “downtime” activity, list three activities you can do that help you relax and feed your soul—things that recharge and rejuvenate you.
3. To face my stuff immediately.
I don't know about you, but reading work emails can put me on edge. It's hard not to take things personally. So, I used to avoid responding by escaping into a TV character's drama. The character's overwhelm was far more entertaining. Not to mention the fact that they always came out looking like the hero.
Without TV, I had to learn how to handle the emotional overwhelm of email in the moment.
Action: If you, too, use technology or entertainment to delay responding to things that make you feel upset or wonky, practice keeping a small notebook and pen with you. I wrote out all my intense emotions in the notebook. It was my outlet, and it allowed me to get to the core of the issue.
Writing has the duel affect of being a great way to vent and to spark your creative mind. This helps you come up with a powerful solution that works for everyone. Experiment with it and share below in the comments what happens for you.
4. To be more social.
Since I no longer had my TV show “friends,” I was forced to face my loneliness. Being a solo-entrepreneur, I don’t get a lot of social interaction with others unless I specifically plan it.
So, I joined more meet-up events and met new people. I also scheduled phone dates with friends and I hung out with my family more. It felt good and surprisingly I became more inspired in my work.
Action: Instead of sitting in front of a screen, sign up to attend an event, or go to a class by yourself (not with your group of friends) and introduce yourself to five other people. Meeting new people can be a big step outside of our comfort zones. But it can also be incredibly rewarding. I've met some of my closest friends this way.
5. To get healthier.
The most fun result of my TV show detox was that I lost weight.
I am single and often eat alone at night. So, I used to give myself permission to watch a show while I ate dinner. The problem with this was that I would eat for forty-five minutes instead of the twenty minutes it took me to finish my plate. I would keep munching on things (that bag of chips or those pieces of chocolate) until the show was over.
Action: Instead of eating and watching TV or eating and doing work, create three dinner dates for yourself this week. (They can be dates with yourself.) Put on your favorite music and take the time to enjoy tasting your food. Or, invite a friend over and prepare a meal together. When you pamper yourself this way, your body naturally relaxes.
6. To stop distracting myself.
My TV detox was not a perfect path. I still had low-energy, and overwhelming days. There were nights where I desperately wanted to curl up in my bed and watch a movie. There were also times that I caught myself distracting myself in other ways, by listening to audio books, for example.
When I felt this way, I realized that what I really wanted was a hug and for someone else to hold me up for a while. So, I created a list of healthy, self-loving activities and I did them instead; for example, taking a hot shower or painting my toenails. By the time I was done, I had my energy back.
Action: Create a list of twenty-five self-loving activities and post them somewhere that is highly visible. When your energy is low you don't want to have to go fishing for the list. Instead of disappearing into your low energy by watching a TV show, you release the draining energy and feel even better for showering yourself with love.
Deciding to put myself on a twenty-one day TV show detox was not the easy choice. It meant facing a bad habit and exploring all the affects it had on my life. But I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to see where I was “hiding” in life and stop the patterns of playing small.
Man watching TV image via Shutterstock