Why I Challenged Myself to a No-TV Week

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Remember in elementary school, when every year there was always a big push to challenge yourself to a “No-T.V. Week”? For me, being the avid reader I was, No-T.V. Week was never too big of a deal–it’s not like I dreaded it or anything. Sure, I had my television programs I liked to watch–Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie when I came home for lunch (during my later elementary years), Arthur after school, Saturday morning cartoons.

But if for whatever reason I couldn’t watch t.v., I would just happily pick up a book instead, nothing lost. In fact, I’m sure there were many days (possibly weeks) when I didn’t watch t.v. WITHOUT any kind of challenge, just because it wasn’t that big of a deal to me.

As an adult, I’m still not a huge television watcher. When people rave about the latest thing they’ve binge-watched on Netflix, I’ve rarely seen the show (and even more rarely have I been interested in seeing it). I don’t have very many “must-see” shows, and what used to be “must see” for me (like America’s Next Top Model) is not even on my radar anymore.

In other words, I could be a LOT worse to begin with when it comes to my television habits.

However, I noticed that when I was in the throes of first-trimester pregnancy sickness and fatigue, coupled with the stomach viruses and influenza that also came calling, I didn’t have the mental energy to read, so I started binge watching reruns of old shows I love—The Office, Psych, past episodes of Fixer Upper, etc. Then I started branching out and looking for other shows I liked and watching those, until it came to the point that I no longer had ANY desire to read or do much of anything else, and I was easily watching 3-4 hours of t.v. every day.

Even before I got into this extreme 3-month phase of t.v. watching, it was still an expected thing that Matt and I would sit down together almost every night and watch a show or two together, so even before I had pregnancy as an excuse, I was probably watching at least at least an hour and a half or more every day.

Although it was relaxing and an easy way to bond over a mutually shared show every night with Matt, I didn’t like all the other effects it had on me—watching t.v. every night meant we consistently got to bed later than we should, and my habit of reading for quite awhile before bed was basically shot (I was maybe reading 5 or 10 minutes a night, if I was lucky), and Matt wasn’t keeping up with his daily goal of getting a certain number of words written in his novel every night either.

So I put it as a goal on my 101 in 1001 list to put myself on a week-long television ban, but with no definite plan to start doing it right away.

But then I was exhausted one night and told Matt I was just going to go to bed (at like 9:00) rather than watch our usual shows, and I felt GREAT the next day. The next night, I wanted to make some headway in a book that was due back to the library soon, so I passed again on the evening t.v. ritual. By days three and four, I was much more motivated to not watch t.v. because I was feeling noticeably better in multiple aspects (both from getting more sleep and in indulging in something that brings me pleasure–reading–rather than just going for the relaxation that’s the easiest, aka t.v.).

Honestly, once I got past the knee-jerk reaction the first couple nights to head downstairs to catch a show, it was easy choosing other options for the rest of the week. In fact, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing just ONE t.v. night a week and leaving all the rest to pursue other hobbies and interests. (With maybe an exception for the weekends, if Matt and I decide to do a movie night or something together.)

As kids, we’re frequently warned against the dangers of too much screen time, and we’re given challenges to help us see that we can have just as much fun (if not MORE fun) when we choose to do other things. Perhaps it’s the hope of educators everywhere that such challenges in our youth might then carry over to our adult lives, but I am a much more avid consumer of television and movies as an adult than I ever was as a kid…and no one seems to be warning me against it anymore (probably just because they want my dollars and so therefore ENCOURAGE things like Netflix binges).

I also find it ironic that while I pretty scrupulously monitor my daughter’s screen time (I try to not let her get more than 2-3 hours of screen time in front of ANY device in a week), I was pretty careless about monitoring it in myself. Not exactly setting the best example, in other words.

While I don’t think television is inherently bad, I recognize that for me, it’s something I need to consume in very small doses to really get any full enjoyment out of it. I also recognize that life is short, and I’d much rather spend those hours reading books or spending face-to-face time with loved ones rather than sitting in front of a screen.

So here’s to the foreseeable future of significantly less t.v. time for me—it’s looking promising! (Oh, and for the record, in the past two weeks, I’ve watched t.v. three nights out of fourteen. Not too bad.)

Do you set any limits on how much t.v. you allow yourself to watch? Is watching television (or Netflix, Hulu, etc.) even something that tempts you?