About eight months ago I stopped watching TV. Just like that. No more. Why? Simply because I realised that I was addicted to all the news and entertainment which were supposed to make me informed and keep me happy and relaxed. Instead the news made me upset and the entertainment made me more addicted. I used to look forward to watching TV like a person looks forward to being with another person. My TV was my lover. I know, sad isn’t it? I had my favourite shows which I would wait for the whole week, but once in front of the box, or the panel as they call it these days, I would usually watch much more of the other stuff that just happened to be on at the time. So the hours piled up. They say that the average person watches about five to six hours of TV every day. That’s more than three months a year. Three months a year of our lives. Sitting and watching. Wow. Even if the statistics lie, and I heard on TV that they do, let’s assume that half of it is correct. It’s still a month and a half of watching TV. A month and a half a year of our lives.
So knowing all this it may not come as a surprise to you when I say that over the past 8 months I’ve read about 30 books. Last year I started reading one book, but I never got to finish it. I didn’t have the time. I was probably watching TV.
Is all this reading thanks to my not watching TV anymore? Certainly not. But it’s part of it. It’s part of replacing a lifestyle which was largely habitual with one that is thought out in advance. Did I replace one habit with another? Maybe. But I feel more energised and enthusiastic about each new day. I feel in control. When I say a lifestyle that is thought out I don’t mean robotically planned with no spontaneity at all. On the contrary, during this time I’ve done more spontaneous things than ever before in my life. I’ve had no TV schedules to adhere to, no shows to record, no wars and global crises to follow, and no re-run episodes to make me nostalgic over the “good old times”. I’ve been free to do more of what I always wanted to do: spend meaningful time with my family, read, meet like minded people, and walk in the nature. But wait. That’s not the point of this post.
This is. Recently I realised that I was prey to another habit which even increased its sway over me since I gave up watching TV. That habit was not so much time usurping as it was mind preoccupying. That habit was refreshing. Refreshing my email inbox. Everyone reads and writes emails, so why is this a big deal, you say? In fact, why is everything a big deal for you, Alex? I know. I do talk the walk, don’t I? I wear my thoughts on my sleeve. Well read on if you like. Or change the channel as it were.
I would start my day by checking my emails, and I would finish my day by checking my emails. And while at it I would also browse the Internet. So what many learned and wise people who I admire consider the most important parts of the day, the hour immediatley after you wake up and the hour before you go to bed, I was spending on reading and writing emails, and surfing the Internet.
Sure by using email and Internet I was staying in touch with the people I know, that can’t be bad, right? I was just being social, come on! And spam protection these days is good enough to keep at bay most unsolicited messages out of sight – and out of mind. But how did that make me feel? I felt stressed out. What happens when we imbue our minds with solicited messages to the point that we’re constantly checking or expecting a new message? Or when we’re refreshing our Facebook or Twitter every minute or so, clicking that update button for the latest on our friends’ or favourite celebrity’s wherabouts. What happens when we begin and end our days with emails? When the first and last things we impress on our brains is content as random as messages in fortune cookies. I had let my habits run me. Our habits run us alright, but in this instance I let my “refresh” habit prevent me from having a more refreshing and relaxed life, a life more aligned with what I truly wanted.
So how did I do it? How does one kick the refresh habit? Well, I’m a work in progress on this one. It’s a challenge quitting watching TV, what to speak of reducing your social networking exposure. The first step though is to be honest about it and to share it. So, I am sharing it with you. Then ask yourself if the refresh habit is really something that bothers you. If yes, look at how much time and what time of day are we talking about. A simple step to feel better is to decide that the first and the last hours of your day will at no cost involve a computer or a smart phone. This is a good start. But you have to remember that simply removing a habit won’t cut it. You have to replace it with another activity or the old one will slip back in and take over again. Choose an activity that you will enjoy very much. Go out for a jog, have that breakfast you never have, look at the sunrise not on TV but in the sky, meditate, read something that will make you smile, appreciate someone, plan your day and consider your goals. What will follow next is likely going to be unique in every individual case. We’re all different. But just do it and see what happens. Encourage yourself and persist. Be reminded – you’re not alone. We’re all a work in progress. Now refresh this page and log off. Good luck!