How to Kick a Television Addiction

Aoife Smith
May 9 · 8 min read

In a world where Netflix and Chill is the new night out, sometimes our screen time can go overboard.

Everyone knows. One episode turns into two, then five and then it’s incredibly past your bedtime and you need to be up in three hours. You tell yourself you won’t be tired in the morning, but you always are. It will be worth it though, but it never is.

Maybe the second you are home from work, the television greets you and any plans or chores you had sworn to, are irrelevant now.

Perhaps you work from home or have the morning off and require productivity. The television will be on in the background, you soothe, and it’s an old episode that shouldn’t distract. Later, the to-list is still full and untouched, but you’re all caught up with Grey’s Anatomy, for the fifth time.

Within minutes of waking, we are on our phones, updating ourselves with the latest news, gossip, and our peer’s lives.

The TV, the radio, a Spotify playlist, always fill our ears and we rarely sit in dead silence, undistracted.

The older generation classifies it as problematic but let’s identify it as an evolutionary glitch. It’s beyond unideal that we feel the need to document everything we partake in, from a trip to Paris to our morning avocado toast. It’s distressing that we are incapable of being bored, of sitting in silence with truly nothing to do. It’s rare that a to-do list or a calendar is empty and it’s not often that you feel proud about staying in bed all day.

We are not zombies or slaves to our screens. We are just attention seeking, over-active and needy, and to overcome this minor malfunction, we must embrace it first.

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Phone dependency or social media binging, doesn’t necessarily mean we have to go cold turkey, throw away our phones and seek refuge in the alps with a monk.

We may be unable to learn control or will-power, but we can change, and enforce certain barriers to reward us for good behavior. Yes, we crave instant gratification, but we also respond well to positive reinforcement.

The biggest issue with television overuse and seeming addiction is that you do become somewhat hypnotized and lose awareness for other pressing tasks. It is the epitome of blissful ignorance, a shield from reality, and a new world with different rules and alluring people to get lost in.

Many don’t watch television; some watch a healthy amount and others constantly have the television on. Nonetheless, the Nielson Report found that the average American watches about 8 hours of television a day. Factoring in a general workday of 8 hours, a normal sleep of 7 hours and an average commute of 1–2 hours, it appears that a massive portion of our free time is spent glued to the television, be it Netflix, Amazon, Movistar or one of the many streaming platforms to choose from.

If you find that television time is cutting into your productivity, give it a watershed. Disallow yourself to watch it until a certain time, start with 6 pm even on the weekends. Each week it must get an hour later until you’re at 10 pm. Fill that time slowly, arrange plans for the evenings, organize your errands for later in the day, make reservations or book a class for the late evenings.

The thing is, a series, film, and documentary can be educational, entertaining and enjoyable alone or with company, but sometimes it’s important to switch (the television) off and do something different or maybe even more productive with your time.

You mightn’t realize it, but planned or unplanned television time cuts into your day and can become a dependency. Silence and boredom are old terms that can be difficult to grapple with, but here are some habits to put in place, to cut down on that television time, and maybe even improve your productivity. Contrary to what you may believe, it will make you happier and more active, even if you usually turn to television as a pick-me-up.

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1. Pick up (or order) a Book!

Ok, starting off with the basics but you really can’t beat a good book and it’s so easy nowadays. No more heading down to the library or bookshop for hours on end deciding on a book that makes you look good, but doesn’t make you feel good.

Books are important for cognition and memory, but also your sleep. Countless studies show that the blue light emitted from screens decreases our melatonin, which is the important hormone that tells your body it’s time to sleep. So instead of late-night scrolling or series binging, read until your tranquil slumber-drifting leads you to drop your book on your face.

A bustling of options means that there is no good excuse for a lack of reading anymore. Order a book on Amazon, invest in a kindle or enroll in a book subscription platform where all the work is done for you, like Book of the Month. If you really hate reading (although I beg you to give it at least one more shot!) then get a subscription to Audible or an equivalent, so you can go for long walks with just your earphones and a good story.

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2. You’ve Guessed it…. Exercise.

Endorphins, health, energy, lifestyle boost; we’ve heard it all before. But we hear it so repeatedly because it’s true. Just thirty minutes a day is enough, and the results are undeniable (with your energy boost you can probably still fit in that TV time if you really want to and you won’t feel guilty!).

Some gyms do affordable, flexible deals but if that’s your idea of hell, head out for a run, buy some weights and a mat for your home or join a yoga class with a friend.

If your evenings are often paralyzed by the television, plan your gym visit, run or class for the middle of the evening, to at least break up that screen time.

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3. Upgrade to Podcasts and Music.

So, it’s raining outside, or you’ve had a particularly horrific day at work and all you want is to switch off, curl up on the sofa and stick on some Friends. Or perhaps you’re cleaning or cooking, the background noise is comforting. Resist the temptation and put on a podcast or a fitting playlist.

Podcasts are having their moment in the spotlight right now and there are tens of thousands to choose from. Download a free podcast from the app store, or click onto Spotify, find a category that catches your eye and tune in.

Often, you will learn something new from a podcast or discover a news topic or interest you hadn’t heard of yet. They are relaxing to listen to and almost always entertaining and thought-provoking. But what makes them seamless and invaluable, is that you don’t feel the same television attachment and enthrallment that leaves you canceling plans or staying up until 4 am.

Don’t be afraid to match your mood — don’t listen to an intensely motivational ted talk if you’re feeling exhausted, and don’t listen to a true-crime doc if you’re feeling sick or anxious, listen to the silly one about food, or culture or whatever you please. It’s your free time, after all.

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4. Get in the Kitchen!

Cooking ticks a lot of boxes. It’s relaxing, comforting and a healthy habit. No more takeaways or microwavable meals or oven pizzas, you’ve found a new passion. It’s the perfect remedy for winding down, it can improve your diet and it is a worthy skill that will lower your expenses and give you a satisfactory reward — some beautiful home cooked food.

With ample blogs, food recipe websites and cookbooks around, even a novice cook can produce a restaurant standard meal, and indeed the simplest recipe will suffice.

If you already love to cook, make sure to keep that screen black. Listen to some of your favorite music and cook conscientiously. Focus on your actions, the chopping, the stirring and the tasting. It’s basically free therapy.

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5. Meditate… with an app.

Maybe this one is a cop-out but a phone makes it a whole lot easier to get started. The idea of meditation is daunting and unappealing due to its loose affiliation with monks, buddhas or hippies. It’s not just for them, and it’s much trendier and common now.

Can’t sleep? Having a bad day that makes you want to crawl under the duvet? Instead of hovering your hand over the remote, lay down with some meditation and see how long it takes you to relax or fall asleep, a long-term fix that television won’t bring.

There are thousands of apps there now, Insight Timer, Headspace and more. Just make sure you switch your phone to flight mode or at least silent before starting.

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These tips only crack the surface. There are thousands of alternatives out there to television, and we can forget sometimes because watching the latest Game of Thrones or going to see the new Avengers film can often feel like unwanted homework, pushed on us and expected by our peers.

A go-to conversation is the latest Netflix Series or a dramatic ending to a new episode. It’s a pressure that we need to shift, back to hobbies or other interests.

These tips may seem minimal or simplistic, but arranging these habits and enforcing these barriers will begin to loosen the restraints of television, and free up your time.

Television used to my identity, my area of expertise, my hobby. In many ways, it still is. But as soon as I accepted its restricting and hypnotic traits, I followed these tips to ease the pressure on my television, and it worked.

Aoife Smith

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