On Watching Less

Habits are hard to break, and particularly in the evening when one feels tired it’s very tempting to just flip on the old box, flick through a few channels and just let entertainment carry you through till bedtime. But I’ve been breaking it up a little and I’ve noticed that far from being restful, watching TV actually makes you tired. I’m not entirely sure why; it could be the effect of the screen, it could be that you’re looking at constantly moving pictures, or it could be the passive nature of the engagement. True, it’s not always entirely passive; when watching a good film or drama you can be completely engaged, but mostly I’m only half there, breaking off to check my phone or to talk to OH or make a drink or go to the loo. Most TV is background and the programme makers know this so they increasingly add bright colours and loud sounds to attract our attention. This goes double for adverts, though I hardly ever watch commercial TV.

There is of course a lot that I miss when glued to the box. I miss reading, thinking, playing the piano-keyboard, going outside to look at the moon, talking to others and listening to music. I tell myself I’ll do these things another time but that time only comes when I make it, so last night I decided I would watch a couple of pre-selected programmes and then, rather than filling the time with more TV I would read. I’ve really been getting into Elena Ferrante and last night as I finished the book (review to come I noticed a huge difference in my mind. When I read I was energised rather than tired, engaged rather than passively ingesting; I felt alive and alert and I went to bed feeling pleasantly tired rather than drained.

Paul McKenna suggests turning off the TV at least half an hour before bed and using that time to read. With me this tends to be a custom more honoured in the breach but I intend to practise it from now on.

I don’t want to give up the box altogether, there’s some good stuff on and it’s useful to kick back and watch something when you haven’t got the energy to do much else. But it takes over, so from now on rather than using TV to fill the evening, I shall choose programmes I really want to watch and do something else the rest of the time.

Last night I watched University Challenge (I scored 70 points), Doc Martin and a little bit of Murder 24/7, a police procedural documentary. Total 1.5 hours, much better than my usual three hours. And tomorrow night when OH is out I plan to spend the evening playing the keyboard.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

Kirk out