The majority of people watch television. It is such an easy thing to do. Press a button on your remote, sit back and enjoy. However, does it bring us happiness?
The problem with watching television
If you want to increase your levels of happiness, watching hours of television is probably not the way to go. The nature of TV means we are not actively engaged in the activity. We just sit there, watching. A great way to bring about happiness is through a flow experience. These are those experiences where you are so engrossed in something that everything else is forgotten. You are using your skills and are probably working pretty hard. Afterwards you feel great, exhilarated by what you have done. Watching TV will not enable a flow experience.
Time spent watching TV means time away from pursuing your goals and plans. It can be a huge stealer of time. It also means time not spent chatting with friends or carrying out exercise. Having goals, close, supportive relationships and a regular exercise routine are all important happiness boosters.
It is also possible that watching television before bedtime can lead to insomnia. Insomnia is where a person fails to fall asleep quickly or wakes up early, unable to return to sleep. Sleep is essential and not having enough can have a great impact on how we perform during the day.
What we watch can have a great impact on our wellbeing and mental health. A study at Nottingham Trent University found watching the news can lead to negative feelings of depression, anger and anxiety. You are fed these stories and are left feeling helpless. Somewhere along the line ‘news’ became synonymous with ‘tragedy’, ‘misery’ and ‘conflict’. They have no interest in reporting uplifting events that have gone on in the world that day.
Television and children
There continues to be a discussion about the influence TV has on children. Study after study has looked at how children are affected by the images they see. I recall the stories that came out during the Olympics, where adults were programming their rowing machine to keep up with the athletes and how people’s interest in exercise upped. So clearly adults are influenced by the television, so how can children not be?
Furthermore, the amount of television children watch can have an impact on their lives. A University of Otago study found children who watched the most television had more health concerns as adults. Such concerns included high cholesterol and obesity. Television is a passive activity for children as it is for adults. Time in front of the TV is time not spent doing other things.
Try to encourage your child to make active choices in what they watch. If you can, watch programs with your child, reminding them it is fiction, rather than real life. It’s all about the balance. So If you want to keep your children occupied, give them paper and crayons. Give them opportunities to explore their creativity and interact with their environment. My Happy Mails for children aged 7 to 12 are also an easy way to entertain your child.
When television is okay
Watching television offers us a time to relax. It is a chance to escape for a while and forget the troubles of the day. There’s always something to do and how nice to take time out each day and just sit and unwind with loved ones in front of the box. And if you want to get serious about reducing your stress, watch a comedy and have a good laugh. Watching your favourite comedy can help lower blood pressure, and even cut the risk of cardiovascular disease. When we laugh, we release the feel-good chemical dopamine.
Television is also a chance to learn and catch up on current affairs. It is an easy way to follow world events and issues that interest us. Something we see may rouse our curiosity and motivate us to find out more about it. TV can also inspire. A program may feature someone showing great courage or a particular strength that you admire.
Tips for staying in control of your TV habit
Be mindful of what you watch. Don’t just watch something just because it’s on. What you watch can have an impact on how you think and feel. Research conducted at Hasselt University in Belgium found that teenagers who watched medical dramas and documentaries had increased worries and anxiety about health issues.
Make good use of advert breaks. Impress yourself by how much you get done during this time.
Use a TV guide to plan what you are going to watch.
Try not to eat meals in front of the TV. Make mealtimes a time to enjoy the food you are eating as well as time spent with your family.
Learn to turn the TV off. It also saves electricity.
Vary what you watch.
Note how you feel after watching a program. Do you feel better or worse than before you started watching? Was it as relaxing as you imagined it to be? If you feel worse, how might you change this?
Look for programs that inspire you in your own life.
Use TV to exercise your strengths. Want to be more open minded? Watch a news program that differs to your own political views. Time to increase your curiosity? Watch new things. Wish you had more empathy? Leave on those heart wrenching stories rather than turning off in your usual disgust.
Be active in your watching. Try not to passively accept all that is broadcast to you.
Try to avoid watching the news just before going to bed, especially if you have trouble sleeping.
Work out what’s important to you. Get excited and motivated by it. Realise that time in front of the TV is time away from your passion.
Turn your television off an hour before bedtime.
Turn the TV off for one night and see how you spend your time.