BY MOVING ONE finger, you can raise your mood and the moods of everyone in your family for a week. Simply push the off button on your television. You can join over 20 million people and observe the annual TV Turnoff Week.
What's wrong with TV? As I say in my book, Principles For Personal Growth:
Studies at the University of Chicago found that when people are engaged in an activity like reading, talking, or pursuing a hobby, they become happier. Research also shows that the longer a person sits in front of a TV, the more irritable and dissatisfied they become. TV is entertaining, but it presents no challenge. Our minds and bodies start going stir crazy without a challenge. That’s bad enough, but on top of that, commercials are specifically designed to make you feel dissatisfied (so you will buy their product to satisfy your “need”). Read the whole chapter.
As I've said elsewhere, using your hands is a powerful mood elevator. So is exercise. But television doesn't. The problem is, it sometimes seems like it does.
Turning off the TV, however, is very likely to raise your mood. But this is like telling a heroin addict that giving up the drug will make him happier. It doesn't seem like it. It doesn't feel like it. And he may be considerably unhappier for awhile first.
Television is surprisingly addicting, and that's why, even though it is a voluntary activity, it is hard to turn away from (especially news) and that is the cause of these alarming statistics.
The purpose of TV Turnoff Week is to give you enough TV-free time to discover how much more moodraising the alternatives can be, and this hopefully leads to lifestyle changes and a more fulfilling life. According to surveys, taking a week off from television caused ninety percent of the participants to reduce the amount of TV they watched afterwards. Here are some ideas people have used to change their television watching habits.
What can you do instead of watching television? Try wasting time the old fashioned way. When the TV is off, one of the most entertaining things available is interacting with other people, which studies show will make you happier. Ideally, you would rediscover things you now "don't have time to do" — things that are more constructive, healthy, and rewarding to do. Here's a list of ideas.
As one second grader said, "I didn't like TV Turnoff Week except that I did notice my grades went up and I was in a good mood all week." On a parent handout (PDF document), they had this sage advice: "Don't fret if children claim 'I'm bored!' For children, boredom often leads to creativity." And I would add, "Same for adults."
Every year, TV Turnoff Week is held in April and September. Find the dates by clicking here: TV Turnoff on Wikipedia. We invite you to participate and see what happens. Did you gain insights? Did you enjoy your life more? How did it change your mood? (We'd love to read about your experiences in the comments below.)
Find out more on these websites:
The White Dot
Unplug Your Kids
Books for further reading:
Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television
Alternatives to TV Handbook
Living Without The Screen
The Big Turnoff: Confessions of a TV-Addicted Mom Trying to Raise a TV-Free Kid
Amusing Ourselves to Death
Read some interesting facts about television and answers to frequently asked questions about TV Turnoff Week here.