5 amazing things that happened when I stopped drinking
5 Things That Happened When I Stopped Watching TV
The book I remember my mother reading to me the most as a child isThe Boy with Square Eyes, a cautionary tale about the dangers of watching too much television. Nice try, Mom. Despite her best efforts, I've always loved TV.
Until recently, I considered my TV-watching habits to be pretty normal. But after seeing my coworkers' shocked faces when I told them I had watched 11 seasons ofGrey's Anatomyin less than 3 months—to be clear, that's more than 10,000 minutes of medical drama—I realized my fun pastime may have morphed into an unhealthy obsession. (Boost your memory and age-proof your mind with .)
So I proclaimed in a recent meeting that I would give up TV for a week. Here's what happened when I did.
1. There were suddenly more than 24 hours in a day.
There's a popular meme on the Internet that says, "You have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé." It's true, but that quote forgets to mention that Beyoncé must not watch TV.
It may seem obvious that I felt like I had more time after eliminating a time-consuming habit from my life, but here's the thing: I never just watch TV. I am an expert-level multitasker and I live alone, which means the TV is like a constant soundtrack in my home. I watch it while I unload groceries, while I cook dinner, while I eat dinner, while I respond to e-mails, while I do pretty much everything that needs to get done post-work and pre-bed. I assumed all that multitasking meant my TV habit wasn't actually keeping me from getting things done. Wrong.
I used this "extra" time in myriad productive ways, including exercising and cooking more, but I was most excited about reading two books in just 7 TV-free days. I have a goal of reading 15 books in 2019, a goal that had seemed like a stretch when I set it back in January and now seems, frankly, pitiful. My brief TV hiatus has given me the confidence to increase that goal to 30.
2. I can see clearly now, the TV is gone.
Without the distraction of TV, not only was I able to get basic chores like putting groceries away and washing dishes done more quickly, but I was also able to really focus on tasks I'd been putting off for months. Turns out, it's much easier to send thoughtful responses to your friends' e-mails when you're not stopping every 30 seconds to see what new life-or-death situation Meredith Grey is facing (fans ofGrey's Anatomywill understand that this is a constant issue for Meredith, who has survived a plane crash, a hospital shooting, a bomb explosion, a near-drowning, and so much more). At one point during this experiment, I even got to—what I once believed to be mythical—inbox zero; it may have been on my personal account and short-lived, but I will never forget the feeling of satisfaction I had after responding to every single e-mail I'd been avoiding.
MORE:10 Silent Signals You're Way Too Stressed
3. Things got interesting.
When I started this experiment, I set some ground rules for myself, including that I couldn't replace my usual TV time with other kinds of screen time: no movies and no increased use of the Internet. But because I live alone, there were some eerily quiet nights when I wanted some "company." So I turned to talk radio.
I had been listening to NPR for a few days in place of TV when my boyfriend came over for dinner. That night, we had a spirited discussion about the former one-child policy in China and about Britain possibly leaving the European Union. "Am I more interesting since giving up TV?" I blurted out while washing dishes. My boyfriend looked at me, that there-is-no-right-answer-to-this-question look spreading across his face, and slyly said, "I think you should write a story like this every week." Apparently, he enjoyed discussing what I had heard on the BBC Newshour more than the latest love triangle onGrey's Anatomy(something I'm ashamed to admit I've forced him to listen to in the past). The radio provided a similarly comforting soundtrack as the TV once had, but it was less distracting and more informational.
4. Oh, hello there, anxiety, where have you been hiding?
There was only one part of this experiment that I was truly dreading: not being able to watch TV while falling asleep. Two years ago, Prevention.com—yes, the very site I work for and read every single day—published a sleep story that included a section on what it means if you rely on TV to snooze. John Winkelman, MD, a sleep researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital, said, "A dark and quiet room may bring psychological problems to the fore. The television helps deflect feelings and compensates for worries."
When I first read Winkelman's comments, I had an epiphany: That is exactly why I like to fall asleep while watching TV! And then I willingly chose to continue using TV as a coping mechanism for my anxiety for 2 years—not my proudest moment.
On the first night of this experiment, I lay in bed obsessing about everything: mistakes I made at work that day, all the things I needed to get done the next day, how obscenely loud my fan was—a fan I had been using every night for literally the past 9 years. My FitBit sleep data from that night shows that I tossed and turned for 30 minutes before finally dozing off, which is much longer than usual.
So how did I get through the week without my security blanket? Well…
MORE:7 Reasons You're Tired All The Time
5. Bring on the tears.
Without TV to silence my anxious thoughts, I was forced to deal with them. So I spent most of the nights of my TV-free week crying before falling asleep. While that may sound terribly depressing, it was something I absolutely needed.
In addition to my standard anxious thoughts about work, there was another thought I had been blocking out: I recently had a friend pass away unexpectedly. She was young and healthy, and her death was a complete shock. Every time I thought about her, I started to become upset—until I turned on the TV. As callous as it sounds, focusing on McDreamy allowed me to avoid dealing with the pain of her death.
But, as this experiment helped me realize, I needed to deal with her death. Yes, I cried thinking of her, and yes, it was upsetting; however, she deserved to be remembered. And once I was all cried out, and I thought about all of the wonderful memories I will always have of this friend, I started to breathe easier. I no longer feared that seeing a random memento that reminded me of her would bring me to tears. Of course, I'm not "over" her death—that's not something I want or think will ever happen. I have started grieving, though, which is a process I wasn't able to begin until I switched the TV off.
I'm not swearing off TV forever; in fact, I've already begun watching again since this experiment ended. But I do watch differently now. I don't let myself get sucked into hours of endless fictional drama. I don't eat while watching, which has been significant in my personal battle against mindless eating. And even though it's been difficult, I am slowly weaning myself off of using TV as a coping mechanism. Now when I watchGrey's Anatomy, I do it because I want to enjoy Meredith Grey's drama, not avoid my own.
Video: Top 5 Things That Happen When You STOP Drinking Alcohol
Cable Machine Fail Don’t Try This at Home
6 Yoga Stretches To Wake You Up
Surprising Skin Cancer Fighters
8 In-the-Moment Strategies for Managing Symptoms of Pseudobulbar Affect
12 Creative (And a Few Boozy) Ice Cream Recipes to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
5 Yoga Exercises To Get Rid Of Puffy Eyes
We Have Spotted More Than 30 Influencers Wearing This One Bag Today
Kansas Store Owner Closes Business With Unforgettably Offensive Goodbye to Town
Claire Foy is ditching palace life as Lisbeth in the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sequel
Scented DIY Lavender Vanilla Sugar Scrub
Harry Potter fans, this Battle of Hogwarts theory will blow your minds
How I started taming my workaholic tendencies