TV-Free January: What I Learned

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My TV-free January experiment ended last week, and it was so freeing and enlightening! The first couple days were rough since I purposely left the TV in plain sight so my husband could watch it occasionally (so rare — he only watched it twice during the month). But within the the first week, the TV somehow faded into the background and I had little draw to turn it on.

Through the month, I realized that I am quick to hide from my fears (mainly of quietness which I think is actually a fear of loneliness) with the easiest source of entertainment for distraction. Deliberately turning off the TV forced me to take a hard look at when and why I sometimes felt lonely, tired, uncreative, and uninspired and pushed me beyond that to create, learn, explore new friendships, be OK with the quiet, take risks with new endeavors, be bold, and let ideas flow without editing them right away. Addressing these fears instead of hiding from them has been powerful.

Here’s what I learned and did instead of zoning out in front of the TV.

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Journaling without editing myself. Two things: 1) I bought a sketchbook last October to sketch lovely things in art museums, but instead I filled it, cover-to-cover, with scribbles about blog post ideas, thoughts and questions, how I want to connect my mission with my blog, career, and decisions, doodles of new interior design ideas for our space, and a myriad of random lists. The journal’s a mess — once, I frantically wrote a handful of thoughts only to realize later that the book was upside down. But, it’s the first of my journals that I actually love skimming through because it’s un-cut, authentic, JOYFUL, and includes plenty of ideas for me to explore and expand on later. 2) Good old 2B. I tend to edit my thoughts before they even hit the page when writing with ink so I switched to using pencils after rediscovering their free-flowing, butter-like, temporary nature. Writing without the limitation of journal lines and using a pencil has liberated my ideating and writing process. Now to decipher what I wrote. :/

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Creativity in the kitchen. Sometimes all I want to do in the evening is crash on the couch, but without the TV on, I frequently found ways to keep myself busy with little tasks in the kitchen. This resulted in tasty things and less food waste because I took advantage of extra time to make things like super easy homemade applesauce with squishy apples and using up the poppy seeds that my mom gave me a few months ago by using them as bagel toppers.

Walked through the snow to get coffee. Walkability is a little harder to come by out here in the Minneapolis suburbs, but I took advantage of living within a 20-minute walk to a nearby Starbucks. I trudged through the snow and loved every moment of it. It’s easy to miss the quietness and rhythm of nature by getting in the car so I like connecting to where we live by walking when I can. I always think that I’ll freeze in the winter, but I typically arrive sweating and happy even though it’s frequently been near zero degrees.

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Compiling a booklist and actually reading them. Committing to a reading list can be challenging for me — typically using the lame excuse that “I’m a visual” and love reading things like magazines instead. Turning off the TV forced me to fill my time with things that interested me so I decided to read about the life and work of great artists. I’m currently reading a book about Edgard Degas and noting who and what were catalysts for growth in his career. It’s causing me to think about how to put myself in similar situations to explore my creative potential. I have a long list of books like this that I want to get my hands on now! I’m on a biography kick, but would love to add a good novel to my list. Any suggestions?

These are only a handful of the revelations that I’ve had since turning off the TV! Sometimes pursuing lightness in life requires an experiment or two to reveal what things that are hindering personal growth. By targeting my TV-weakness for a month, I opened myself up to opportunities that span far beyond media. Going forward, I plan to keep the TV off as much as possible for the remainder of the year and only use it for a handful of specific occasions like movie dates. I’m ready to work it into the rest of my daily life!

Would love to hear how your New Years resolutions and experiments are going? What are you learning about yourself, others, the world? Leave a comment below!

 

25 thoughts on “TV-Free January: What I Learned

  1. I really do think I am going to have to try a T.V. free month here soon! A really good novel I just read is called The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I cannot recommend this book enough! I could not put it down, but it is a tear jerker. Another book that I really liked was Mademoiselle Chanel by C.W. Gortner. It is fiction with moments of truth about the life of Coco Chanel. Finally, a very interesting biography I read on a long plane ride was Switching Time by Richard Baer.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading your post! I too feel like there is so much more I want to do and accomplish but the TV sucks you in and hinders you’re creative thoughts. Great job on your journal! I need to get inspired again. Thanks!

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  3. I just came across your site, and I have actually been wanting to try this!! I realized I do the same thing…I don’t like to be alone, so turning on the TV provides the illusion your aren’t. Very inspiring!

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  4. What a lovely read, thanks for sharing.

    When I lived with my parents they always seemed to have the TV on. To me it was loud and obnoxious leaving no room for conversation or peace. When I went to uni we decided not to have a TV so we didn’t have to pay for a license and it was the best decision we made. I now haven’t owned a TV in 6 years. 🙂 we watch TV shows and movies of course but deliberately. I’m glad you had such a positive experience.

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  5. Hi Becky!

    That’s a great January goal. I love that you introspectively questioned yourself about the reasons why it’s difficult for you to leave the TV off. I’m happy to hear that you spent more time journaling/enjoying the process of journaling. I find that when my phone is not near me, my project at hand is more spontaneous and uninterrupted as well.

    My January goal was no caffeine, no sugar. The first week was difficult because the dining halls at my campus offer a big selection of desserts (even “healthy” desserts). But after that first week, the cravings went away. I even celebrated with a small dessert on the first of February…but it ended up upsetting my stomach, which is good! I plan to keep up this goal/habit beyond just January.

    Can’t wait to read more of your content!
    ~Rika Kub

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  6. Lately I have been binge-watching TV and doing nothing else. A TV-free hour is challenging for me let alone a whole month! I feel utterly lonely when I do not watch something! How did you handle the quiet? I have no coping mechanisms for lonely and quiet tv-less moments.

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    1. Oooo yes, great question! I didn’t even know that I struggled with loneliness until I turned off the TV. One thing that helped was compiling a list of things that I could do or wanted to try, or even podcasts to listen to, and consulted it when I felt unmotivated, bored, or lonely. I thought about blindly choosing from a stack of notecards with ideas on them, but I never got around to that idea, so that might be helpful. On a handful of occasions, I went for a walk — to nowhere in particular, just walking. Getting outside was immensely refreshing and the movement helped settle my thoughts. Listening to music and podcasts reduced the stark quiet too! Something else that I found helpful was planning out my evenings before hand so I could prepare and equip my heart and mind for the challenge. Hope that’s helpful! Would love to hear if you give it a try (even if it’s for a day) and what your experience is!

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  7. Okay I will try it for half a day!Twelve Hours. I will try to plan my evenings so I don’t get stuck at home infront of the tv. I will go out to see my aunts or cousins just to get out of the house!If I make it through twelve hours with my sanity still intact,I will gradually take the challenge a notch higher at a time!

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  8. What encouraging words. I struggle with over commitment and the TV is my escape but honestly it is not an escape because I have just wasted my evening. This new year has me watching less TV while reading more, writing letters the old fashion way with pen and paper and listening to podcasts. I still over commit but find that I am more rested than when I sit in from nt of the TV. Thank you for sharing how the TV free month has helped you.

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  9. What an encouraging blog post. I truly enjoyed hearing how well it went. I would love to give it a shot. I would like to restrict myself from watching all television with the exception of the news and the weather. Thank you for sharing your experience.

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  10. First off, I love your blog! I can totally relate. Second, I give you so much credit for going a month without watching TV. I’m stuck on the couch a lot during the week just because of my grave yard shift that I work. I mean, there are days where I don’t even turn it on because I’m out all day, and it does feel good! It gives you more to look forward to.

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