TV

Forget about baseball, television is the great American pastime. Even as viewing habits change due to technological advances such as DVRs and Hulu, new numbers show that Americans still watch almost five hours of television per day on average – a number that increases as we age. You no doubt know a few couch potatoes that consume much more than that.

99 percent of American homes have at least one TV set, and many houses boast a television in every room, including the kitchen and bathroom. By age 65, the average American will have spent 9 years of his or her life glued to the boob tube. What if instead, you spent that time practicing the guitar, studying the stock market, learning to speak Spanish or writing a book? We complain about not having enough time in the day, and then we waste our lives potatoed in front of a screen.

Perhaps you automatically click on the TV when you come home from work for company. Maybe you get addicted to reality shows and indulge in mindless entertainment more than you should. You could be a news junkie, a movie buff or a cooking show fanatic. Whatever the case, if you watch too much TV you can reduce your  watching time – try the following tips to find what works best for you.

1. Get rid of your TV. An extreme step, this tactic works surprisingly well. When my television set broke during a move, I didn’t replace it for three years. I thought I would miss watching comedy shows, the news and especially movies – but I didn’t. I replaced all those hours I usually spent watching TV with other more productive and engaging activities.

2. Hide your TV. Does the thought of getting rid of your TV fill you with dread, but you still want to make an extreme change in your viewing habits? Unplug your talking box and put it away in a closet, basement or garage. You can get it back out anytime you want with a little effort to watch a special program or your favorite program – but you won’t be dragging it up from the basement to vegetate to a reality show marathon just because you can’t think of anything better to do.

3. Only watch movies. Humans love a good story, which is what many movies provide. Resolve to only watch movies, whether you have a DVD player or net streaming from a service like Netflix or Amazon. You’ll avoid exposure to commercials, skip a lot of the trash and spend more time watching what you really want to see, instead of mindless surfing.

4. Cancel your cable subscription. You will save money and will undoubtedly spend less time watching local programming than you would spicy cable channels.

5. Keep track of your viewing time. It will be hard to cut down your television viewing habits if you don’t even know what they are. Keep a notepad by the TV and jot down the time you turn it on and off. You may be surprised at the amount of TV you are watching, and will be more inspired to quit.

6. Plan for one TV-free night. Start small! If you are a nightly television consumer, pick one night a week where the screen stays off. Plan to do something else that night, like meeting a friend for a chat, going to the park or organizing your closet. Gradually increase your TV-free nights until you are just watching television one night per week. Television nights will turn into something special instead of your default evening activity.

7. Reward yourself! Whether you are aiming for 30 minutes of screen-time per evening or one TV-free day each week, keep track of your efforts and reward yourself whenever you meet your goal. Choose rewards that encourage healthier habits – order a new book from Amazon, put $50 into your travel savings account or go out to eat with friends at a new organic restaurant. Find the particular incentives that work for you, and you will find yourself turning off the TV more and more often in order to get your reward.

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