In mid-January, I decided to go on a TV cleanse. Over the past couple of months, I had noticed a gradual increase in the amount of time I was spending in front of the TV. I seemed to watch everything on demand from Netflix to Amazon prime videos. I longed for every opportunity I could spend into of the screen, which I revelled in. To cater to my ever-growing TV interest, I even expanded the genre of programmes I generally watched. I would normally enjoy political thrillers or suspense dramas, but I found myself watching everything from children cartoons to sloppy programmes that had little to no storyline! The long hours I spent in front of the TV was also affecting my productivity and sleep routine. I found that somewhere in the back of my mind, my memory was subconsciously replaying the conversations and images I had seen on the TV- which was slowly affecting my day to day productivity in the real world. I was also sacrificing going to bed early (I would normally go to bed between 10 pm and 11pm) for more time in front of the TV. This had a massive spin-off effect on me the next day, as I wouldn’t be able to make it for my 5am workouts in the gym and would generally wake up feeling lethargic and sluggish.
As the new year, rolled in, I decided it was time for a change. If I was going to improve my productivity in 2018, something had to change. I tried reducing the amount of time I spent watching TV to just 1 hour a day (because I read somewhere that the amount of time spent watching TV should be commensurate with the amount of time spent exercising on an average day). But that didn’t work, soon enough, old habits came back. I then did some research on the effects TV has on the brain, I found cohesive and sound wisdom on its effect which seemed to match the standing belief that watching TV is indeed bad for you. What I found was enough to convince me about the long-standing adverse effects of watching so many hours of TV. I then decided it was time to completely cleanse myself of TV for the next 30 days. I thought to myself, what’s the worst that could happen right? At most I would be bored out of my mind for the next 30 days- which I would probably make up for after the challenge was over, by immersing myself in lost TV files. But to my surprise, the results were astounding! The nature of the challenge was: No TV at home under any circumstance. This included the News and entertaining YouTube channels (I limited myself to educational/instructional YouTube videos).
At the start of my detox challenge I documented the first seven days to help me reflect on my experience once I had completed the 30-day period. On day one, I was feeling quite enthusiast. I had a keenness to embark on this journey and prove to myself that I could do it. On day two, I began to experience increased productivity levels; I began to read more and procrastinated less. I would generally get to all my ‘to-dos’ listed in my diary for the day. On the flipside of things, I was also bored, irritable and casually looked for less intellectually stimulating things to fill the gaps in my day. Since I have a sweet tooth, I also craved sugary snacks (which I guess was to be expected). By day three, I was increasingly focused. I had a rush of creative ideas flowing through my mind. I also experienced a lot of mental clarity and did things less hurriedly. My productivity levels also increased. I wrote more, read more and my thought pattern- from conceptualisation of an idea to formulation to typing out was much faster. On day four, I had a sudden burst of energy. By day five, I was much more talkative, happy and reaching out to friends on the other side of the world- who I hadn’t communicated with in a while. When day six came around, my thoughts had organised themselves into a business plan- I had been thinking about starting a business venture for quite some time, but I couldn’t channel my skills into a project I thought would work. Therefore, nothing seemed to stick. On day seven, I no longer longed to watch TV and was steadily forming a new no-TV routine. Fast forward to 30 days later, I survived the challenge. Never in my wildest imagination would I think I could survive without my beloved TV screen for a week (yet alone 30 days!). But I did. And I am happy I decided to embark on this challenge. To summarise, these were the main effects I experienced: increased productivity; increased creativity; clarity; more proactive; less lethargic; tasks were done less hurriedly. I replaced my free time with: reading; listening to podcasts; research; writing; critical thinking
I have always heard psychologists talk on the negative effects of watching TV and how it reduces the brain’s capacity. But it is one thing to hear it and it is quite another to experience it first-hand. The act of eliminating TV massively improved my brain capacity functioning. It is scary to think that watching TV was limiting my productivity levels in untold ways, causing mental fog and reducing mental agility. It was even preventing me from communicating with real friends from across the world. This has led me to wonder about the effects that other similar smart devices, gadgets and social media may have on the brain as well. They all do the same thing; keep you entertained through mindless visuals and imagery, yet they prevent any real intellectual stimulation. If watching TV could have this effect on a grown adult, I wonder what it does to children born post 2000- who undoubtedly spend more time in front of various types of screens and smart devices than we ever did in the 90’s.
As I write, it is day 36, and I still haven’t watched TV. I doubt I will ever return to my old habit. Since the challenge, I have committed to only watching TV on Friday and Saturday nights (not on Sundays to help me prepare mentally for the week ahead). My 30 day no TV challenge has unlocked the depths of my potential and unleased a passion in me to be “relentless in pursuit of that which sets my heart on fire”. I want to see where this journey will take me.
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Image: TV Screen
The original post appeared on Writings of an African Bohemian