With the recent availability of free television online, I have found myself more and more addicted to watching television series on my laptop in bed at night. I love that I can watch as many as I like and I don’t have to wait for the next week or the next season (I usually start watching shows once they are a few seasons in) and I like doing this so much that I found I couldn’t stop myself from watching my shows well into the night – just one more I tell myself – till I know it is really late and I absolutely have to go to sleep. In the morning though I instantly regret having stayed up so late when my son wakes us up at 5:30am and I am groggy for the rest of the day.
Although I think it is a good thing that I have an outlet to relax and unwind, my job is taxing on my brain and being a mother is not really a “relaxing” occupation, I have found that instead of merely being a tool for balance in my life, watching television has become an addiction for me. I found myself getting obsessed with what was going to happen in the next episode and sneaking in little 10 minute views whenever I had spare time the way I used to with a really good book. I think a lot of this is a method of escape. Immersing myself in stories has always been a favourite way to escape the stress of the moment. To walk in the shoes of someone living somewhere potentially more exotic or just plain different than where I am has always helped stave off boredom with my routine and any ruts in my life. So while there are functional and in some cases healthy reasons for my routine of relaxing with a good television story, recently the practice bordered on dysfunctional, disrupting my daytime activities through lack of sleep.
So, just to break the habit and trial some better sleep hygiene practices, I have committed to not watching television for a month to just see what happens. I started at the beginning of September and even in just the first week I have seen the benefits. I notice that I defaulted to unwinding with a warm shower and a book instead of a bright screen, and as a result I have been going to bed earlier and getting a better nights sleep. I don’t find I need hours of tossing and turning to get to sleep anymore. In addition, with less distraction from, and dependance on, following the lives and inherent drama of the characters in the television shows, I have started putting my energy into other constructive and rewarding projects like volunteering at work to organize our United Way fundraiser and submitting a nomination to serve on my son’s Childcare Society Board. I have also noticed that I feel more positive and happy. I think this is because most television series suck you in with never ending, never to be resolved drama. I often find myself feeling mildly depressed after watching a show or riled up around a story line that creates feelings of artificial stress and emotional negativity that wouldn’t otherwise be there. It is kind of like when you run into a friend or colleague who vents to you about a really stressful situation and then afterward you can feel the weight of their stress as if you had relieved them of it by taking it on yourself. I find dramatic television does the same for me.
Sometimes, simplifying our lives can mean getting back to basics like reading books instead of watching television, getting involved in real community projects rather than spending time on Facebook, calling friends and family rather than emailing or “liking” their newest status update. By “unplugging” for a month from television and avoiding being a slave to my iPhone at home, I have found it much easier to be in the moment, in my own life, and with that comes a peace that I rarely feel when I am living half caught up in the worlds of television characters and story lines designed to keep you wanting more.
I look forward to using the energy I gain from the additional sleep and reduced stress to give my son and husband more love, patience and focused attention.