My wife and I recently watched Jessica Jones, the extraordinary television series on Netflix. The show is weighty, dark, funny, thought-provoking, and fun. I’d read commentary about the female-driven superhero series from people I respect, and the show did not disappoint.
Once we finished Jessica Jones, we couldn’t help but watch another Marvel property on Netflix, Daredevil. If you’re counting that’s roughly 28 hours of television that we binge-watched in a manner of a few weeks. Great for keeping up with the zeitgeist and relaxing.
Terrible for almost everything else.
According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey (based on 2014 data and released in July 2015), Americans watched television for an average of almost three hours per day. There were weekend days during our Marvel/Netflix binge-watching extravaganza during which we exceeded this average.
Probably the excuse I hear from people who don’t work out and don’t cook at home is lack of time. You see where I’m going with this television thing, right?
The only way to think about health and wellness is this: if you’re not exercising at all and not cooking most of your meals at home, then you have no time to watch television.
If you care at all about your lifelong health and quality of life, then you should construct your daily calendar along these priorities (in this order).
1.) Sleep — Block off 7 to 8 hours
2.) Nutrition — Schedule your grocery trips and build in time for food prep and cleanup.
3.) Exercise — When, where, and how will you be working out?
If you listed your top five priorities based on where you spend your time and what you do most consistently, what would that list look like? For many of the people I coach, initially that list looks something like this:
3.) Social media/online time
4.) Eating out
Candidly, I don’t often attack people’s television habits head on. I tiptoe my way toward the topic, even when I know right away that the person I’m coaching is watching hours of television. I’m wary because hearing that one watches too much television feels like the worst kind of judgmental and condescending rebuke. That’s a recipe for shame—not exactly the kind of relationship I like to have with my clients.
And yet I cannot escape the truth. The amount of television you’re currently watching might actually be detrimental to your health. Those few weeks of binge-watching decreased the amount I cooked, decreased the amount of sleep that I got, and decreased my level of readiness for work.
The difficult thing for someone trying to balance a healthy lifestyle with living a textured existence is we’ve never been in an era with more interesting choices on television. Very good television, like good literature, has the capacity to make us more empathetic, thoughtful souls. That’s not a bad thing. So I’m not here to tell you to give up television completely. But here are some guidelines you can use to make sure that your TV-watching habits don’t interfere with your health.
1.) Cut the cord: Getting rid of your 200+ channels will go a long way toward helping you eliminate the mindless flipping of channels that can suck away an evening better spent cooking, talking, and having sex. You’ll have to be more intentional about your TV-watching choices (by paying specifically for shows on services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu), which is exactly what you’re after. Cut away the fat.
2.) Don’t binge: Shows like Mad Men, Jessica Jones, and Breaking Bad demand binge-watching. Establish a rule for yourself or your house that you’ll never watch more than one show in a row. That way you can grab an hour in front of the television to unwind without losing hours of your life.
3.) Quality over quantity: Empty TV calories like terrible mid-season NBA basketball and HGTV reruns featuring wealthy people complaining about the backsplash in $500,000 homes are the equivalent of drinking Kool-Aid for lunch. Your time is better spent elsewhere (I promise).
- If you have a team, then watch your team. Check out the Bengals’ game on Sunday, but don’t watch the 1 o’clock, 4 o’clock, and 8 o’clock games.
- If you like using television to unwind, choose a show and watch it. But don’t binge, and don’t just turn on HGTV and let some house-flipping show lull you into a drone-like consumeristic sugar coma.