My husband and I have recently decided to experiment with life without TV. Partly out of practicality, and partly out of curiosity, we have decided to make a very bold move.  When our satellite TV contract was up this July, we asked ourselves whether we wanted to continue spending time and money that could be better used elsewhere.

When faced with the prospect, part of me was terrified. I’ll admit, I can be a bit of a TV addict.  I would be ashamed to tally up the number of hours I have spent watching the HGTV channel alone.  But the reality is, it wasn’t at all uncommon for me to watch a rerun of a show I had just watched weeks, days or even hours earlier.  That was when I knew I was using TV as a form of escape, and drastic measures were required.  Unfortunately, once it was on, pushing that “OFF” button was a lot harder than it looked.

There’s a reason TVs are called idiot boxes. Trapping you into a mindless trance, they provide an entertaining distraction from the real responsibilities of daily life.  However, they also deprive you of the pleasures and nurturing activities that make life worth living.  Not to mention mindless TV watching goes hand-in-hand with mindless eating.  Evenings are the worst for most (including the winter version of myself), where you can literally park yourself in front of the TV for 5 or 6 hours.  Evenings are meant to be a slow-down period of quiet reflection and socialization, preparing us for the restorative sleep of night.  Instead, TVs a-blaring and a-blazing overstimulate our senses and prevent us from spending quality time with ourselves and others.  Perhaps most insidiously of all, TV strips you of your ability to think for yourself and develop informed opinions, which suits the man in charge just fine.  Religion as the opiate of the masses?  Not anymore.

In the month and a half since going TV-less, here is what I’ve learned:

1) I can actually survive without watching Oprah and Jeopardy on a daily basis. If there’s a really important episode, www.oprah.com (http://www NULL.oprah NULL.com) has a great synopsis of every show.  Or I can ask my mom to tape it.

2) The internet is a good substitute for entertainment. OK, I know, I’m already an internet addict – taking away TV just means more surf time, right?  Actually, no.  One of the other changes we’ve made is using a direct connection to the internet using an actual cable rather than a WiFi connection – that means actually going to the office to use the computer.  Before, I’d double-time by watching TV as I surfed the web on my laptop!  By compartmentalizing my space, I know that going into the office means work, or deliberately choosing to entertain myself for a set period of time.

3) More cozy time with my husband. Get your mind out of the gutter!  You’d be surprised at what spending more time together can do for your well-being.

4) I’ve reconnected with hobbies I had lost touch with. I used to be an avid fiction reader, and I find snuggling up with a good book the most delicious of indulgences.  I’ve also started knitting again, and listening to soothing music while I do it.  I’ve also started some new hobbies, like colouring mandalas (not just for kids!) when I need something to focus my energies.

5) I’ve started asking myself what really makes me happy in life, not just what distracts me from my pain.  TV, just like overeating, is a wonderful “magic pill” to make your problems disappear…until you stop watching or stop eating.  By deliberately choosing the activities in my leisure time, I’m creating the kind of life that I want and that is satisfying to me.  This is still a work in progress.

6) Because I wake up more rested, rejuvenated and restored from my leisurely evenings, my productivity has gone up during the time I actually do work.  Note that I’m not working more, just more efficiently.

7) My house is cleaner. I’m not kidding you.  I consider myself a fairly neat and tidy person, but who wants to wash dishes when I can get hooked into a Family Guy marathon?

I know that not everybody has the guts to go cold turkey like we did, but ask yourself if you really need TV. Can you afford to cut back on a few hours?  Do you have the discipline to do so?  Would you worry what people would think if you got rid of your TV?  I know that this post is a little subversive, but that’s kind of the point of writing in this blog.