How I Overcame TV Addiction, Reclaimed My Life and Gained Two Months Per Year

“In its easy provision of relaxation and escape, television can be beneficial in limited doses. Yet when the habit interferes with the ability to grow, to learn new things, to lead an active life, then it does constitute a kind of dependence and should be taken seriously.”

From “Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor”
— By Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi —

I have no way to prove this, but I’m sure it’s true: nobody on their deathbed ever wished they’d spent more time watching television. Life is short, and there are far too many activities that are more important and fulfilling than sitting in front of a television for hours on end. That’s not to suggest you should stop watching TV altogether. But I’ve come to see it as something best placed at the edge of life, rather than the center.

I didn’t always feel this way. In fact, there was a time in my life when I wasted nearly six hours of my day watching television. As evening rolled around, I’d plant myself on the couch, turn on the television and vegetate till I fell asleep near midnight. Eight hours later, I’d wake up with the TV still on, feeling no more rested than when I went to sleep.

When you do the math, it’s rather shocking. Six hours per day adds up to 2190 hours over the course of a year, which equates to 91 days. THREE MONTHS! per year. Sitting in front of a television. Hypnotized. Tuned in, but zoned out. Living in a make-believe world while the real world passed me by.

“Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

— Mary Oliver —

Coming to Terms With My TV Addiction

Although I failed to recognize it at the time, it’s clear now that watching television had become a full-blown addiction for me. An escape mechanism that I used to distract myself from the problems, fears and challenges I was refusing to deal with in my life.

I used television to distract myself from the shame, embarrassment and stress I felt about some irresponsible financial decisions and their resulting fallout. I used it to avoid facing my fear of stepping out into the world more fully, connecting with others and pursuing the higher purpose to which my soul was being called. I used it to cope with boredom and fill the void of an otherwise empty life.

In short, my life was a mess, my self-esteem was shot, and while TV may have provided a short-term escape from that reality, it ultimately kept me locked within it. Said another way, instead of using my time and energy to deal with my problems and improve my life, I was wasting it on television.

First Steps on My Journey to Recovery

Fortunately, I met Ellen, my life partner for the last several years. When I met her, she didn’t even own a television. This puzzled me. What does she do for entertainment, I wondered. Doesn’t she get bored? How can she stand the silence? I didn’t ask her those questions directly, because I didn’t really care. In fact, on a deeper level, I respected and envied her for that choice.

In Ellen, I saw a person living a mindful, purposeful life that revolved around the things that matter most – her health and well-being; her family, friends and community; and her life’s work as a Yoga Therapist. In her, I saw a potential life-partner, and an inspiring example of the kind of person I wanted to be and the type of life I wanted to live.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t thank the Universe for bringing Ellen into my life. She provided the inspiration, encouragement and support to help me see beyond the challenging circumstances of my life at the time. Besides the inspiring example of how she was living her life, I remember an article she published for her Yoga students, in which she wrote:

“Where do you see yourself in five years, one year, one week, or one day? This can be a difficult question to answer, but it is imperative that you hold vision for your life. Without vision, your life shifts into idle.

“When you have an idea or vision for what you want to manifest in life, the wheels are set in motion. It is as if you’ve shifted out of ‘park’ and into fast forward. All your thinking, creativity, active and passive energy begins to consciously and unconsciously direct itself toward that which you want to create.

“It is really quite simple. Without a vision nothing happens. There is nowhere to direct your thoughts or energy. Without a vision, growth and movement comes to a halt. With vision, life becomes a course of ongoing expansion, opening doors to infinite possibility.”

Ellen Shaeffer

I remember that article, because it described my life so perfectly at the time. I had no vision for the future. I was locked in my misery, and my life had essentially come to a halt.

How I Conquered TV Addiction

Soon after I read Ellen’s article, I sat down and wrote out an inspiring vision for the life I wanted to live and the person I wanted to be. As you might imagine, my vision didn’t include watching six hours of television every day.

Still, my addiction was well-established. So, while my heartfelt vision statement was a great place to start, I knew it was going to take more than words on a page to begin turning that vision into reality. Here are several things that worked for me.

1. Monitor and Track How Much Time You Waste on TV

“You cannot manage or improve something until you measure it. Likewise, you can’t make the most of who you are – your talents and resources and capabilities – until you are aware of and accountable for your actions.”

From The Compound Effect
— Darren Hardy —

When I first started on the road to recovery, I kept a daily, written log to document the number of hours I spent watching television each day. This helped me see exactly how much of my life I was wasting. It also helped me see where I could eliminate some TV time and replace it with more purposeful activities.

At the time, it was a revelation to realize I could turn off the TV at 9pm instead of midnight, get a good night’s sleep, and wake up at 4am. This freed up a good 3-4 hours in the morning that I could use however I wanted. I still live by this schedule, and my early-morning time is the most productive and creative part of my day.

2. Develop a Sense of Purpose and Mission for Your Life

“Human beings are teleological creatures. We are hard-wired to live purposively, to have direction. Without a target to shoot at, our lives are literally aimless. Without something productive to do, without positive goals and a purpose, a human being languishes. And then one of two things happens. Aimlessness begins to shut a person down in spiritual lethargy and emptiness, or the individual lashes out and turns to destructive goals just to make something happen.”

From The Art of Achievement
— Tom Morris —

Besides my ever-deepening relationship with Ellen, the thing that’s been most critical to my recovery is the deep sense of purpose and mission I’ve developed about my life. When you feel this deep sense of purpose and that you have a mission in life, it’s much easier to let go of anything that distracts or takes time away from it.

For me, purpose is about working each day to become the best human being I can be. It’s about cultivating and strengthening the values that are most important to me – peace, love, creativity, excellence, perseverance and service. Life purpose, for me, is more about being and becoming, rather than doing.

Mission, on the other hand, is about doing; it’s about using my time, energy, skills and other resources to serve the world. Specifically, my mission is to help you – and others like to you – create a happier, healthier, more prosperous life through my writing, teaching and coaching.

This deserves repeating – when you feel a profound sense of purpose and mission in your life, you don’t want to waste your time and energy on television. Instead, you’re driven to use your resources wisely, and in service to that purpose and mission.

3. Realize That Television is Stealing Your Life

“Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.”

— Gretchin Rubin, Get Up. Get Out. Don’t Sit.

As I said at the beginning, I believe there’s a small place for television in life. Very small though, because when you really think about it, aside from some short-term relaxation and entertainment value, what do you get out of it?

If you watch 3 hours of TV tonight, will you be any happier tomorrow? Will you have more friends or more love in your life? Will you be any smarter? Will you be any healthier or wealthier? If you watch 3 hours of TV tonight, will it improve your life in any way tomorrow?

To paraphrase author Annie Dillard, how you spend your days is how you spend your life. I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to wake up many years down the road and realize I’d wasted much of my life watching TV.

4. Find Alternatives to Watching Television

“Too many vacations that last too long, too many movies, too much TV, too much video game playing – too much undisciplined leisure time in which a person continually takes the course of least resistance gradually wastes a life. It ensures that a person’s capacities stay dormant, that talents remain undeveloped, that the mind and spirit become lethargic and that the heart is unfulfilled.”

From The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
— Stephen Covey —

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. With nothing else to do with my time, it was far too easy to get pulled toward watching television. Certainly, there’s something to be said for cultivating the ability to simply sit in silence with only your thoughts, but that only goes so far. I had to find other ways to use my time.

When I’m not working or spending time with Ellen, I read a good book or write in my journal. In fact, that’s how I spend my early-morning hours. Back when I started on my recovery, I created a morning writing ritual known as Morning Pages. This is the writing practice made popular by Julia Cameron in her book, The Artist’s Way. I pour myself a hot cup of coffee, sit down at my desk and write in the early-morning silence.

You don’t have to spend your free time reading or writing, although a daily journaling practice might do wonders for you. You can use your free time however you like.

  • Get outdoors and go for a hike.
  • Take up drawing, painting, dancing or some other creative activity.
  • Start an online business or launch a new blog.
  • Find some Meetup groups to join or start one of your own.
  • Clean out those closets or the basement, and sell or donate everything you no longer need.

Go to bed earlier. This probably isn’t a valid alternative if it’s the middle of the day. But if it’s 8:00 in the evening, and you have nothing else to do, instead of watching TV, why not just go to bed. Throw on the jammies, brush your teeth, grab a good book and head for the bedroom. You can make it a nice little pre-slumber ritual that, in time, you’ll come to love and look forward to. You’ll sleep better and wake up earlier, feeling fresh and ready for the day ahead.

The alternatives to watching television are limited only by your imagination and willingness to move out of your comfort zone.

5. Exercise Consistently

In her book, The Willpower Instinct, Dr. Kelly McGonigal calls physical exercise “the closest thing to a wonder drug that self-control scientists have discovered.” Why, because multiple research studies have shown that when people begin exercising more consistently, other areas of their life improve as well. Exercisers tend to reduce their smoking, drinking and caffeine intake. They eat less junk food and more healthy food. They spend less time watching television and more time on productive activities. They save more money, feel more in control of their emotions and procrastinate less.

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg calls exercise a “keystone habit” that triggers widespread change in our life. I can attest to this. One of the first steps I took on my road to recovery was to re-initiate my exercise routine, and I’ve managed to stay consistent with it for the past several years. I don’t do it every day, but often enough that it’s an integral part of living a healthier, happier, more productive life.

The Journey Continues

I still watch television, but I’ve created a healthy relationship with it. Instead of wasting six hours per day, as I did at the height of my addiction, Ellen and I now watch less than 10 hours per week. And since we don’t own a television, we only watch movies on DVD or from an online service, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

Effectively, that means I’ve gained 32 hours per week, which works out to roughly two months per year. Think of what you could do with an extra two months per year.

Of course, life still has its problems and challenges. Its ups and downs. That’s just how life is. The difference now is that, rather than medicate myself with television, I find healthier, more purposeful ways to invest my time and energy.

There are 158 brilliant comments

  1. I just hit rock bottom with TV addiction today. Just spent 5 hours of pointlessly watching tv and kept telling myself I’ll quit in an hour and do what I’m supposed to do. But I didn’t. I guiltily kept watching to further avoid the long list of things I need/should be doing. My TV habit is preventing me from moving forward in my life and achieving the goals I want to accomplish. I decided enough was enough and started researching how to kick the TV habit. I haven’t gone a day without TV in over a year. I haven’t gone a week without TV in over 8 years at least. I use TV to avoid various responsibilities and a cure for boredom and it goes hand-in-hand with food (of course!). I’m glad I bumped into your article because yours was the first to address it more seriously and look deeper into the problem and provide longer lasting outcomes. So, thank you!

    I just took my TV power cables and gave it to a friend and told her I can’t have them back for at least two months on penalty I have to give up my new tv I just got. I have plenty of options to replace it with and I’m going to enjoy them. I think it’ll be hard the first week as I have several triggers. But I know what they are and hopefully can redirect myself.

  2. any addiction does harm more than good. I’m not a fan of tv but i’m addicted to smartphone. I can’t live without my smartphone. I have 2 smartphone and a power bank. I can live without my wife but smartphone. I think i would learn something from your post.

  3. Very interesting article Michael. I am so glad that you wrote this it is because you share how to control. I appreciate the depth of your openness and vulnerability. this is a great post! Thank you so much!!!

  4. I thought I was the only one with problem. A little about me is that I was been bullied a lot in school and was always rejected by so many people. As a result I have developed social anxiety. Since I don’t have very many friends, I see TV as an only way that I could enjoy myself. I’ve been having this problem ever since I graduated high school and I’m like thinking to myself that I want to be normal and do stuff other people my age do. It makes me sad to see how people my age have already moved on with their lives and are already having great careers. While I’m stuck at home watching TV with nowhere to go in life. Though I’m studying nursing but still I’ve been in and out of college for the past 5 years. Anyways thanks for this article!

    1. Thanks for the candid feedback Aciel. We all have our own journey to travel in life, and judging yourself in comparison to others is counterproductive at best. That’s not to say that you can’t use other people as inspiration for creating a vision of the type of life you want to live and the type of person you want to be.

      In the first scenario (judging yourself), you’re saying, “wow, my life really sucks compared to that person.”

      In the second case (inspiring yourself), you’re saying, “wow, that person is doing some cool stuff with his/her life, and if he/she can do it, so can I.”

  5. Thank you for this post Michael. I have been so unmotivated with no direction for my life for so many years and I feel so stuck, trapped by my own choices. It’s like there’s two of me, one who wants to change and push forward and the other who wants to curl up on the couch and turn off. For some reason I have been allowing the latter to overpower me. Your blog has given me the motivation to take back those 2 months of my year, and more importantly be an active participant in my own life. Thank you for sharing your story with the world.

  6. Hi Michael
    Thanks for the great article u have written.I too face the same issue .Being an introvert in my 22’s i sometimes want to escape so watch tv and suffer from procrastination.I feel bad lately as how i have been wasting time.I’ll surely follow ure tips.Thanks again .

  7. Thanks for this really nice article. I am planning to come back to it time to time and revise the steps. As you said, I watch TV to hide from my worries and problems. And I can’t manage to limit my TV time because my TV is, in fact, my laptop, where I work. So you see, since things are easily accessible, it is hard for me to stop. But not impossible. I will try it your way. After all, we are here for a reason and that reason cannot be ‘laughing at the jokes of the episodes of Big Bang Theory’.

  8. I just turned 24, and since I was 19, I’ve been spending ALL my free time on Youtube (think vlogs and buzzfeed). Everything else feels like a waste of time. I don’t even find YT fun. I just sink into this vegetable state so I don’t have to deal with regret, and if I don’t do it, I start going out of my head with loneliness.

    I can barely derive pleasure or relief from hobbies I used to like, that are A. not supported by anyone, or B. don’t have the potential to make me worth something to other people. The only ‘hobby’ I have is drawing, which I hate, but do sometimes because I’ve believed, for years, that it’s almost the only way to convey what I feel to “other people”, and become worth something to them.

    I just can’t see a future, and regret & hopelessness is drowning out any effort I make to improve myself now. I’ve been trying to upgrade some high school courses, so I can get a particular degree, eventually.. But I’m not getting anywhere, because I’m stuck on an unending loop of: study hard, burn out/zone out. If you have any advice, I’d appreciate it. Counselors/therapists have been useless, so far.

    1. Hi Emily. I’m sorry to hear that you’re feeling the way you are, but I’m glad that you reached out to me. I am not a trained psychotherapist, and I don’t know any more about your situation than what you shared, but the “regret and hopelessness” part of your comment sounds like the words of someone who is clinically depressed. If that’s the case, it’s likely related to your use of online video as there’s a good bit of research showing a connection between depression and excessive television/video watching.

      See, for example:
      https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-01/ica-fol012615.php
      https://www.bsfrey.ch/articles/459_07.pdf (PDF)
      http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2012/01/why-does-tv-make-us-unhappy

      Without knowing more about your specific situation, it’s difficult to offer any advice beyond what I suggested in the article, but one thing I strongly urge is that you continue working with a licensed therapist who’s experienced in treating depression. If the one you have currently is not working for you, maybe it’s time to find someone different.

      Like millions of other people, I’ve been through a couple bouts of depression in my life, so I know how hard it is to be in that place. You have hardly any energy, motivation or drive to really do anything to pull yourself out of the situation. I’m not sure if that resonates with what you are feeling, but if it is, here’s a resource with a lot of good information: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression

      Beyond that, one thing that helped me greatly the last time I was depressed (as mentioned in the article) was that I created an inspiring, long-term vision for my life – a mental image of where I saw my life heading in the future. This was, of course, only the first step for me, but it was an important step because it gave me a new direction and something to focus on instead of my crappy situation at that time.

      Have you ever done anything like that? Have you ever envisioned and written out how you want your life to be a year from now or 3-5 years from now?

      Also, if you are not exercising regularly, that should be near the top of your to-do list as there’s a lot of research that shows regular exercise does wonders to improve depression symptoms.

      See for example:
      http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-and-depression-report-excerpt
      http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1
      http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495
      http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/for-depression-prescribing-exercise-before-medication/284587/

      I’d love to hear what you think about those ideas.

  9. I easily connect this article to my current situation..i am using tv as as a short term escape from depression..being alone i find tv as source of people voices which make me feel somewhat better ..i am totally astonished by this article, reading your past tv habits is my current situation..i am madly addicted to tv I watch tv more than 8 hour..my day starts and end by watching television…I HOPE THIS ARTICLE WILL HELP ME

      1. The emotional toll it takes on your partner is sad. It tells her that she is less important , less interesting, and that she must be a boring person to be around. My other half turns the TV on around 11:00 am and watches nonstop until around 11 or 12 pm. If you tell him how it affects you it turns into instant anger and the usual response of “what do you want me to do” or “there isn’t anything else to do”! I’m so lonely, I have none to talk to and feel life passing me by without someone to share it with.

    1. i am a senior who is addicted the last YEAR…i lost my husband a few years ago THEN i lost our ONLY child ( an adult man ) NOTHING can come close to this kind of pain .. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING…so even after a couple of years i have kept to myself and never turn the tv off…. my life is “yuck” … i have noone i can share with since all those i know have children … noone has experienced such a loss!!!!

      1. Hi Lillian. Thank you for your candid comment, and I’m so sorry for your losses. I can hardly imagine the grief and pain you’ve been experiencing, and it’s understandable that you’d want to escape via television or other means. Unfortunately, as you’ve likely discovered, once the escape mechanism is gone – i.e. once the TV is turned off – the pain and grief flood back in.

        I realize you didn’t ask for advice, but I’m going to put it out there anyway. I’m sure there are people out there who have experienced loss similar to your’s, and I encourage you to connect with them somehow for mutual support. I did a quick google search for online grief support groups and found several groups – e.g. onlinegriefsupport.com – that you might explore. In any case, I wish you well and hope you eventually find happiness again.

  10. Hi Michael,
    Really eye-opening article for me. I realize I’ve been addicted to tv for the past 6 years since Grieving alot of deaths in my immediate family. I am a young senior and was caregiving for family member for quite some time. I am still transitioning from my caregiver role. Frankly, alot of time was taken from my life in my fifties. I had to give up many opportunities at that time. I’m an artist and have alot of talent but haven’t been able to retrieve the desire to do it anymore. Anyone who is a caregiver will get what I am talking about. Also, the digital world has completely changed the business world and the earth itself. I am not sure anymore what direction I desire to go in. To top it off, there is a global energy shift happening with the earth shifting on it’s axis. This is causing alot of chaotic changes for people’s minds and bodies. Many of us are going crazy! So, sometimes for me, tv is soothing and safer than dealing with the heavy energy on the earth presently.
    But, I know tv watching is a time waster and I need to cut it down.

    I do suffer from depression and have had problems since child hood. I guess as an artsy person it goes with the creative territory. But makes life way harder to deal with. Often, mental health has biological issues with brain chemistry problems and medication can be helpful. But, your article is alerting me to possible brain changes which I do not want. Thanks for writing this. Other issue which is affecting myself and humanity now is the extreme lack of sense of community, especially in Southern California. I live in Orange County, Ca and it is very difficult to make good connections with people. I’ll be leaving here and moving elsewhere, in near future. It can cause extreme isolation. People do not want to get to know eachother. If you have any ideas of places where there’s more normal interaction and connectiveness with people, I ‘d be interested in hearing about them. Also, as a creative, intuitive person, and an Hsp (highly sensitive ), any ideas where to meet less heavy stimuli? Thanks again for your article.
    Noreen

    1. Hi Noreen. Thanks for the kind words about my article. I’m glad to hear it had a positive impact on you. I hear that you’re wanting more human connection in your life, and I strongly encourage that. I’m an east coast resident, so I can’t offer any specific suggestions regarding communities to explore on the west coast. I’m sure a google search can point you in the right direction though.

      See, for example: https://www.google.com/search?q=spiritual%20towns%20in%20southern%20california

      You might also explore churches and other spiritual communities in your current area. If you’re looking for more loving, human connection, that’s always a great place to start. Also, check meetup.com. With the dense population of Orange County, I’d guess you can find several meetup groups there. You just have to be willing to move out of your comfort zone a bit, and initiate connection from your end. That is always the challenge for people like us. Be well.

      Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd.”
      – Rumi

    2. Hi Michael, thank you for your article. That is just what I needed to hear (read!) at this time. I have turned into a TV addict lately. I waste away my evenings when i have much better things to do. I tried cutting out TV watching altogether, but that didnt work. After reading your article I’ve realised that I dont need to cut it out altogether; I could just limit it to an hour a day. I’m going to give it a try tonight. May I also respond to a question that Noreen has asked you…

      Hi Noreen, I just read your comment. I know of a church in Orange county that I think you will like. If you love the arts, you will love this place. I live in Australia but I never miss a program that comes from this church in Orange county. It looks to me like an amazing community. If I ever get to visit Orange county that’s definitely a place I’d go. I just looked up the address. Perhaps you want to give it a try. The program I watch is called ‘Hour of Power’ and it comes from this place:
      Shepherd’s Grove
      12921 Lewis St.
      Garden Grove, CA 92840
      (714) 971-4000

  11. Dear Michael,
    Thank you for the insightful article. Lately, I’ve been feeling like a loved one might be suffering from television addiction. Since moving away to college my lifestyle dramatically changed because my particular living situation did not provide cable, and this forced me to cut television out of my life. Until then I was a lot like my family member and would spend many hours watching television on the couch, but being at school forced me to exercise, create artwork, socialize and challenge many unhealthy habits. Now that I’ve returned home, it has become apparent to me this person is addicted to television because they (just like in your article) watch tv the moment they arrive home until they fall asleep on the couch at night.

    My problem is that I’m not quite sure how to breach the topic with my loved one. I sense that TV is probably one of the only outlets in their life giving them a sense of relief from stress and anxiety. Their job makes them very unhappy, and I also sense that they don’t have any future goals they want to reach after they retire. Because this family member has helped pay for the opportunities I have in schooling I also feel a sense of guilt addressing the issue. Also, to make matters worse, being in the unhealthy environment is starting to effect the way I live as well, and I am returning to the person that spends way too much time with my technology instead of accomplishing my goals.

    Do you have any advice for addressing this type of issue with a loved one? Is it impossible to address someone’s addictions without hurting them?

    1. Hi Susan. I’m sorry to hear about the situation with your loved one. That’s a hard place to be, I’m sure. You are not the first person to ask me this sort of question – i.e. how to deal with a family member’s TV addiction.

      See, for example some of my responses here:
      http://www.michaeldpollock.com/how-i-overcame-tv-addiction/#comment-80253
      http://www.michaeldpollock.com/how-i-overcame-tv-addiction/#comment-80351
      http://www.michaeldpollock.com/how-i-overcame-tv-addiction/#comment-80495

      I hope you find something useful in those responses. If you have further questions after reading them, give me a shout.

  12. Hi Michael, thank you for a refreshing post!

    I know this all too well… Netflix has its benefits but as a college student, I have a major issue. Thankfully I have walked away with a 3.5 GPA last semester but I cannot tell you how much TV consumed my time and fueled my social anxiety issues. I am going to school out of state and while I have made some friends, I feel really out of my comfort zone sometimes and bingeing on 24 and Vampire Diaries seems a lot more comforting than to not socializing. I realize that I will only be this young and in college once but I get so insecure about how people will see me.
    Additionally, I have done some acting roles and I must say this article has kind of discouraged me not to pursue TV acting anymore. If anything, I will just go for movies. Cinema is a lot more valuable than TV in my opinion.

    Best
    Xoxo

    1. Thanks for the message, Elizabeth. I can relate to the social anxiety issue. I am an introvert by nature, and I have to really push myself to get out the house and do stuff with other people. It does get easier the more you do it though, so keep pushing the edges of your comfort zone 🙂

  13. Hello, I’m Mona. I’m an Egyptian and I’m a med student. I suffer the same thing you described but I’m so obsessed with a particular Tv show I saw on a summer vacation and I don’t mind saying that this show is a mediocre show of CW called Supernatural. Problem is it’s 11 seasons, more than 230 episodes and I keep watch it again and again and that is ruining my life you know. And it’s not just that. It’s when I binge on watching a series I Od it and don’t rest until I reach its very end and when I do I look for another one and the story goes by!

    At school, I used to be that perfect student who can consider losing a mark like the hurricane or something! But now my marks are deteriorating in the first semester of college i got an A+ then the second A then the third is B+ and god know what I will do in the fourth by this degree. Every time i get a low mark I get mad at first and decide to change but I keep succumbing to the same thing for my misery to repeat itself.

    Problem is I don’t have anything else to do with my free time because I don’t play sports and I don’t play music plus here in Egypt there is not much freedom or places where you can go and this is the only thing that makes me feel happy and if I don’t do that I feel sad and like I carry the weight of the world on my chest and the time i spend studying is minimal and when I do i feel that i’m not at full or even half power because my heart and mind are set on something else.

    What do I do?

    1. Hi Mona. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles. You are not the first student I’ve heard from regarding this problem. College is a challenging and stressful time, especially for people like you who’ve set such high standards for yourself. I can certainly understand how television can provide some much-needed relaxation and escape from the pressure you’re feeling.

      That said, ultimately, you need to ask yourself if this TV program – or any TV program – is really worth jeopardizing your long-term goals. Are you willing to give up your future as a physician just to watch a few more episodes of this program? Assuming the answer is NO, you need to take responsibility for this behavior, and do something about it.

      I’m not saying that you can’t or shouldn’t watch any TV at all, but you have to set some limits for yourself. That feels difficult, I know, especially when one episode comes to an end and another is waiting for you.

      Here are a couple ideas:

      1. Re-read the 5 suggestions in my article, and start implementing some of those ideas. They work if you work them, maybe not immediately, but over time.

      2. Connect with other students for support. No one says you have to do this alone, and there are certainly other people in your situation.

      3. Block or limit access to your viewing device. If you watch on a computer, install some sort of blocking application such as https://freedom.to/freedom. If you watch a television in a dormitory, spend less time there.

      4. If you are not doing it already, you need to be exercising consistently. I can’t stress this enough. You need to blow off steam and de-stress, and this is the one of the best ways to do it. Perhaps get involved in intramural sports or some sort of team sport where you can connect with others. It doesn’t matter if you are not an athlete. You can learn.

      5. Be patient. This will not happen overnight, but if you set some small, daily or weekly goals for yourself (example: no more than 2 hours of TV per day), and add some new, healthier activities to your lifestyle, you’ll be well on your way to a fulfilling medical career.

      I wish you well.

  14. I’m a very technology-addicted guy that is very much addicted to watching shows (not necessarily on TV) as it is my only hobby. I used to be addicted to gaming till I managed to cut it out of my life, but watching shows is still a huge pain in my side.

    Sure, I could do more productive/beneficial things; do more chores, organize stuff, learn new things. But at the end of the day, these don’t relax me or give me any pleasure other than to remove whatever stress I have for putting off such things earlier.

    My question is, what do you do when watching shows is the ONLY thing that you find doing that is pleasurable. If I had another hobby like playing music, the answer would be simpler – play more music. Sadly, I do not have such an alternative and I still need to stimulate my pleasure receptors with shows somehow. Only problem is I keep overdoing it, time and time again till it takes over my day. And yes, I’m an indoors kind of guy, so my computer is my life. What better alternatives can I use my computer for other than watching shows? Writing blogs and stuff to me are alternatives that don’t value add to my life either unless I profit off of it and is just another form of an addiction other than shows. I don’t want an alternative, it’s something that I genuinely enjoy to de-stress, I want to reduce my reliance on it somehow without making the alternative another addiction. Any advice?

    1. Hi Shaun. I can’t say for sure, but it’s possible that your excessive/addictive use of technology over the years has made it difficult (impossible?) for you to experience pleasure or joy from anything other than the object of your addiction. The current understanding of addiction is that it’s a brain disease in which the addiction “hijacks” the brain’s reward center.

      See: http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/how-addiction-hijacks-the-brain.

      And: http://www.helpguide.org/harvard/how-addiction-hijacks-the-brain.htm

      Again, I can’t say that’s what’s going on with you, but based on what you wrote, it seems to make sense to me. How about you?

  15. After a harrowing incident that almost destroyed my life, I turned to television for escape. I lost my incredible job, my confidence and my passion for drawing. It wasn’t long until my partner soon followed.

    From a kickass graduate working at a prestigious studio, to a waiter whose highlight of the day is that new episode of whatever and partying away at the weekends to forget my sorrows in a strangers bed. I knew I had a problem when the feeling of emptyness hit me after an episode ended. I haven’t grabbed a pencil in so long and my Wacom tablet has accumulated so much dust that I often wonder if I’m ever going to get back to normal.

    I finally decided to reclaim the things I lost after 3 years of wallowing when a friend of mine propositioned me with a job at a big studio. I declined politely but it was then when I decided I’m going to shake this off and beat this. It’s not going to be easy but I want to be able to see my friends, hold my head up high and not feel like a loser.

    Thank you for this inspiring post. It means the world to me. I felt ashamed that out of all things I was addicted to television, I mean, that is pretty pathetic. I’ll take it day by day. Week by week. I’ll be ok.

    Thanks again,

    Aiden

  16. I can’t tell you what it means to know that this issue I have with TV isn’t only a real problem, but that others have suffered through it and come out the other side. My issues with TV are intense. For so long I would tell myself that everything was fine and I just really liked my shows. But now, now it’s gotten to the point where I wake up and turn the TV on and it does not shut off until bed time. I have a problem and this has helped me immensely to not just understand, but to start moving forward. Thanks so much more than I can say. Thank you.

  17. I wanted to say thank you for writing about your struggle. I know I am addicted to TV and I felt like maybe I was weird for it. No one I know has this struggle so thank you for making me feel less alone about this issue! God bless!

      1. Om if you just came from school on a vacation during the winter and i live near Niagara falls so pretty cold to go outside.I try to play games like chess and do match after after 2-3 hour i get bored and start watching tv or start playing league of legend.

  18. Hi Michael I know that watching tv is a waste of time but for a person like me it doesn’t seems to work. What you wrote is conditional it can only work for people who actually have the option of going for recreational activies and all that you mentioned but when you are a student you don’t have any option rather than living a life where your parents keep on pestering you to perform well in your exams though you know that it is for your good but in such case they expect you to be sitting in front of your books studying for hours together then you have option left except to grab a phone watch a tv series to relax and take a break. In such a condition where you are to spend your whole day inside your room what can be other ways to relax then to watch tv?

    1. Hi Priyanka. If you are in fact trapped in your room all day and can’t get out, you have my sympathy. As a parent myself, that seems unreasonable to me, and I can understand your desire to escape by watching television.

      That said, if you want to make the best of it, you could use it as an opportunity to develop your self-control/willpower muscles. You could do that by setting a limit on how much tv you watch during the day. For example, you might study for 90 minutes, then allow yourself 30 minutes to watch TV or some other relaxing activity. Then go back to studying for another 90 minutes.

      Instead of TV, you could learn and practice meditation or deep breathing exercises for 30 minutes (try a google search for guidance on this), or perhaps do some light exercise for that time period, read a novel or watch some interesting TedTalk videos on a topic you find interesting. You could also try something creative, such as drawing, painting or even dancing ( see http://danceinayear.com ).

      In any case, I wish you well in your journey. This period of your life will pass. My hope for you is that you will one day look back on it as a turning point in your life when you took complete responsibility for your happiness.

  19. My 48 year old son recntly had a major spine surgery. Right now he is recouperating and so his TV watching cannot be called excessive. However, he has always turned to the TV as his BEST friend and companion through a very hard life of ostracism (when school mates exclude you because you for from another country etc) to hard Karate training, a betrayal in a divorce removing a dearly loved son to distances, etc.

    I am not making excuses but through ot all the TV and he companionship without any interjections gave him some solace I guess… When we vidit him he is usually watching movies and wants to join in watching it with him. We cannot talk to him for then he shushes us. His three year old son and six month old daughter are playing with the T constantly naking its noises and light flckers… He even gets them to watch TV. My husband humors him and sits with him without any comments or talk and watches whatever my son wants to. His wife has just bought him an even bigger TV! I think its ok to a certain extent because he produces media based educational products and games and watching TV gives some ideas for those as well. However, I think it is rude to make your visitors wstch the shows you want to watch the entire time of their visit is crazy!

    I would like to go and talk to him, have conversations about how he is faring and how we are doing and whats happening in our lives etc., without the TV blaring and us having to ‘shush,’ every other word!

    He invites us over–then does this. How do I make it pleasant for all of us without hurting his feelings or mine?

    Mom

    1. Hi Mom. That’s a tough situation to be in with your son. Generally, people make a change only when THEY decide to do it. And the more we try to urge them to make the change we think they should make, the more they resist. In other words, if your son does not experience his behavior as a problem – i.e. it’s not causing him pain or discomfort in some way – there’s little you can do to make a direct impact toward change. If you tell him to change – directly or indirectly – he will likely resist or resent you for it.

      Assuming you’re not already doing these, here are a few ideas:

      1. Don’t nag or complain about his behavior, but at the same time, be calm and clear about what you want and need from the relationship. If he invites you over, you could agree to visit on the condition that you not spend all your time watching television.

      2. I don’t know the details of your son’s situation, but it’s possible he is depressed. I’m not a trained therapist, so I suggest you check google for “symptoms of depression,” and go from there. If you suspect that’s the case, get in touch with a trained therapist for advice on how best to support him.

      3. You might also check out the Family and Friends forum on the SMART Recovery website here: http://www.smartrecovery.org/community/forums/24-Family-amp-Friends. SMART is an alternative recovery program based on the science of behavior change. While I realize your son may not accurately be classified as an addict, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of folks dealing with similar issues as you in that particular forum.

      I hope these ideas are helpful for you, and I wish you well.

  20. Very timely and powerful article for me Michael. I am so glad that you wrote this. I identify and know that much of my time and downhill life spiral has to do with my addiction to movies and TV. I really appreciate the depth of your openness and vulnerability. THIS IS A BIG DEAL!!! Thank you so much!!!

  21. I am having an issue where I get caught up in what is going on on TV and cant hear or realize others are trying to talk to me. How do I break myself of this? What if somebody is in real trouble, and I am all zoned out on the tv? I could never live with myself if something happened. Please help.

    1. Sounds like you’re allowing yourself to get sucked into whatever is on the TV. Said another way, you are allowing your attention to be stolen, which is exactly what they want. “They,” meaning the TV producers and multi-billion-dollar advertisers that support them. They only want you to watch more and more, become hypnotized by medium and buy whatever they are selling during the commercial breaks. They want you to become just another sheep being led to the slaughter.

      Stop being a sheep, Tim. Take back your attention, and refocus on things that really matter – friends, family, your health, you goals, your future. They are real. They exist right here, right now. Whatever you’re watching on TV is not. If you must watch TV, instead of shifting all your attention to the TV, practice focusing on whatever else is going on in the room.

  22. I live in South Africa. American television controls my mother and I. we are TV slaves. We have no life, we don’t go out, we have no friends. All weekend night and day, during the week. TV, TV and more TV. Our lives are sad. We want to do things, but we’re too busy watching TV. TV is basically 60% of our lives. Home make overs, cooking shows on and on and on. Very sad.

    1. Sorry to hear that Ray. While I realize you didn’t ask for advice, I can’t help myself, so here goes …

      It would serve you to shift your language from “television controls my life” to “I am allowing television to control my life, and I have the choice to do something about it.”

  23. I stopped watching TV years ago but there are still three old tube TVs in the house because no one wants the suckers. Might as well just throw them out because I see no use for them. I remember watching TV all day and it just blows my mind. I do a lot of creative writing now as well as research for it which I guess is also a form of escape but it doesn’t feel like a waste of time. I also do a scrapbook and now that winter is coming I miss all the time I spend outside. I actually read much more when I didn’t write as much- now I’m more interested in creating a story than reading what someone else thought up. I also love to talk to my friends and family, over skype with the ones that don’t live close to me. I honestly don’t miss TV at all, it actually genuinely annoys me now. If I want background noise, I’ll turn on some music.

    1. Thanks for the feedback JD. Those old TVs are impossible to get rid of nowadays. I see then often on garbage day.

      Glad to hear you’ve kicked the TV habit. Sounds like you have created quite a rich life in its absence. Great example 🙂

  24. Hey Michael,
    Awesome article. Lots of respect to you for taking back control of your life. My boyfriend is in a very similar situation to what you once were (escaping life’s issues and doing anything productive through excessive media consumption). Could you please offer advice? What I could possibly do? Inspire him somehow?
    I would really appreciate it.
    Thanks.

    1. Thanks for the kind words MJ. That’s a tough situation to be in with your BF. Generally, people make a change only when THEY decide to do it. And the more we try to urge them to make the change we think they should make, the more they resist. In other words, if your BF does not experience his behavior as a problem – i.e. it’s not causing him pain or discomfort in some way – there’s little you can do to make a direct impact toward change. If you tell him to change, he will likely resist or resent you for it.

      Assuming you’re not already doing these, here are a few ideas:

      1. Take care of you, and live YOUR best life. Lead by example. If you read my full article, this is precisely what my partner – Ellen – did for me. As Gandhi famously wrote, “be the change you want to see.”

      2. Don’t nag or complain about his behavior, but at the same time, be calm and clear about what you want and need from the relationship. Make requests rather than demands or complaints.

      3. I don’t know the details of your BF’s situation, but it’s possible he is depressed. I’m not a trained therapist, so I suggest you check google for “symptoms of depression,” and go from there. If you suspect that’s the case, get in touch with a trained therapist for advice on how best to support him.

      4. You might also check out the Family and Friends forum on the SMART Recovery website here: http://www.smartrecovery.org/community/forums/24-Family-amp-Friends. SMART is an alternative recovery program based on the science of behavior change. While I realize your BF may not accurately be classified as an addict, I’m sure you’ll find plenty of folks dealing with similar issues as you in that particular forum.

      I hope these ideas are helpful for you, and I wish you well.

  25. Michael,

    Thank you for this amazing article! I gave up my T.V. addiction in April, and haven’t looked back. I still watch a movie from time to time (nobody’s perfect) but I’m sill amazed at the hours I’ve gained to pursue much more important things.

    Blessings,
    Stacey

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