How to Break Up with Your TV

If television is an issue for you, then most likely it’s an after-dark issue. I’m going to assume that if you’re reading my blog, you’re not reclining in a chaise lounge at noon with a martini glass and Jerry Springer on the tube. If you are, then you might be more comfortable at this website.

It’s interesting, isn’t it? You’re fine all day. You’re productive. You’re functional. Then the sun goes down, and that slightest bit of panicky feeling takes over and it’s oh-so easy get lost for three hours in front of the television.

Sunset Anxiety Sydrome

I call this uneasiness “Sunset Anxiety Syndrome.” It tends to strike pretty hard this time of year, just after the time change, and just after the leaves have made their final leap. Most people work until 6pm, and by the time they get home, they have time for dinner and little else. It’s dark out. Gone are the days of a quick walk with your llama after dinner. (After my dog trashed my car last week, I’m now looking into llamas.) The mantra in your head is, “Where did the day go?” You might want to relax, or even have fun, but what do you do when the whole world is dark and cold? And besides, TV is just so easy! (…and Friends is on! And it’s the one where Rachel makes the English Trifle with meat and peas!)

Even though I’m self-employed, and I’ve spent lots of my nights gearing up to step onto a stage after the sun goes down, I totally understand this pattern. Anyone who has ever had a day job knows this pattern all too well. Even if you’re retired, you can fall into it. I don’t have any psychological terms for it, but I see people get panicky at night. I think it’s connected with our other addiction: the addiction to busy-ness. You can’t stop your mind from telling you there’s more to do (there’s always more to do!), and so the only answer is to watch TV.

My husband and I got rid of our cable TV three years ago. We still watch DVD’s – and occasionally we can get a little out of control with West Wing. But life is so much happier without cable TV and that damn remote control. (Of course, I know people love their TiVo, and who’d rip my hair out if I suggested that they part with any of it.)

But if you think that it might be time to let your TV know you want to start seeing other people, then here are my ideas for how to break up with your TV:

1 – Acknowledge the Sunset Anxiety feeling.

This sounds easy. But it might not be.

I experienced a situation this weekend where I had to face an old pattern in myself. I knew it was inside of me screaming to be heard. I knew I needed to just sit down, even for five minutes, and just feel it and acknowledge it. But there I was. Out on the deck – get this – scrubbing the deck umbrella. When I finally called myself on this issue and made myself get quiet and just notice the feeling, I was able to get to a place of peace inside, so that I could continue my day without doing things just to distract myself.

You don’t have to make a big fuss out of it. Just acknowledge and notice if that slight bit of panic is there. And have some compassion for it. You’re not alone.

2 – Do a transition meditation

This is a mini meditation. Nothing huge. Right when you get home, or just after the sun goes down, or before you fix dinner. Just sit quietly and shift into the next phase of the day. Allow whatever drama happened at work to stay back to work. Be still and quiet just for five minutes.

3 – Segment Intending

I love this idea. It’s from Esther and Jerry Hicks’s book Ask and It Is Given. When you “segment intend,” you intend something for the next segment in your day. In essence, you’re saying, “This is what I want for this next time period. I want it, and I expect it.” For instance, prior to opening your Quick Books at your office, you take a moment to intend that the process is easy and effortless and that you know that you always have more than enough money. You intend that everything balances perfectly and that you are able to stay present throughout this work.

So, before you begin your evening, make an intention for this next segment of your day. “I intend to have a relaxing evening allowing myself to really taste my food and listen to this book on tape.” (or whatever) Setting that intent – even if something different occurs – is a powerful start to any activity.

4 – Make a list

Make a list of alternate activities you could do during this time. If you typically end up with two hours left in your evening after dinner, make a list of some two-hour activities that would be relaxing. (You can make this list during that two hours!)
Here are a few ideas that might jump-start your list:

Put photos into photo albums.
Make birthday cards for your nieces so that you have them done in advance.
Sit quietly doing nothing.
Take a bath with candles.
Listen (actively listen – not background listen) to Beethoven’s Pastoral symphony.
Write a letter.
Write a few postcards.
Download all of Christine Kane’s tunes so I can listen to them all the time!
Take a yoga class that starts at 6pm.
Go out to a poetry reading.
Meet a friend at a coffee shop and talking for an hour over tea. (My friend Beth and I do this occasionally. It’s much more fun than “doing lunch.” We’re more relaxed and open.)
Play your guitar.
Read aloud to your partner.
Listen to an audiobook.
Get a llama.

5 – Create ritual

Several years ago, I was trying to quit eating sugar after dinner. (Getting rid of TV sent me straight to the chocolate chip cookie habit.) My acupuncturist told me, “It’s all about ritual. Just create a new ritual.” She suggested that I cut an apple into slices and sprinkle cinnamon on them. She also recommended Good Earth Tea. It took some time, but this ritual worked. I don’t do the apples anymore, (or the cookies!) but Good Earth Tea is a staple for me, especially in the winter.

What small ritual could you add to your evening to bring in some kind of value or authenticity? Can you light a candle, or read an excerpt from an inspiring text, or a Rumi poem? Again, this can be something small. Eventually you might find that it centers you, and adds some meaning to your evening.

6 – Start small

If breaking up with your TV is a big issue for you, then start small. Maybe just go for Trial Break-Up Tuesdays! (Branding always works, you know!) Every Tuesday night, try something different. When you get a little more comfortable with it, then expand to Tuesdays and Thursdays. Keep adding days as you get better at it.

7 – Make a fast clean break

Get rid of your TV altogether. Call the cable company. Turn it off. Have a party with friends to celebrate. Go all out. Live big. Make it like a wedding. Commit to it.

8 – Get held accountable. Find a buddy.

This blog was inspired by a friend of mine who asked for advice about this exact issue. After I gave her my thoughts and ideas, she asked if I’d add her to my prayer list on this issue. And I told her I’d partner with her, like a coach, and we could hold each other accountable. (She’s starting with one night a week.) I told her that after she decides what night she’s going to do, I’ll call her the next morning to ask how it went and what she did. This may sound a little scary, but it’s the model that makes coaching so successful. First off, you’re not alone. Support is so nice in these little areas of our lives that we think we should be better at by now. Second off, you really will stick to your intent if someone is there to encourage you and check on you.

Let me know how it goes!

P.S. I’m kidding about the llamas.

P.P.S. My dog is the best dog in the world! (Besides yours, that is…)

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  1. says

    Hi Christine

    I came across your blog the other day, and I am so grateful that I found it – you have wonderful way of writing about profound issues, as well as an excellent sense of humour! I jut wanted to say thank you for sharing your wisdom with the world. I started doing morning pages after reading about them on your blog, and it has made such a huge positive difference in starting my day with conscious intent. I have made a commitment to keep doing this.

    Interestingly, I was just thinking about my own TV waching habit (addiction?!) over the weekend, and even turned the TV off on Friday evening instead of leaving it on as background noise. I was contemplating weaning myself off TV, starting with at least one night a week, so your post today was especially apt! Thank you for your support and guidance as to how to do this!

    All the best,

  2. says

    Hi Mags! Thanks for the kind note! Glad to hear the morning pages are working. I love them too… Let me know how the TV thing goes!

    MK, That’s what it is…I’m in your brain! (And I’m singing Climb Evry Mountain!)

  3. says

    Have fun fording those streams and following those rainbows. I might want to go llama shopping with you if Annie doesn’t stop eating my lip balm – I’m down three tubes now! And I’m pretty sure that third one was the last one in the house. Drat!

  4. Dblwyo says

    JIC (just-in-case) you’d like to wean rather than go cold turkey but find having it on all the time is addictive some very good shows are available on-line. Starting with Charlie Rose at his site or one Googld Video (may have to search for) as well as at the network sites. For example for WW addicts not completely over their dependencies Studio60 is generally available on line as is one of the best done and most real dramas, ‘Friday Night Lights’. Perhaps conscious selection instead of always-on pervasiveness might change this from an addiction to a choice ?

    I know when I was 7 X 24 and coming home knee-walking exhausted making dinner was a problem and having a little mindless TV that wasn’t as tough, say, as trying to read William James was very appealing. But my problem was looking for any distraction to avoid doing the things that needed doing or were better for me. Tough to be ‘choiceful’ – that a word ? – under pressure. Just necessary :).

  5. says

    I realized that I have a problem with TV only when I’m very tired and have the feeling that I didn’t have time for myself during the day. Only then will I sit down in front of the box and mindlessly browse through shows that I don’t want to see until I’m going to bed much too late again. And then I’ll start again the next day.

    Then I found that getting to bed is the best thing to do when I’m tired (Yeah, I know, I’m a genius.), and that sleeping may count as time for yourself too.

    And I found that I was very attached to the idea of having relaxation time in the evening. And since I was to tired to do something useful and since for example music is work, and so doing music can’t be relaxing the only options were TV or reading. Often both.

    Nowadays I often practice in the evenings even when I’m much too tired. Just play a little around. Feels much better.

    This said I have to admit that I’m watching one episode of my favorite show on DVD almost every night. But when I have to choose between watching it and important things like writing or playing the piano, I’m proud to say that I’m very often choosing the more important one.

    We still have the cable… But we are not watching it much.

  6. says

    Dave, Thanks for the great suggestions!

    Susanne, My husband said the same thing as you… when you come home totally exhausted, that’s all you can think of that will let you just sit there! And you’re right…going to bed — even at 8pm — is probably what is *needed* when you’re that tired. Not another half hour sit-com! (and what’s your favorite show????)

  7. barb says

    okay all you singles out there, I need help!!! I eat my meals by myself and the TV keeps me company. i know what I won’t do and that is make a nice meal for myself. On work days, I am just too tired and go to bed at (no laughing) 7:30. I won’t eat at the table. it is just too easy to microwave and eat. I can hear you now Christine. So are there any suggestions from folks who don’t really care (to a point) what they eat and don’t mind that it is microwaved. I already read with the TV on. I have to do my serious reading on off days as I will fall asleep at 630. hmmm dblyuo, it would seem that substituting the computer drama is skirting the issue. I already choose to watch only 2 shows outside of my news companion. of course to folks with addictive personalities like me even reading a blog may be construed as “watching” TV.. thanks barb b Christine, LLamas will spit on you. blow nasal fluid also. bb

  8. Dblwyo says

    Well not to add to anyone’s ‘addictions’. BTW – will confess this was a great and breakthru post for me with a little translation…anyway Studio60 doesn’t leave the episodes up so if you haven’t been watching it, it disappears quickly.

    And it’s as clever and witty as SportsNight but not clear that it’ll find an audience and be kept. See it before it disappears.

    I mention this because having just finished last night’s episode with my evening’s beer and cigar :) (ahem) it’s as heartfelt a depiction of the heart of the culture wars and the difficulties in keeping your honor and you job as any I’ve ever seen. Figure folks who read your blog might resonate. Then again maybe not – having been a corporate type trying to do creative stuff it sure works for me.

    Bon Appetit’

  9. says

    I have been unaddicted to TV for about 5 years and I am better for it. I still have a TV….but don’t have cable…..which most people can’t understand how I survive. I have come to realize that our society seems to need TV…..its a addiction that empties your mind and you become it. Judging yourself on what you don’t have or fearing on what can happen are a few examples.
    In the days before TV…..people were closer to their neighbors, children and themselves. These days most people need constant stimulation of noise and distraction to keep them away from being themselves. Perhaps that is why we are a society of lost souls…..

  10. Caren says

    Barb – did you say the NEWS?! That’s such a skewed view of our world. I haven’t watched TV news in years, and don’t miss it. It’s rather… sensationalistic, to say the least. And very rarely depicts things the way they are in reality. I bet you’d be less tired if you watched less news.
    Have you tried music with dinner? There are some great stations out there – I’ve mentioned WNCW before, that you can get online. There’s a great jazz station, WNSC, out of Rock Hill, SC. Do you know other singles that you can share a meal with, maybe once a week? You can trade out hosting, every other time. I’ve been challenged in the area of quick meals – one solution I found was to prepare as much as I could when I had energy to. I’d chop veggies and freeze them so they were right on hand. I ate a lot of fish, which is quick to defrost and very quick to cook. Even if you decide to do that for only one meal, I have a feeling you’ll notice a difference in the way you feel. I know you didn’t ask for help in not eating microwave meals, so I won’t offer more tips for that. I will say I feel SO much better when I eat as much fresh food as possible; locally grown is even better. OK – that’s all. lol

    I sent another post about things to do with kids besides watching TV after dinner, but it’s apparently lost in cyberspace. It had a lot of links and ideas, and twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one… :-(
    I don’t have time to recreate the whole thing now, but one idea was to sing together, dare to get silly. Dan Zanes is a great place to start – I’m afraid to put a hyperlink; that might have been what caused the problem! His site is

    peace –

  11. says

    hi barb… i hear ya. I have lots of nights at the house alone eating dinner. i know this might sound hokey, but sometimes i light candles and eat my food quietly. sometimes i listen to books on tape while i eat. try a “once a week” silent candlelight dinner. see how it works. even if it feels stupid!

    Dave, Studio 60 is probably great. Aaron Sorkin’s my favorite. But still, I’ll have to wait for the DVD. ANYWAY…isn’t this supposed to be about NOT watching these things!? :-)

    Hey Maddie Rose… I guess I live in a town that’s not “typical.” Most people I know avoid tv at all costs and really try to make a community – even as uncomfortable as that is. There’s lots of contra dancing and yoga and meditation and art classes at night. That helps, I guess! I’m big into facing that discomfort and connecting anyway…

    Hi Caren, thanks for all the suggestions! I”ll go look for your post in the spam catcher. It tends to hold onto anything that has lots of links in it. Look for it soon!

  12. Dblwyo says

    Christine – yeah, yeah, sure sure. You’re right but….but… ;). Speaking of addictions notice that working as a consultant from home it’s all to easy for me to read you blog frequently as a break ! :O

    Caren – boy is that true. In the System Analysts Guide to Life and Cooking we(I)’ve found that rotating around pork, chicken and fish with the occaisional steak plus steamed veggies (frozen) plus some carb (pasta, noodles,etc.) AND the bagged salads makes a quick meal. My trick is to put up the meat several days ahead and marinate it (lots and lot of great new marinades for all sorts of interesting flavors). Then I’ve also found that baking works wonder for tenderness (Pork 35-40 min at 375, Chicken 25-30 at 375, Fish 325) oddly enuff. Bon Appetit’

  13. says

    Hey Christine,
    I’ve never thought I’d say this, but yes, TV is worth giving up. This weekend, my church is having a swap meet and 1 of our 2 house TVs will be finding a new home soon. The one left will become pretty dormant as I’m learning to crochet, how fun.

    Are you sure you don’t secretly want a llama? :-)

  14. barb says

    thanks all for the help. I was out riding (horse) which is great for shutting off my mind and letting the subconscious come through and it did. I am going to start out small: on worknights after feeding the dogs, I will brew some herbal tea, relax with the dogs, clear off my table (oh better do that first) and sit at the table for dinner sans noise. I will read a magazine, like nat.geo., I can look up the weather on-line. that leaves only the morning on work days to think about, at least on Sat and Sun I watch PBS and am learning about the western civilization through art. As oppsed to little house …. and tonight I got out all my art stuff and set it up. Yeah. I lillustrate my poems with found items which involves old rail road parts and anything else I pick up. thanks again. bb

  15. says

    Hi again – Just thought I’d let you know that I’ve been developing a new relationship with my TV since I last posted! I haven’t yet been able to keep it off for a whole night, but I have been doing what Dblwyo called “conscious selection”, ie only switching the TV on for shows that I really want to watch and then switching it off again when they’re done. It’s made me much more aware though of my choices – do I really want to watch this show, is it worth switching the TV on for? And, the bonus is that I also haven’t fallen asleep on the couch in front of the TV like I’m prone to do when it is droning on in the background!

    I realised this morning that this “conscious selection” is what my grandparents used to do (except for when there was cricket on – then my grandfather would watch the TV and listen to the radio at the same time for as long as the match took (5 days if it’s a test match) so as not to miss anything!). My mom, however, used to keep the TV on all the time (still does) – a reaction to not being allowed to watch lots of TV when she was younger?! Now, I’m going back to my grandparents’ example… wonder what my kids (who have yet to be) will end up doing one day?!

  16. ChickiePam says

    Hi ya’ll,
    So here is the opposite perspective. I don’t have a TV addiction. I used to watch Dallas and Falcon Crest in the 80’s, and always enjoyed the Star Trek shows. I became a mother in 1988 and all of that changed! Mostly I just stay too busy to have time to watch TV. I’m not sure that’s such a good thing, though…….

    I’ve spent years without cable TV. After I divorced, I just couldn’t afford it. We watch videos some. My kids are both theater buffs, and have been known to be in school as well as local productions. Rehearsal time can be lengthy and my son is frequently involved is the background techie stuff as well…set building, sound, lighting…anything just to be at the theater! My son is off for his first year in college now, which has lightened my chauffeur load a lot.

    My almost-12-year-old daughter has gymnastic team practice 3 nights a week. Once teh competitive season is over in December, I’ll cut her back to 2 nights per week. And then there’s horse back riding lessons every other week, which I support because she will be able to ride horses at ninety….gymnastics is more unlikely at ninety. And then there are piano lessons on the way to the gym once a week. Then there are the plays and school projects that she participates in, places she wants to go to and things she wants to do.

    In the summer, I stay outside working in my garden, doing projects around my little farm. I have chickens and have thought of having llamas! So I don’t watch much TV in the summer, although my kids watch more.

    In the winter, I crochet and tend to watch TV while doing so. I don’t intend to stop doing it. I am doing something creative that I love to do. It’s my “art”. I don’t write or draw or paint (except for the occasional wall here and there). I have the opposite problem…too much to do so I don’t have time to watch TV, clean my house, get bored, rest, etc. I need the down time and enjoy the creative expression. I have to plan time for ME! or I would just get lost. When my daughter is at the gym, I take my dog with me and he gets a walk downtown, and then I either work (my office is a few blocks away and I’m self-employed, so I please me….or my bank account) or I sit at the gym, visit with the other gym rat mothers and crochet. So anyone who is having trouble can contact me and I’ll loan them my daughter!

    So now you see the opposite side of the coin.

  17. says

    Hi Susie! Yep, I’m sure about the llama! Have fun letting go of the TV!

    Barb, be sure to update us all on how it goes! Great ideas and thoughts…

    Hey Mags! Wow! that’s great. I’m glad to read about these little progress moments!

    ChickiePam, Thanks for the opposite side of the coin…! Great stuff!


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