Calm Mind – Calm Parent – Calm Home
“Why Don’t You just switch off your television set . . . and do something less boring instead?”
An extract from the song lyrics accompanying the opening credits of the Children’s Television Series “Why Don’t You?” Shown in the UK between 1973-1995 (BBC1)
Before Reading, Please note: – I began writing this post before the majority of us around the world found ourselves in these challenging and unprecedented times of staying safe at home. Given that we are all now very reliant on our televisions and screens for entertainment and social contact, I thought long and hard about whether this was the correct time to publish this particular post.
However, I have come to the conclusion that, while this post was not specifically written with the current circumstances in mind, the theories, discussions and ideas I have included below are relevant and helpful to us navigating our television and screen time habits in the new circumstances we find ourselves in.
I am not advocating giving up our televisions and screens altogether and I certainly do not want anybody to feel guilty for enjoying T.V. and screen time. I am just asking that we check-in with ourselves to make sure that, when we interact with our screens, we have got the balance right to protect our wellbeing and happiness.
My aim is to encourage us all to use our televisions and screens wisely and avoid slipping into destructive habits. I wish to ensure that we are making good decisions about what we choose to watch and when.
All the tips and ideas I have included can be carried out within the home and I hope readers will find them useful in creating a calm, peaceful and happy atmosphere at home.
Do you ever find yourself turning on the T.V. or scrolling through social media on your phone in the name of allowing yourself to “rest”?
Do you use your devices to “keep you company” and provide you with “social contact” while you are spending time at home alone?
This is the situation I found myself in, while remaining a stay-at-home mum, after my son started school.
I found myself falling into the habit of turning on the T.V. straight away upon returning home after dropping my son off at school. I was doing this to take a rest after experiencing difficult, tiring and overwhelming mornings when getting my son ready for school.
I was alone in the house at this time, so I was also watching the television to provide me with some background noise, to keep me company and to take my mind off of worrying about my son at school.
If you have read my previous post about how I changed my morning snack and improved my day, you will be aware that before I made those intentional changes to my snack, I was snacking whilst sitting in front of the television.
Once I had taken the first step of changing my snack, my mood and energy levels improved. It was then that I realised how much time I was actually spending in front of the television.
I became aware that my time spent watching T.V. went way beyond a mere “rest”. I was actually camping out there, wasting time, feeling bad about myself and feeling guilty about all the things I should be doing instead.
Watching all of this T.V. was doing me no good at all and I needed to change this habit. I, therefore, started taking steps towards changing it. My aim was to create the calm day I craved and become the calm mum I wished to be.
Having taken those steps, I now watch much less daytime T.V. and I feel much better about my days spent at home. I feel more confident in my abilities as a Mum and my general wellbeing has improved.
In this post I will focus on how our daily T.V. and screen habits can affect what we achieve and how we feel about ourselves.
I will discuss how falling into the habit of watching lots of television, or frequently choosing to be entertained by any kind of screen, can negatively affect us.
I will also outline some of the ideas I have discovered to help inspire us to switch off the television and our screens and create a calm, fulfilled and healthy life for ourselves instead.
Finally, I will touch upon how changing our own screen time habits can benefit our children. By modelling good habits for them we can set a good example of how best to consume television, other screens and the modern technology they will come across in their daily lives.
The Power of Television + Screens
We have long been aware of the power of the television screen. It can capture our attention for hours on end, at the expense of doing other things. In fact, the power of any kind of screen to grab our attention has become increasingly apparent in recent years.
In our modern world there are endless discussions and debates about the effects of all this screen time on our children and how it impacts upon our own sleep patterns.
The quote I have included above (from the Children’s T.V. series “Why Don’t You?”) demonstrates that, as long ago as the 1970’s, there was already an awareness of the need or wish to encourage our children to move away from the screen to go and do other fun things instead.
Growing up in the UK, I can remember watching this programme in the mornings during the school summer holidays (you might remember it too!).
The programme was designed to inspire children to switch off the T.V. as soon as the programme had finished and to go and do one of the activities that had been demonstrated during the episode.
I can specifically remember being inspired by the programme to make a grilled chocolate banana dessert. A banana was cut in half, filled with chocolate buttons, wrapped in tin foil and heated under the grill until the chocolate had melted. It was very tasty indeed!!
On that occasion, the programme was a success. It stopped me watching T.V. and I went to do some cooking instead.
Recently, when I realised I had gotten into the habit of watching too much daytime television, I found myself thinking about this Children’s T.V. programme.
I realised that at this stage in my adult life I had obviously forgotten all of the good lessons the BBC Children’s Broadcasting Department had tried to teach me as a child via the “Why Don’t You?” Series. I had, instead, allowed myself to be drawn in by the power of the T.V. screen.
I believe that us adults could hugely benefit from our own special T.V. programme to remind us all of the power of the screen and ask us:
“Why don’t you just switch off the television set . . . and do something. . . [more intentional that you actually planned to do] instead?”.
When thinking about how I could inspire myself to change my television habits, I first had to consider why watching T.V. was so appealing to me on week-days and during that specific time in my life.
I, therefore, started looking into why television and screens in general have the attention grabbing power that they do.
Why Television + Screens Have the Power to Grab our Attention
Television, and screens in general, offer us a pleasing and instant distraction from our lives. They deliver us instant gratification.
When we indulge in watching our various screens it is a largely passive activity which requires very little decision making or effort from us.
It is no wonder that us adults like to escape into our screens and away from our real lives. In real life we are required to make constant decisions, take action, put in effort and face up to discomfort in order to achieve our goals.
Immersing ourselves in television and our screens is a form of escapism allowing us to forget about the life right in front of us and be transported elsewhere for the duration of our screen time.
In the book “Happier” – Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, by Tal Ben-Shahar. Ph.D. (published by McGraw Hill Companies 2007), the author describes what he calls the “Hamburger Model” of human attitudes and behaviours (See Chapter 2, Pages 14 – 29).
I believe this Model is extremely helpful in explaining why television and screens are so appealing to us. It also helps explain why in the long run too much television and screen time can become detrimental to our overall wellbeing.
In the Hamburger Model he likens four different styles of burger to four distinct archetypes of human patterns of attitudes and behaviours:
- Junk-Food Burger = Hedonism
- Worst Burger = No Enjoyment Now + No Purpose
- Tasteless Vegetarian Burger = Rat Race
- Ideal Burger = Happiness
The auther describes the Junk-Food Burger as yielding present benefit (we enjoy eating it at the time) and future detriment (subsequently we will not feel so well). This makes it equivilent to Hedonism, because Hedonists seek pleasure to enjoy the present, while ignoring the possible painful or negative consequences of their actions.
He describes the Worst Burger as both tasteless (present detriment) and unhealthy (future detriment). This makes it equivilent to the archetype of a person who “neither enjoys the moment nor has a sense of future purpose”.
He describes the Tasteless Vegetarian Burger as being made of healthy ingredients which will subsequently make you feel good and healthy (future benefit) but at the time of eating, it is not enjoyable (present detriment). This makes it equivilent to the Rat Race archetype because the Rat Racer suffers now (present detriment) for the purpose of some anticipated gain (future benefit).
He describes the final burger, the Ideal Burger, as a burger that would provide a complete experience. It would be as tasty as the Junk-Food Burger (Present Benefit) and as healthy as the Tasteless Vegetarian Burger (Future Benefit). This makes it equivilent to the Happiness archetype. He says that happy people live “secure in the knowledge that the activities that bring them enjoyment in the present will also lead to a fulfilling future”.
Having considered the different categories included in the Hamburger Model, it seems clear that both television viewing and screen time in general appeal to us because they play into our Hedonistic tendancies.
Screens are comparable to the Junk-Food Burger. They are instantly enjoyable in the moment and, while partaking in watching T.V. or scrolling our screens, we are paying no attention to the possible future negative consequences of doing so.
I believe that such Hedonistic activities are particularly appealing to Mums.
Motherhood brings with it an incredible amount of overall joy about being a Mum and delivers some delightfully joyful moments with our children. However, when we are involved for long periods of time (or years!!) in the day-to-day tasks that come along with looking after our children and taking care of our homes, we are equivilent to Rat Racers. We are often carrying out a variety of jobs and activities which involve us in sacrificing enjoyment in the present for anticipated gain in the future.
For example, we may miss out on our own sleep in the present to sleep-train our young children for the anticipated gain of good sleep for all the family in the future. While doing this we may get through the difficult sleepless nights by telling ourselves that in a few months time, when sleep training is over, we will feel happy.
Another example would be, rushing around madly and frantically cleaning the house until we are completely exhausted on a week-day, with the anticipated gain of feeling relaxed and proud of our homes when relatives visit at the weekend or during festive holidays. We tell ourselves that the exhaustion is worth it to feel happy at the weekend or during the Holidays.
In “Happier” Tal Ben-Shahar explains how people who have spent a long time being Rat Racers, swing towards Hedonistic activies to seek out happiness when they get a chance. This happens because having chased one future goal after another and yet failed to achieve complete happiness, they become tired and fed up with all the effort involved in constantly focusing on the future and seek out effortless instant gratification to feel good instead.
I believe this is why I, and lots of other Mums, can become vulnerable to the power of television and our screens when we eventually get some time to ourselves without our children. When spending time alone we can swing from being “Rat Racers” towards seeking out Hedonistic activities instead.
One particular time when a big change in routine occurs for Mums is when children go to school. Mums go from having their children at home with them all the time to having a number of hours at a time away from their children. This can be a particularly vulnerable time when Mums can fall into effortless Hedonistic screen watching.
Mums, who have often spent a number of years almost exclusively focused on raising their children, can feel exhausted by all the frantic and busy Rat Racer activities they have been involved in during that time, such as weaning, sleep-training, potty training and so on.
When they finally get a chance to spend some time alone, while their child is at school, they can swing towards the effortless Hedonistic activity of T.V. watching to seek out happiness, calmness and rest.
This is definitely how I fell into the habit of watching T.V. during that period of my life.
However, If we are not careful, a short period of restful T.V. watching can very easily turn into a destructive daily habit. We can find ourselves in the habit of partaking in hours of long mindless television viewing or scrolling social media on our phones. In those circumstances we find ourselves watching our screens whether we are enjoying what we are viewing or not.
While watching our screens our minds are distracted and we have no regard as to how this T.V. viewing and screen watching is affecting the rest of our day. Such mindless and extended screen time habits are not at all beneficial.
In fact, viewing T.V. in that way means that what started out as an enjoyable Hedonistic activity has now turned into the equivilent of a “Worst Burger”. By this stage we neither enjoy the moment nor have a sense of future purpose.
In “Happier” the author describes someone who has become the equivilent of a Worst Burger as having “become resigned to the idea that life has no meaning”.
While I would not describe Mums as feeling that life has no meaning – I believe most Mums feel that having and bringing up children is one of the most meaningful life changes that a person can experience – I do believe that mums are particularly vulnerable to allowing Hedonistic habits to turn into the equivilent habit of eating a Worst Burger.
I think Mums are particularly vulnerable to low self-esteem and to going through periods when they are resigned to the idea that life has become subject to daily routines that make them feel “stuck-in-a-rut” . Mums can often see the same kind of day repeating over and over in a way that is beyond their control, with no end in sight and no hope of change anytime soon.
These periods are accompanied by feelings of guilt. Mums who love their children more than anything in the world, often believe that motherhood should be a purely joyful experience. So any feelings at all of disatisfaction cause Mums to feel like they are somehow being a “bad Mum”.
During these periods of feeling trapped, hopeless and guilty, Mums can feel completely overwhelmed and are, therefore, particularly vulnerable to being drawn into habits such as meaningless hours of watching T.V. or scrolling through social media on their phones. Screen time activities in these cirumstances neither provide us with present enjoyment nor future gain and this is why such habits can be so destructive to our everyday lives at home and to our overall wellbeing.
I realised that this was exactly the trap I had fallen into with my T.V. viewing during the time after my son had started school.
I was feeling exhausted, vulnerable and overwhelmed at this time. My viewing habits had become a destructive influence on my day and T.V. had become my very worst companion.
I realised I needed to change my viewing habits and get up off the sofa and do something else instead. I aimed to create a more balanced “recipe” for my day that was less like a Worst Burger (unenjoyable and without purpose or direction) and more Like an Ideal Burger (bringing present enjoyment and fulfillment for the future).
This realisation created a bit of a “Light bulb” moment for me.
The book “Happier” outlined clearly that proof showed that happy people, living happy and calm lives tend to engage in activities that provide both present enjoyment and future filfillment.
This made me realise that I had recently been living under the misconception and false belief that the answer to my feelings of overwhelm was complete rest and in-action everytime I got some time to myself.
I falsely believed I needed to stop completely and rest in order to save up energy for when my family needed me at other times of the day.
I now realised that the actual answer to my overwhelming feelings and my proper route towards a calm daily life, actually involved taking appropriate action in an enjoyable and balanced way so that I could enjoy my days at home alone and gain fulfillment by achieving some the the tasks and completing some of the jobs that needed to be done.
The problem I now faced was that I felt quite uncertain about how to get the balance right between getting the genuine rest that I sometimes needed and taking enjoyable purposeful action throughout the day in a healthy balanced way.
I found an episode of the “Mother Like A Boss” Podcast that was really insightful and pointed me in the right direction to help solve this dilemma. I have outlined the helpful discussion points from this Podcast below.
Getting the Balance Right: How To Recognise the Warning Signs That “Resting” Has Turned Into a Destructive Habit.
We now know that we tend to pursue such activities as watching television, screen time or other Hedonistic activities as a reaction to having spent too much time focused on our future goals and involving ourselves in Rat Racer activities. We switch over to these Hedonistic activities in pursuit of happiness and in the name of giving ourselves “grace”, taking time to “rest” and “self-care”.
Self-Care is extremely important and there are busy seasons when we need to take extra care of oursleves and make sure we take adequate rest. At such times we thoroughly deserve to give oursleves some “Grace”. Watching an enjoyable T.V. show can be beneficial in allowing us to rest and experience some present enjoyment. Surely, there is nothing wrong with that?
I am certainly not an advocate for giving up our screens altogether, so how can we get the balance right?
How can we recognise the warning signs of when the balance has been tipped from genuine Self-Care, Rest and Grace towards becoming a Destructive Habit?
In The “Mother Like A Boss” Podcast (Episode 025), called “When Grace Becomes an Excuse”, Kendra Hennessy addresses this topic perfectly.
If you feel you need a pep talk in this area, I would highly recommend listening to this Podcast Episode. (The Podcast Episode details can be found at motherlikeaboss.com/podcastdirectory, under the “Mindest” Heading).
In this Episode Kendra Hennessy explains that we often start off by giving ourselves Grace in an area of our lives and then really over time it morphs into “one big giant excuse”.
She outlines three main indicators we should consider when looking for the warning signs that a period of Grace has in fact morphed into an excuse: –
- Misunderstanding the true definitition of “Grace” and defining something as a period of “Grace” when it is not Grace at all.
- The length of time the period of “Grace” has lasted.
- How we feel about the activities we are pursuing in the name of “Grace”.
What is the True Definition of “Grace” in this Context?
Kendra Hennessy believes Mums are prone to allowing periods of Grace to morph into “one big giant excuse” because Mums swing so far over on the pendulums from perfectionism on one side to perfectionism on the other.
On the one side, Mums set about trying to do “all-the-things” and to get everything done in a perfectionist way. They then swing to the other side and in a perfectionist way try to achieve the perfect amount of rest or the perfect period of Grace.
Mums are defining this other extreme side of the pendulum as a period of Grace. In fact, what they are achieving on this opposite side of the pendulum is not Grace at all.
Kendra Hennessy explains that “Grace” is actually that “beautiful middle ground” in between. A place where Mums do not need to be perfect, do not need to do “all-the-things” and do not need anybody else to see them as perfect. It is a place where Mums can just do what makes them comfortable. They can try as hard as they can but know when to stop, feel ok with that and not feel badly about it.
Therefore, Kendra Hennessy agrees with the ideas set out in the book “Happier“. She agrees that happiness and wellbeing come, not from completely joining in the Rat Race, nor from completely turning to Hedonism. Instead, happiness and wellbeing are found as a mixture of the two somewhere in between, where Grace trully lives.
In that “beautiful middle ground”, where grace trully lives we can create a life which mixes present enjoyment, happiness and wellbeing with a sense of pursuing our future purpose. In that “beautiful middle ground”, we can pursue that life in a way that we feel comfortable with and in a way which protects our wellbing during the process.
So, true Grace would be allowing ourselves to amend our schedules to achieve slightly less than normal during a busy time. If we were trully giving ourselves grace we would accept, without guilt, that doing that lesser amount of work is enough and would feel OK about it.
For example, it might be a day when we would usually do lots of washing, including washing all of the bed clothes and towels along with other loads. On such a day we might instead, during a busy season, choose to set the washing machine going to wash only one essential load of clothes that day. We might then sit on the sofa and fold some clean and dry clothes that are already waiting to be put away, while watching our favourite T.V. show. If we were trully giving ourselves Grace we would not feel guilty about doing this alternative amount of washing, we would accept without guilt that the lesser amount of washing is enough.
It is only when we start to use Grace as a reason not to do anything at all that we can fall into a trap. Doing nothing at all is not true Grace. It is in fact using Grace as an excuse. By the point we have stopped doing anything at all, we are no longer in that “beautiful middle ground” and have instead swung too far over on the pendulum towards the pursuit of perfectionist Hedonism.
If we find ourselves doing nothing at all of what we plan to do each day, this should be the first warning sign that we are now moving away from Resting or giving ourselves Grace and are instead making an excuse and slipping into a Destructive Habit.
How Long Should a Period of Grace Last?
We can end up extending Grace beyond the time that it is actually needed. If a period of Grace extends for too long, this is a warning sign that it has turned into an excuse.
Kendra Hennessy gives the following example of when you should recognise such a warning sign. She says:
“If you have been saying you have been acting a certain way because you are in a busy season and that has been going on for two years, that is not a season anymore it has become your life and grace has become an excuse”.
Once saying we are “Resting” or that we are giving ourselves “Grace” has moved beyond a temporary period or passing season and has gone on so long that it has become our life, the balance has been tipped. By this point we are making an excuse to do nothing and falling into a Destructive Habit.
How Should Taking a Period of Grace Feel?
Kendra also gives some very useful indicators of how to recognise the different feelings we will experience during periods of true Grace in comparison to when we are making an excuse.
She explains Grace feels light and good. It comes from a loving place and does not require any justification. It gives us a sense of peace and permission not to be a perfectionist.
On the contrary, she explains, excuses feel heavy. Excuses require justification. They are an attempt to rationalise something we know we should not be doing. We will just know in our hearts that they do not feel good.
So, once an activity becomes heavy and starts to require justification, that is another warning sign that we have started making excuses and are slipping into a Destructive Habit.
Applying the Three Warning Signs to My Screen Time Habits
Having learned why T.V. was so appealing to me in my circumstances as a Mum and having learned how to recognise the Warning Signs of when a period of Grace has morphed into an excuse and is becoming a Destructive Habit, I applied this knowledge to my own screen habits. I came to the following conclusions: –
My T.V. Viewing Habits Did Not Fit the Definition of Grace
During the period while I was watching extended hours of T.V. for days at a time, I felt tired, weary and incapable of making a start on my jobs without “resting” first.
I was choosing to spend my “rest time” watching television.
In the moment I thought it made me feel better and I believed I was giving myself “Grace” and rewarding myself with “self-care” during a difficult and challenging time.
During a trully busy time, we might choose to take a break to watch T.V. for a short period of time. For example, by watching a short half an hour T.V. programme that we have chosen to watch because it is our favourite show and we enjoy it.
We might choose to view this show while having our morning coffee and, in order to watch the whole show, we might sit for slightly longer than normal. In doing so we might know that we will complete slightly less of our planned household tasks than normal.
Watching the T.V. show would be trully resting and giving ourselves Grace if: –
- We feel light while watching and enjoy the show without feeling guilty.
- After the show has finished, we return to doing any household tasks we can in the time remaining.
- Following our break, we feel OK about the lesser amount of work we will achieve.
- We do not feel the need to justify our actions and screen time to others.
This kind of T.V. viewing could contribute to our happiness and help us lead a calm way of life.
I realised this was not the kind of T.V. viewing I was partaking in. I was not choosing specific or enjoyable programmes to watch, I was not specifically limiting the time I was sitting on the sofa in front of the T.V. and I was not achieving anything particularly purposeful around my T.V. viewing each day. I felt guilty about my habits and to ease my guilt I would often find myself explaining to others why I had not got many things done. I was basically using my T.V viewing as an excuse to stop completely and do nothing at all.
According to the book Happier this type of screen viewing amounted to the equivilent of a “Worst Burger” and according to Kendra Hennessy this was not trully giving myself Grace . My T.V. habit had morphed into a giant excuse, swung way too far over to the extreme on the pendulum and therefore fell way outside of the “beautiful middle ground” where true Grace lives.
In fact, I realised that what I was doing was using the watching of television as the perfect excuse to avoid starting the jobs that needed to be done. This perfect excuse and avoidance played into my perfectionist mindset and aided my tendancy to procrastinate.
Ironically, I realised that when I was at University I always did lots of house cleaning tasks when an essay deadline was approaching.
Back then, when my perfectionist tendancies took over, I used cleaning as a tool to procrastinate from the overwhelming task of starting an important essay.
Now as a mum, when I really needed to get on and clean the house, cleaning had become the overwhelming task that I was avoiding.
The perfectionist in me was telling me that, if I could not get it all done, there was no point in doing anything at all. So, now I was using the T.V. as a tool to aid in my procrastination and avoid cleaning instead!!
This kind of T.V. viewing did not fit the definition of Grace. This was the first warning sign that my T.V. viewing was becoming a destructive habit.
My T.V. Viewing Continued Long Beyond the Time-Frame of a Genuine “Busy Season”
I also began to realise that I was allowing the time frame of my “busy season” and “Grace period ” to extend way beyond the period it should.
Yes, when my son first started at school I felt exhausted from the years that had gone before and needed a bit of space and time to rest.
Yes, we had some really difficult mornings on a fairly regular basis during that early school period.
However, we also had some comparably good days along with the bad days.
As time went on, I was getting more time to myself and I should have accepted and recognised that I was entering a less busy season during the school day.
However, I was continuing on with my belief that I still needed complete rest during the school day. I was telling myself I was giving myself Grace by resting in this way. I continued to tell myself this day after day, week after week and, if I am honest, school term after school term!!
Using the warning signs pointed out by Kendra Hennessy, I had to accept that I had extended my period of rest way beyond its natural time frame. This was not a season anymore, it had become my life and Grace had become an excuse.
My T.V. viewing that had started out as a restful activity had now turned into an excuse that was stopping me from moving on from my busy season. This was the second warning sign that I was slipping into a destructive habit.
My T.V. Viewing Felt Heavy not Light
When I was partaking in screen time in this way, I had to acknowledge that it felt heavy.
I often felt anxious and unhappy while watching and it did not increase my energy levels or help me to get things done.
I already felt like I did not have enough hours in the day to get all of my jobs done. I knew the hours while my son was at school were precious for getting those things done. However, I was allowing the watching of T.V. to delay and distract me. It was my tool in the ultimate act of avoidance. I was avoiding starting “all-the-things” and this was leaving me worried, anxious and embarrassed about everything that was left undone around the house. This definitely felt very, very heavy.
This was the final warning sign that watching television was becoming a destructive habit.
The activity of watching T.V. had become an excuse for not doing the things that needed to be done. It had become a destructive influence on my day, my life and my wellbeing. This activity was no longer restful, it was not an act of Self-Care and I was not engaging in a genuine “Period of Grace”.
I definitely had not got the balance right. I had not found that “beautiful middle ground” and I was far from creating my “Ideal Burger” of happiness. I realised I needed to take action to change that.
Finding My “Beautiful Middle Ground” and Creating My “Ideal Burger” of Happiness
I now realised that solely seeking out pleasure, distraction and “Rest” was not the answer and I needed to find my “beautiful middle ground” and create my “Ideal Burger” in order to feel happy and calm within myself and as a Mum.
To do this, I realised I needed to abandon the “Rat Racer” style of living. I needed to stop going completely flat-out sometimes at the expense of having periods of complete collapse from exhaustion at others. Abandoning these extremes would avoid and address my tendancy to over-indulge in Hedonistic screen watching at times when I was able to “stop”.
My “beautiful middle ground” would instead be found by creating a balanced, rhythmic way of achieving my aims and purpose. One which was life-giving rather than exhausting and draining.
I could only achieve the calm purposeful day I wanted by keeping my screen time to a minimum, choosing my T.V. viewing VERY wisely and switching the T.V. off at other times of the day to take purposeful action around my home.
My Final Motivation For Change – Modelling Good Behaviour For My Son
I also realised that by changing MY habits in this way I would be modelling good screen habits (and habits in general) for my son.
I would be showing him that screens can be used in moderation and for enjoyment.
I would be showing him that screens do not need to have a “power” over your day or negatively impact your life.
I would be showing him that we do not need to constantly chase future goals of perfection in a frantic manner at the expense of our personal wellbeing in the present moment.
I would be showing him that we do not need to live a life where we swing from one extreme of “exhausting action” to the other extreme of “complete collapse”.
I would be showing him that we do not need to live a life filled with destructive habits, excuses, procrastination, perfectionism, guilt, worry and anxiety.
Instead, I would be showing him how to utilise modern screens and techology in a healthy, life affirming, sensible way, while living a balanced, fulfilled, calm life beyond our screens.
I would be modelling a life where (as much as possible) we can pursue our purpose, find enjoyment and thrive in each current moment of our day-to-day lives.
It was this final realisation that gave me the big final push that I needed to start changing my screen time habits for the future.
The Steps I Have Taken to Change My T.V. Viewing Habits and Create My Calm Balanced Day
In order to put all that I have learned into practice, I have taken the following steps: –
- I Made A Decision
- I made the decision to change my habits and spend my days differently.
- I Learned to Pause + Assess My Needs
- I learned to pause and assess my needs each day. I learned to be honest with myself about when I was trully tired and the times when I trully needed Grace or to Rest.
- I learned to recognise the days when I was just making excuses to avoid taking action.
- What I Do When I Am Genuinely Tired
- Now, when I am genuinely tired, I properly address my tiredness by giving myself permission to go and take a short nap in bed.
- I leave the curtains open, so I am not tempted to sleep for too long.
- I have a coffee just before my nap because I have read that drinking the coffee supposedly helps you to wake up and feel alert after your short nap.
- I set my clock radio alarm for 20-30 minutes and take a nap until my alarm goes off (Sometimes listening to the radio while I nap).
- This is true rest. In my most exhausted moments, I am giving my body what it actually needs. I am, therefore, boosting my energy levels after my nap to do other things.
- Giving myself the permission to actually sleep (rather than moping on the sofa in front of the T.V. in a way that made me feel more lethargic) is less time consuming in the long run and actually makes me feel better and ready to get things done afterwards.
- What I Do If I am Not Tired But Need To Pause
- If I am not tired but feel I need a moment to pause and stop my head from spinning, I take a break for some “me time”.
- On those occasions, I might allow myself some guilt-free time in front of the television. For example, I might do this on the first day that I have some time to myself after my son goes back to school after a long school holiday.
- I set a specific time limit on how long I will spend watching.
- I choose what I watch very carefully to ensure it is something that is trully enjoyable, restful and worthwhile.
- During my viewing time I make plans for how to productively spend my time after my restful viewing period is over.
- I make sure that when my self-imposed time limit is up, I return to my normal habits and routines as quickly as possible so as to avoid slipping back into any destructive screen time habits.
- What I Do on “Normal” Days to Get Things Done (With the T.V. On)
- On other “normal” days when I plan to get on and get things done, I think very carefully before I decide to put the T.V. on at all.
- If I do decide to turn on the television, I make sensible choices about what I watch.
- I realised that the News and Discussion programmes I was previously choosing to watch were particularly destructive to my day.
- I realised these programmes (that go on for hours and last all morning!!) were too time consuming and designed to draw you in to watch the whole show.
- I realised the content of these programmes was also having a negative impact and my mindset. These shows were generally pointing out all the bad things happening in the world. They would often cast judgements on choices people make in their lives, such as: being a stay-at-home mum; being a working mum; how much screen time you should allow your children to have; how much exercise your child should take; what families should be eating and; what we should think about those who are at home and have time to watch daytime television at all !! I would get all caught up in these issues, often feeling judged, angry or wanting in my own life choices. This was detrimental to my self-esteem.
- I realised these programmes were distracting my energy towards issues out of my control and away from my own life, my own home and the tasks that I really wanted to be doing each day.
- I learned to watch other Programmes instead.
- Now I watch specifically chosen favourite programmes on catch-up T.V. or I watch familiar DVDs that I can leave running in the lounge while I move about the house. If a programme is familiar or can be paused or rewound, it means that I can dip in and out of my viewing without worrying I am missing anything important or losing the plot. This frees me up to do jobs while I watch.
- I choose inspiring programmes that motivate me to get started on my household jobs. For example, I like Costume Dramas which show people living their lives in beautifully clean, tidy homes and wearing beautiful clothes. Such programmes display the kind of orderly home and peaceful life that I aspire to achieve for myself and my family. These programmes encourage and inspire me to get on with my washing and cleaning. These programmes, which often have beautiful classical music sound tracks, also create a peaceful, positive atmosphere in my home while I work.
- These specifically chosen programmes help me to achieve a more positive mindset as I go about my day.
- What I Do on “Normal” Days to Encourage Me To Switch the T.V. off + Get Things Done
- I soon realised that, on most days, I needed to switch the T.V. off completely and find alternative entertainment and company around the house.
- I do not want to feel tied to the lounge or to my screens. So, I have started listening to inspriational Podcasts and upbeat,energetic, happy music that I can sing-a-long to instead.
- I choose Podcasts that are aimed at Mums and those who wish to create calm lives and homes for themselves and their families. The “Mother Like A Boss” Podcast, that I have referred to in detail above, is one of my favourite Podcasts of this kind. These Podcasts help me to maintain a positive mindset and inspire me to take action throughout my day.
- I can cast my Podcasts to my Google Home speaker to listen while I fold laundry or dust. I can play them directly through my phone’s speaker while preparing food in the kitchen or emptying the dishwasher. I can also put my earbuds in so that I can listen while I move freely around the house and even outside into the garden if I wish to do so.
- I choose Music that gives me energy and that brings back good memories for me. Singing along (or dancing along!!) with familiar and favourite songs is one of the very best ways I have found to make me smile, lift my mood and energise me to get jobs done.
- I Have Created Simple Routines
- When planning what to do around the house (instead of lounging in front of the television!) I have made sure that I keep my plans and household routines simple.
- I try not to be a perfectionist about it or set my expectations for my day too high.
- I only plan to do a few things each day.
- By planning my days in this way, I hope that my routines will be achievable each day, will not drain my energy too much and will therefore be sustainable for the foreseeable future.
- Instead of seeing housework as a race to the finish, I do not expect to get everything done each day. I see household tasks as an ongoing process which will always be a part of my life.
- By accepting that there will always be more to do around the house, I can stop after completing a few tasks without feeling guilty.
- Setting realisitic expectations protects my wellbeing, helps me to feel calm while I work throughout the day and stops me from trying to do too much in anyone day. This helps me to avoid experiencing periods of exhaustion and lessens the chance of me falling back into my old destructive screen time habits.
- I Plan Genuine Social Contact with Family and Friends
- Instead of relying on television and screens for social contact during my week-days at home alone, I give myself permission to actually make proper plans to meet up with Family and Friends.
- I make plans to meet friends for coffee on a certain day.
- I invite family around to visit.
- Even if I am not meeting up with friends and family, instead of spending my time randomly scrolling social media, I take time to text, phone and keep in contact with my real life friends, family and community.
- Having these plans and dates in my diary to look forward to motivate me to take positive action on jobs that need doing when I am at home alone at other times.
Having implemented these steps, I have started to make much better use of my days at home.
I feel less worried, anxious and guilty. I am less tired and I am achieving more of the tasks I wish to do each day.
I now feel like I am setting a much better example for my son of how to use screens and technology. I am also able to be a calm Mum to him when he returns home from school each day.
I am no longer using television and screens as an escape from reality or an excuse. I am now only watching my screens when I am trully enjoying them. In addition, I have rediscovered old hobbies (listening to the radio and listening to music) and discovered new ones (listening to Podcasts). This adds enjoyable variety to my days at home.
Hopefully, now that I have taken these steps, my son will learn good habits from me. I hope he will learn to put screens and technology in their rightful place and use them as an enjoyable part of a calm, balanced, varied and happy life.
I hope that sharing my own journey relating to television and screens will help others who struggle in this area.
If you try out any of the ideas I have detailed above, please let me know how you get on and whether any of them have a positive impact on your life and wellbeing.
I would also love to hear from you about any destructive habits you have fallen into or excuses you have made in the name of Grace and Rest.
Has there been a particular period in your life when you feel you were particularly vulnerable to the power of television and screens or to making excuses in the name of Grace and Rest?
Do you struggle to manage your own screen time? Have you managed to overcome destructive screen time habits? If so, it would be great to hear any tips you have on how to overcome such habits?
Do you find certain kinds of screen time more detrimental to your wellbeing than others? If so, do you have any good advice on carefully choosing what to watch?
How do you try to set a good example to your children in the use of screens and modern technology?
I look forward to reading any comments and tips you can share on these topics.
In the meantime, I hope some of you reading will have been inspired to “switch off your telvision set and . . . do something less boring instead”!!