By Shannon Magsam
The summer I turned 17, I traveled across the United States (and Bermuda – hard job!) in a huge tour bus with a Christian group called the Continental Singers.
I was one of the youngest among the group of singers, guitarists, drummers, other band members, directors and sound techs. We were often in a different city every night and stayed with host families from the churches where we performed, everywhere from Florida to Texas.
When I returned home just before my senior year in high school, I realized I hadn’t watched television – or seen a movie (nobody had Facebook back then) – the whole summer. And then I realized I hadn’t missed it one little bit.
My family recently went on vacation and about mid-way through I mentioned (with a little surprise) to my husband that we hadn’t watched television in our hotel room at all. He told me he had consciously not turned it on. We decided we’d continue to literally unplug for the remainder of our trip.
It turned out to be an awesome idea.
Want to join us one week this summer in a TV fast? Here’s why you’ll be glad you did:
Top 5 reasons to unplug (so you can plug in to your family – and yourself. Remember you?)
You’ll be more connected. Without the television’s numbing qualities, you’ll naturally talk more to your family — and get to know each other better. You’ll think of deeper things to ask besides, “How was your day?” and “What do you want for dinner?” You might even ask your husband or kids something like, “What’s making you happy lately?” or “What’s making you unhappy?”
You’ll be more creative. Chances are, with the extra time you would normally spend sitting on the couch, passive, you might realize you can work on a project you’ve been hoping to tackle. My daughter drew in her sketchbook a lot while we were in Florida and I wrote down ideas for future blog posts (and even jotted down a few ideas for a novel I’d love to write). Getting reacquainted with out our creative genius is grounding and finishing a project can be really rewarding (painting project done, craft with the kids completed, clean garage shining, organized office beckoning).
You’ll be less stressed. Have you ever heard of second-hand stress? It’s a real thing. If you sit next to someone at work who’s a stress ball, you’ll start to internalize it and feel anxiety, too. And like second-hand cigarette smoke, that stuff can kill you. I get stressed while watching TV shows, too. I’m naturally empathetic and if there’s an emotional or violent scene, I’m right there with the wronged party. I can literally feel my blood pressure rise and I often pace the living room when certain scenes fill the screen. And while you’re fasting from television, why not also take a break from the Internet (social media, that is; I know some of you have to use a computer at work). Research shows that as time spent on reading Facebook increases, for example, the more a person’s happiness decreases. Social comparisons are not your friend.
You’ll be a better parent. How many times do you shoo your kids out of the room when you’re watching a TV show that’s not really age appropriate for them? I’m picky about what my daughter sees and it seems like she happens to walk through every time something inappropriate pops up on, say, The Big Bang Theory. There will be 10 full minutes that are completely fine for her to watch, then watch out: a zinger. Or heck, the commercials can make me cringe more these days than some of the TV shows. The other day we were all watching some completely innocuous TV show and the commercial for the movie “Sex Tape” came on. It was horrifying for me and my daughter.
You’ll have more s*x. When you’re not sitting like a zombie in front of the TV, you’ll have more time for lots of activities, including some that involve your husband. S*x is healthy. It strengthens your relationship, it naturally boosts your mood, and it burns calories.
Now, I won’t lie: The night we got home from vacation, we grabbed our favorite snacks and sat rapt in front of the boob tube. And it was glorious. It was nice to zone out and travel to another world.
But the TV fast was so successful that our family will be doing it again this summer. Not the WHOLE summer, but a few weeks is a good thing!