Giving up TV for Lent

What did you give up for Lent this year? I’ve never really been one for giving things up at Lent, but this year James was keen to stop watching TV and it seemed like an interesting challenge. It reminded me of a primary school assembly from years ago when it was suggested we might like to give up something we did a lot of, and replace it with something we didn’t do much of. I think the idea was that we’d spend less time playing video games, and more time outdoors for example. However, annoying child that I was, I quickly informed the teacher that would mean I spent less time reading and more time watching television… Needless to say it wasn’t suggested to me again.

Why did we choose to give up TV?

I’ve never really been a huge watcher of TV; I don’t binge-watch box sets and we’re actually very limited with what we watch anyway as we don’t pay for a TV licence. However, I am aware that it’s all too easy to flop down on the sofa in the evening and mindlessly watch something before going to bed. Why? Because it requires little effort, little brainpower and easy entertainment. By cutting this out of our lives we were hoping to find ourselves with more time to pursue creative projects that we complain we never have time to complete. It seemed like a challenge that we could manage without failing, and would hopefully see some reward from completing it.

How did we manage giving up TV?

Easily! I didn’t particularly miss watching television during lent and there was only once or twice where I actually came home and wanted to watch TV. Even now lent has finished, I don’t feel a desperate urge to start watching it again, or madly catch up on everything I ‘missed’. However, I think there were a few important things which made this challenge a little easier than it would have been otherwise…

We completed the challenge together. Had we not, I think it would have been much more difficult to find the willpower not to join the other person. With neither of us watching the tv it just became a blank screen in the corner of the room, gathering dust.

TV at a ‘social event’ was allowed. We set our parameters early to decide what was and wasn’t allowed. We were allowed to watch the first Game of Thrones episode because we were watching it at an event with other people. I was allowed to watch the Crufts final because James’ family were watching it and we were with them. I was allowed to see the first episode of Our Planet because I went to a preview screening at the cinema. I’d have survived the challenge if our loophole hadn’t been in effect, but I would have found it a lot harder! Call this cheating if you like, but by setting the parameters in advance we knew what we were agreeing to.

The nights have been getting lighter. I don’t know about anyone else, but I think I watch a lot more TV in the winter. When it’s dark and cold outside you just want to cosy up and not particularly do a lot. However, I find I have a lot more energy and will to do things as soon as it starts to get lighter in the evenings.

We’d just finished a series before Lent started. There was a series on Netflix that we’d been watching and both enjoying, and that other people had been talking to us about. Luckily, we just finished it before lent began. If we hadn’t, the temptation to go back and watch the final episodes might have been too much!

What did we gain from giving up TV?

I’d love to say that with the challenge complete we have a lot to show for it. That my New Zealand scrapbook is finally finished, that James has managed to knit a blanket, or that my attempts at calligraphy have come on in leaps and bounds. Unfortunately, none of those things are a reality and I’m not actually sure what I spent the ‘additional time’ doing. However, whilst I might not have a finished project to be proud of, I made some interesting observations:

I’ve been getting through books at a faster rate – so I must have been reading more even if I didn’t notice at the time.

We were more willing to go to bed earlier when we were tired, rather than stay up for a pointless additional half hour watching something because it felt too early to go to bed.

We spent more time talking. Rather than sticking something on and exchanging observations about what we were watching, we spent more time actually talking about our days and what we had done at work.

It might be a complete coincidence but in the time that we stopped watching TV I posted less on Instagram, we finally booked a wedding venue, and I baked more. So maybe it was good for us after all…

I also realised how important TV is for a lot of people. At work, among friends and family, in the local shop, what people are currently watching on television can really dominate conversation. It is both impressive and worrying how dedicated some people are to the series that they are enjoying, and also how quickly they can get through them. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed how television programmes can quickly dominate conversation, but I think I was much more aware of it when I couldn’t join in.

Would I give up TV again?

Yes – I don’t think it would be much of a hardship and I’m determined that when I watch TV now there is a bit more purpose or I am actually engaging with what I see rather than just vegging out in front of the screen. However, if I was to do a similar challenge again (Lent next year?) then I think it would be better to do something I’d find much harder. Giving up meat or single use plastic would not only be more of a challenge, but would probably be more beneficial.

Have you ever given up watching TV?

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