By Roberto Blanco, M.D.
Do you ever find yourself feeling hopeless during the evening news? According to a recently published study by University of Maryland Sociologists Robinson and Martin, it appears that it is not just the evening news that is contributing to our unhappiness.
The study, conducted over the last 30 years, showed that self-reported unhappiness was closely linked to the amount of time spent watching TV. The people who reported to be the happiest spent more time reading and socializing instead of sitting in front of the TV.
These results suggest that even when we can “escape” the news to lighter programming, we are still receiving negative messages: that we are not attractive enough, that we should own more things, or that we should have the unattainable lives that are being portrayed. The programs are often entertaining, but the benefits are short-lived. And in the long run, they may be doing more harm than good. The results of the University of Maryland study indicate that limiting our exposure to TV may help us live happier lives.
In the hopes of making you and your family happier, here are a few things you can do to limit TV watching:
Limit the number of hours per night that you spend in front of the television. Pick alternative activities such as reading or exercising to do after work.
Limit the number of hours that your children can spend in front of the television. Set a timer and be consistent. Encourage exercise and outdoor play as much as completing homework , chores and other responsibilities.
Plan family time or an outing for your family that does not involve the TV. Go for a walk, to a park, or to the local public library.
Be an active TV watcher. Pick out the programs you want to watch during the week in advance and stick to your choices. Pick TV programs that are educational, positive, or contribute in some way to your experience of the world. Purchase a recorder for TV programs that you would like to watch and make TV fit your schedule and not the other way around.
Carefully monitor the shows your young children are watching. Studies show that the younger children are, the more they will be affected by scary or violent programming.
If all else fails, get rid of the cable box or Satellite dish. At a cost of $60 per month, getting rid of cable or the dish can save us over $700 per year. This will not only improve your mental health, but your financial health as well.