Can TV Make You Happy? 9 Tips To Ensure that TV Is Boosting, Not Undermining, Your Happiness.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: 9 tips to make TV-watching a source of happiness.

In terms of hours, watching TV is probably the world’s most popular pastime. Among Americans, it’s the most common free-time activity – for an average of about five hours a day. It’s a source of relaxing fun.

But while television is a good servant, it’s a bad master. It can swallow up huge amounts of time, without much happiness bang for the buck.

Here are nine tips for keeping TV-watching a source of happiness:

1. Watch TV with someone else. We enjoy all activities more when we’re with other people, and we tend to find things funnier when we’re with other people. Use TV as an excuse to get together. Sports TV, awards TV (the Oscars), competition TV (American Idol, Survivor), cult TV (Sex and the City), and event TV (the finale of Lost) in particular, are a lot more fun to watch with other people. In fact, you can even…

2. Use TV as a bridge. If you’re having trouble connecting with someone – your sweetheart or your teenager, say — try joining that person when he or she is watching TV (even if football or Project Runway isn’t necessarily your favorite). Watching TV is companionable, you share an experience, you can comment on the action here and there for a bit of conversation…it’s a way of showing someone that you want his or her company and engaging in a low-key, pleasant, undemanding way.

3. Record shows. Recording allows you to watch a particular show according to your own schedule and mood. Most important: if you’re sleepy, don’t stay up late to watch TV! Record a show, and finish watching it another time! Since I started my happiness project, I’ve become a sleep nut. Sleep is so crucial to energy, mood, and health.

4. Don’t record shows. Anticipation is an important aspect of happiness. Looking forward to a certain day and time so will heighten the pleasure you’ll take in your favorite show. And it’s fun to think that you’re sitting down at the same time with people across the country to see what’s next on Glee. Also, you’ll be able to enjoy reading about it right away (see #6), without worrying about spoilers.

5. Enjoy the commercials. This is particularly easy if you rarely watch TV. An enormous amount of ingenuity and creativity goes into commercials, and they can be fascinating if you pay attention. Not only that — surprisingly, a study shows that we enjoy TV more when it’s interrupted by commercials.

6. Learn about TV. The more you know about something, the more interesting it becomes. Read some TV criticism, read some interviews with the creative people involved in the show, become more knowledgeable.

7. Don’t surf. Especially if you’re feeling frazzled and overwhelmed with multi-tasking, sit down, start watching, sink into the experience, and stay on one channel. Let the show unfold in its time slot, don’t keep switching around to catch bits and pieces of other shows. Be a satisficer, not a maximizer.

8. Do surf. One of the joys of watching cable TV is the cornucopia of shows on display. As is oft remarked, “So many channels, yet so little to watch” — but nevertheless I love seeing the variety of sports, music, pop culture, dance, movies of all sorts, old TV shows, religious programs, history…it’s fascinating. (Btw, surfing is so addictive because of the phenomenon of “intermittent reinforcement”: activities that sometimes, unpredictably, do yield a big, juicy reward – “Look, Tootsie is on! — and sometimes don’t – “Is this informercial really the best thing on TV right now?” — tend to have an addictive quality.)

9. Last, and most important, Choose to watch TV! This sounds obvious, but often, we don’t really choose TV, it’s just the easy default activity. Make the effort to ask yourself, “What do I choose to do for the next hour?” before you plop down with the remote control. In many cases, other activities would take a bit more effort to begin, but would yield more enjoyment in the long run.

Bottom line: if you watch TV mindfully and purposefully, it can be a source of happiness, especially if you use it to connect with other people. If you watch it passively, automatically, and for want of anything better to do, it can be a drain on happiness.

Some people, of course, don’t watch TV at all. How about you? Do you watch TV — or not? Does TV-watching boost your happiness?

* Nicholas Bakalar’s New York Times piece, Happiness Come with Age, Study Says, explores interesting research about how our happiness ebbs and flows with age. Bottom line: older people are happier.

* It’s Word-of-Mouth Day, when I gently encourage (or, you might think, pester) you to spread the word about the Happiness Project. You might:
— Forward the link to someone you think would be interested
— Link to a post on Twitter (follow me @gretchenrubin)
— Sign up for my free monthly newsletter (about 44,000 people get it)
Buy the book
Thanks! I really appreciate any help. Word of mouth is the BEST.

Other posts you might be interested in . . .

  • http://www.keetha.com Keetha

    I’m certain TV doesn’t make me happy. When I realized that a few years ago, I was amazed by how much time it freed up!

    We have TVs in our home and I watch occasionally – Good Morning America, the Food Network, that great series on the History Channel. Other than that, I easily find other things to do.

    http://www.keetha.com

  • LivewithFlair

    #2 and #3 have been so important for me. My husband and I choose one show to watch together every season. I watch 24 or Lie to Me with him one season, and he’ll agree to watch American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance with me. It’s been fun! Also, I think husbands tend to sit around and watch TV because they need. . . playdates! I had a revelation about this a few months ago, and I wrote about Why Men Need Playdates. It gets my husband out the door and into community (not imaginary TV community). http://livewithflair.blogspot.com/2010/04/why-men-need-playdates.html

  • Sally

    My partner and I enjoy watching Dramedy shows (the United States of Tara, for example). One important part of enjoying the show is talking about it before and after each episode. Before, we guess what will happen this week. After, we discuss the actions of each character and review our favorite lines. During the show, we’re listening critically (would Tara really do that?) and laughing. It’s a great source of happiness for us.

  • Mulligan

    February 2009 we put our TV in the basement on a trial basis and haven’t looked back since. My husband and I now watch our two- three shows/week online which allows us to be very intentional about what we watch, we almost always watch together, and we can watch it on our own schedule. Most TV channels- including PBS -air their most popular shows online within 24 hours of their TV broadcast! For the rare event we want to watch live (Superbowl, Oscars etc) we invite ourselves (with lots of yummy food and drink in hand) over to friends’ houses. We definitely aren’t the most up-to-date with American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, pop-culture etc, but then again, we never were!

  • http://mwfseekingbff.com Rachel @ MWF Seeking BFF

    I watch A LOT of TV. And my TV watching has become a much happier experience since DVR. Now I never sit and channel surf because I’m bored and want to watch TV but nothing is on. Instead, I watch the shows I love in the moments that I want nothing more than to sit and veg and take it in. And though I love love love watching TV with my husband, I must say that the hour I reserve for watching Friday Night Lights alone on my couch–usually either on a Fri night or Saturday during the day–is one of the happiest hours of my week. It’s my favorite show and I don’t even let myself fold laundry or check email. I just sit and enjoy it and get sad at minute 55 when I know it’s ending!

    • segue

      I am so with you on the Friday Night Lights me-time. While I enjoy watching tv with my husband, he doesn’t appreciate character development and long story arcs, and he never gets emotionally invested in characters. So watching with him would ruin the experience, because even if he wasn’t actively complaining or mocking, I would still not feel free to really engage with the show.

      But most other shows I love to watch with him – especially if they’re stupid! But shows like Friday Night Lights – shows I actually care about – I prefer to record and anticipate and set aside that special time!

  • http://richardshelmerdine.com/blog/ Richard Shelmerdine

    Great post but I disagree heavily with one aspect. Anticipation is not necessary for happiness. Anticipation means you’re not deeply in this moment and is something we should rid ourselves of.

    • Lyyli

      I am not sure I understand the importance to always be deeply in the current moment, but would love to hear more of your thoughts. Personally, I find great comfort and happiness in anticipating certain future happy events, like an upcoming vacation, especially when the current moment isn’t very happy. Anticipating something I enjoy that is around the corner helps to balance the (future) good with the (current) bad, particulatly when I have no control over the bad situation like a health issue. Being too deeply in the present can make a bad time even worse.
      Similarly, one of my favorite hobbies is to travel, but the happiness I obtain in traveling is amplified in the planning and anticipation before the trip, and reviewing the pictures of it or recalling it afterwards.

  • http://orualundone.wordpress.com Orual

    This is a good post. We have not had any cable or TV reception since we got married, but still we watch too much. We get shows online through netflix or hulu, plus movies through netflix or that we own. The TV is on more than I’d like, even though I know I still watch less than if I had access to cable. We both grew up in houses where the TV was always on so I find it very hard to break this habit. Also, I hate that our default do-together activity at the end of the evening is to put on a show or movie.

  • sunshine

    Very important consideration! #9 is the most important to me. Intentionally watching great TV is one of my passions. But I don’t have cable or broadcast reception because I know from experience that “channel surfing” does not boost happiness in my particular case.

    Instead, at any given time, my husband and I have one or two very intentionally selected shows that we are watching. This gives the hour of fun while we watch (usually 9 to 10 after the kids are in bed–and we use it as a bribe to get ourselves to fold the laundry!) and more fun at other times as we analyze and joke around about the show later. I also have a totally informal, asynchronous, email-based “discussion” with a far-away girlfriend about a trashy show we both love.

    For my daughter, we set the rule “TV is for the weekends” just because we wanted to limit her overall consumption in some simple way rather than answering yes or no to constant requests to watch TV–our weekends are busy enough that even if we say “yes” to every TV request during our home hours, its still not too going to add up to too much TV per week. And since she only has DVDs of her very favorite shows, she’s not consuming a bunch of advertising along with her tv choices. It’s easy to stick to this because we don’t have cable so there’s no access to other options, even in a moment of parental weakness. :-)

  • Abby

    We never had cable until the last Olympics. Then the basement was finished and along came the 50′ TV. I regret it. I’m trying harder to choose what I watch. However, we do have many fun discussions at the dinner table regarding commercials. My 13-yr old has a canny way of memorizing all the funny ones.

  • Cara

    My husband and I don’t have TV, and we don’t miss it! We still have the actual TV, but only use it to watch Netflix. It’s perfect, we can watch movies and tv shows with no commercials, and our free time doesn’t get sucked up by sitting in front of the tube. It’s been about 2 years since I watched tv, and I honestly don’t know when I would have time to anymore…or what I would watch! The only downside is that I am left out of my coworkers conversations about who is going to win Dancing With the Stars this season, or what happened on the Biggest Loser last night. Which, I think, is not such a bad thing.

  • http://teachmetowalk.blogspot.com Andrea

    It’s true. I hardly watch any TV, but when I do, I enjoy the commercials way more than I used to.

  • DonnaS

    I love TV, but it is definitely more fun to watch with someone. I just don’t enjoy it as much if there is no one to discuss plotlines with.

  • Jeanine

    Agree its a great way to bond with your teenagers. I reserve time on Mondays and Wednesday to watch “How I met your mother” and “The Middle” with my two teen boys and younger daughter just the middle for her). They look forward to it as much as I do and won’t watch it without me. We laugh ourselves silly and continue to exchange comments about it afterward. Love that time with them!

    • gretchenrubin

      In college, I remember a friend telling me that she and her mother used to
      watch soap operas together, and this routine gave them a calm,
      distinterested way of talking about values. She said they never could’ve had
      those kinds of conversations directly, but by talking about the characters
      on TV, they were able to communicate with each other.

  • http://www.finallygettingtoeven.com finallygettingtoeven.com

    The husband and i watch a lot of TV together, almost every night. But we use it as mainly our source of entertainment, what we would otherwise be out in the world spending money on. We mostly go for educational programming though. We are big fans of Discovery, TLC, History, Travel, etc…so we don’t feel like we are watching ‘mindless’ TV, we are actually learning things and going places that we might not ever had been able to do without these channels.We do have one guiltless pleasure and that is the show Two & Half Men, we love that show and can’t get enough of it.I think TV done right can be a good thing.

  • http://www.conversationarts.com Vincent Ng- Conversation Arts

    I was one of the people who tried to cut out TV before, but it didn’t quite work out because many times it’s a good way for me to escape and to get my humour for the day since I live on my own. I think TV is good if it becomes the exclusive focus and like you said Gretchen…CHOOSE, not make a side thing.

    One thing that does take away my own happiness is the fact that sometimes I’ll watch the same show over and over again. Repeats, and I can’t figure out why, but it saddens me knowing that that’s how I spend my time.

    But I think TV like all other media is great and it’s a part of my own life.

    Vincent Ng- Conversation Arts

  • RachelGrey

    We much prefer to live without TV. Between the passivity of watching television, the hyped up voices of the announcers in commercials (which set my teeth on edge), and a television’s uncanny way of forcing a living room to be organized with seats facing it instead of each other, I find it quite the conglomerate of things I don’t want in my house.

  • MamaCat

    Our TV is on most of the time, but it stays tuned to Turner Classic Movies ALL the time. If our cable service only had that one channel, we’d be happy.

    I made the conscious decision to get TV out of my life a number of years ago. My feeling was that life is way to short to fritter it away on something that wasn’t fulfilling to me, and most TV just wasn’t doing much for me at the time. I also recognize that this is very individual and it fills a different and better place in other people’s lives, but for me it was just a way to zone and not in a way that I enjoyed.

    While we have TCM on most of the time, if my husband is out of town I rarely switch it on. For me it is almost entirely something I do to bond with him. I like a lot of the movies but some, meh. I could take them or leave them.

  • http://www.ombailamos.com chacha1

    I haven’t read the study but would guess that the reason people enjoy TV more *with* commercials is that episodes are written/edited with commercial breaks in mind, so each section has its own arc and climax. It’s like a half-dozen mini cliffhangers in each episode.

    When you take the commercials out and the action goes right to the next scene, you miss out on that moment of enjoying the uncertainty and wondering what happens next.

    Thanks for writing on this, TV in general is either blindly demonized or blindly defended.

  • http://phaedraj.blogspot.com Phaedra

    I rarely turn on the TV any more and I really do not miss it. I find people who obsess over who win “American Idol” or what will happen on “Lost” to be crazy! Go out and live your life instead of watching other people live theirs!

  • http://www.livehappilyeverafter-now.com Terry M. Drake

    I enjoy TV, although watch much less of it then I used to. I would agree that I enjoy it more this way and it is easier to use it as a “date” or family night interaction. I love sports and watch them regularly, so I would never want to give it up entirely! It’s like anything else, once you can strike a balance with it, it can be enjoyable, as well as result in happiness.

    P.S. I love your back and forth on a few of the tips, because variety is good! It also demonstrates that it’s entirely up to the person to choose and that they can.

    Thanks!

  • http://thethoughtsofmalorijo.blogspot.com Malori

    With my husband being in law school for the past 3 years – I have been home alone a lot! We live in a big city and sometimes I feel so much better having TV noises on instead of the noise from the street or the neighbors (we live in an apartment), so TV has been a big source of comfort for me – even if I’m not watching it.
    But I have found that my husband and I really like to sit down together – snuggle up on the couch – watch “our show” for the night and just wind down. It is such a nice way to be together and not have to think or talk about the stresses of the day – just relax, laugh and be together.
    So, while I agree that TV can detract from happiness if you don’t ever do anything else, I also know that it brings a lot of happiness to my little family sometimes.
    PS – I really like commercials!

  • http://www.happinessandwisdom.com HappinessandWisdom

    I agree that the key, like anything else in life, is to undertake the task purposefully. Otherwise, I believe we run the risk of using TV as a numbing device, like over-eating, drinking, etc., that prevents us from fully experiencing life. All things in moderation!

  • http://www.sweeticedtea.net Ginger

    It seems, if you really “think” about it (pun intended), that all of The Happiness Project really comes down to mindfulness. I love this concept.

    Be deliberate about everything you do — resolutions, gaining more energy, remembering love in marriage, parenting, work, play, friends, money, our attitudes.

    We all do good things, things that will make us happy. The Project means to make sure we’re “mindful” to do them regularly and with purpose.

  • jenny_o

    I am happy to see that there are others who agree that television is a tool, like the internet, and when used wisely, can enrich our lives.

    Television and internet friends were invaluable to my daughter when she was bedridden as a teenager during a period of chronic illness.

    • Losborne438

      I truly believe that PBS programming enriched my son’s life growing up, and continues to entertain and inform me. The quality is high – unlike the great majority of other TV.

  • segue

    I like to watch a lot of tv, but I can’t stand just having it on. I know a lot of folks look down on it as a waste of time, but there are some serious works of creativity and heart out there – not just bait for ads. The long form of character and story development lets the creators and writers really explore themes and ideas with a depth and complexity hard to find elsewhere. And I’ll even follow tv producers and/or writers the way one would follow favorite authors. (e.g., Whedon, Edlund, *ahem* Craft and Fain…)

    I think the reason tv can be a problem is simply that there is so much of it – and it is right in our home – that it is easy to lose control over it all. That doesn’t happen so easily with more ‘culturally significant’ mediums like theater, or even ‘film’.

    I will admit, however, that one of the happiest times of my adult life, was when I was watching very little tv. But that was mostly because Firefly had just come out on DVD, and everything on the air looked like unbearable crap in comparison! I’d try to watch something on tv, and end up just watching Firefly again, and so really limited the amount of screen time overall. But I think the difference was all about the mindfulness of it, rather than the absence of it, and that mindfulness was characteristic of my entire life, not just tv viewing.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for the shout-out to Craft and Fain! They are so brilliant.

      (TV-writer Elizabeth Craft is my sister and Sarah Fain is her writing
      partner.)

  • danielle

    I haven´t had a television set and/or watched t.v. in several years, because i had a strong sensation that i wasnt using the time in my one, precious life, wisely. i´m kind of shocked at the thought that people spend four or five hours a DAY sitting in front of a box…and wonder how many more creative and constructive things coud be happening in a persons life if they used that time instead to say, do stuff.

  • Tanya

    I am currently taking a graduate course on the Critical Viewing of Television (and Media). Your post today was very much inline with what I am leaning. When we choose programs to watch thoughtfully, not out of habit, or boredom (because there is nothing else on) the merit is questionable. However, when we watch with a critical eye and understand how the show was made we can end up with a very valuable experience. There was a recent study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation on “Media in the Lives of 8-18-Year Olds” (January 2010) that states that high media consumption correlated with less personal contentedness. I believe your post made this argument as well.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    I’d also like to say that I really enjoyed reading your book. It was very easy to read and enjoyable, as well as, informative and thought provoking.

  • http://www.cardmakinchaos.blogspot.com Marcie S.

    I watch TV- I try not to watch too much of it, but there is a show or two I feel I can’t miss each week. It brings me great happiness to keep checking the clock to see if it is 9 PM on Tuesday night yet, settling down on the comfy couch with my bowl of popcorn and watching Glee. I love it. It makes me laugh, cry, smile and when it’s over I call up my best friend and we giggle and discuss it. My husband doesn’t ‘get it’ but I’ve seen him completely enthralled with the Discovery channel before so it goes both ways!!

  • http://reflectionsofanavywife.blogspot.com/ Alaina

    I do watch tv for relaxation. There are some shows I record and like to watch by myself because my husband is uninterested in it, then there are shows I like to watch “live” and I do get excited with anticipation waiting for it to come on. I never watch commercials. If it’s a recorded program I fast forward through commercials, if it’s live, I flip through other channels. I think you should just watch shows you like to watch. Sometimes I watch tv even though there is nothing on. This does nothing for you. I need to use that time to do something else.

  • hleed

    Until I got married, I didn’t have a TV. I still don’t watch it, with the exception of an occasional high-stakes sporting event. When I was going through chemo a couple of years ago, I watched a lot of TV (didn’t have the focusing capacity to read), and I worried slightly that it would become a habit (6 months is a long time) but no :). As soon as I was functional, the last thing I wanted to do was sit around and watch TV!

  • http://www.qigongtech.com/ Liezl

    For me, what makes me happy the most while watching TV is watching my favorite series or anime. Spells real F-U-N!

  • http://Www.tootoomama.com Daisy

    Ahhh, this post made me so…..HAPPY! I’ve struggled with an ambivalent relationship with TV for a long time. I’m pretty sure I could give up TV and put that time to other fruitful uses without missing it, but I would sure miss my husband whom I most certainly * would* lose if I threw out the tube (anachronistic term these days, eh?). The beauty of this post is that it made me realize I am indeed a mindful and engaged TV watcher, so I should give up the guilt.

  • karen

    I haven’t owned a TV in a couple of years. I find that the only thing that I miss are sports programs that I can’t catch streaming online.

    I find that the internet is better entertainment for me because I tend to focus on informational or inspirational content.

    As a former TV news reporter and producer, I find that TV news is now far too sensationalized, combative and “entertainment” oriented. I have people very close to me who watch television news and I can see how it negatively affect their personal happiness. It tends to bombard them with negativity while not showing empowering ways to effectively change or respond to unsettling “news” that they view.

    In regards to “entertainment” shows, unfortunately I find most of them banal, tasteless and “dumb downed.” I think the only programming worth my time would be documentaries and DIY shows such as cooking shows.

    In general, I find television viewing to be too passive for me. I think that there are so many more things that I can do that are a productive use of time.

    Thank you for allowing this opportunity to provide feedback on your post. Obviously, everyone needs to decide for themselves what will work for them!

  • http://www.GetOrganizedWizard.com Michele @ Get Organized Wizard

    I’ve even developed a ‘TV viewing policy’ to help me use TV in a happy way!

    I only watch if it ticks at least one, and usually several, of these boxes:

    * Makes me laugh (eg Arrested Development; 30 Rock; Glee)
    * Makes me think (eg The West Wing; Boston Legal)
    * Shows me a different perspective on the world (eg The L Word; The Wire)
    * Has fun, original, or intriguing characters (eg Buffy, Dexter, Boston Legal, The Wire)
    * Is beautifully written (eg The Wire, The Sopranos, The West Wing, Boston Legal).

    M :)

  • Mary

    I have been waiting for the last episode of Glee so I can turn the TV off for the summer, or try to. I did that one summer when I was in college and boy did I have a fun summer. I admit I’m addicted to television and waste many hours watching one repeat after another and I want to stop. We’ll see how it works.

  • gretchenrubin

    It sounds as though TV DOES make you happy, when you watch a few shows that
    you really do like.

  • Jess

    I used to try to be one of those people who claim not to watch TV as much as I do. I would only claim to watch a certain amount of TV a week. But the fact was, I enjoyed TV and while I didn’t plan my life around it, it made me happy to watch certain shows. I am now a DVR fanatic. I rarely watch live TV. I record everything and watch it when I want. It is espeically enjoyable to wake up on Sunday mornings, put on a pot of coffee and drag myself to the couch and catch up on what I’ve missed. It’s something I look forward to all week.

    I spent this week watching the first season of Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime on Demand. I would watch a couple of episodes each night after work and I completely enjoyed it.

  • Andrea

    I have to note that watching commercials only reinforces ideals and values of materialism and conspicuous consumption that are all to present in North American society today.

  • Robin

    When I was in graduate school I would use what my husband and I call “poop TV” (pardon my french) to escape from reality. Watching ridiculously stupid reality TV like “America’s Next Top Model” and “Real Housewives of Orange County/New Jersey/New York City” made me totally forget about all the work I had to do and, honestly, put some of my “problems” into perspective: at least I wasn’t as messed up as some of these people. After awhile it actually my my anxiety WORSE, so I started knitting–which is far more gratifying than television and makes me feel like I’m both relaxing and producing something at the same time.

    My husband and I disconnect cable completely during the summer. The idea behind doing so is that we’ll spend more time outside (which we do) or cooking or just enjoying the weather on our deck. I cherish the times I spend with him listening to music, talking and reading/knitting/staring off into space.

  • Ariel Holland

    I really like this blog post! I myself have been watching less tv and when I do it is something I really want to watch. I agree that watching television is often the default and can suck up a lot of time. I wonder if you would be able to tweak this to internet surfing or using the computer. I feel as though computer use is gradually replacing television watching as our default activity. Or are people (gasp) just doing both at the same time? Anyways keep up the great work!

  • Julia

    Havi Brooks over at The Fluent Self has a good post about mindfully watching TV: http://www.fluentself.com/blog/newsletter/tv-as-self-work/.

  • http://LowStressWeightLoss.com Sarah

    We live TV-free and have for the last 7 years. I don’t miss TV at all. We do have a DVD player & projector & a large DVD collection. We make active choices of what to watch and when to watch it. Entertainment of watching a screen fits into our life, not the inverse. We do watch TV shows from time to time – it usually takes us about a year to get through an entire series. We receive so many series recommendations that we usually have far too many to ever watch. It’s not all high-brow stuff that we watch (last year we watched Battlestar Galactica) but we really like our life. We linger more over dinner and discusions, we go to a lot more theatre and opera, sometimes we choose for our evening’s entertainment to be a walk around town. And we read more too.

  • Anoel

    It is so nice to see this post. I cannot agree more. If you enjoy TV like you do any other narrative activity (books, movies, theaters) it’s a great happiness booster. You left out one important tip: watch what you love!! When I cut out shows I wasn’t enjoying and focused on watching what I really loved, it definitely made me happier. 1-2 hours a day is a reasonable number, sometimes more if you need extra relaxation time/get addicted to a show and have the time. Watching a show like Glee fills me with joy and makes me happier beyond most things I do all day. And watching it with my best friend and sometimes mom can be even more fun.

    I am totally against the anti-TV nuts who just see it as people sitting on the couch (you can exercise during it if that bugs you) surfing through channels as an escape for 12 hours a day. Obviously people have issues if they’re doing that and that’s not healthy (nor is reading in your bed for 12 hours or watching movies for 12 hours everyday) but most people don’t use TV like that especially in the younger generation.

  • Zumilla

    When my son was in elementary school, he got 30min of TV a day – his choice – and I made a point of watching it with him. That’s where I got my love of the Simpsons! Now he’s in college, watching something together is still something we share – most recently US v Ghana.

  • PeteY

    @ Author; Watch and enjoy the commercials?!! A ‘Study’ shows that we enjoy TV more when we watch commercials? What are you an idiot? What a load of bull.

    Who conducted this ‘study’? Scientific research, a focus group or a commercial PR company? Perhaps it’s best your search to find happiness is not done by writing.

    • gretchenrubin

      It seems counter-intuitive at first glance, but I think that it rings true
      for me. When you’re forced to pause while doing something you enjoy, you
      enjoy it more when you return.

  • Kara

    I went without cable for close to 10 years and after a while I got used to it. I used Netflix for movies and those shows people couldn’t stop talking about (The Wire, Six Feet Under, Arrested Development, Lost, etc.). It was lovely to not be faced with that barage of channel options. I even started to get a little self-righteous about people who watched cable TV all the time. Then when my husband and I got married and moved to a new state, we got cable. For two months I was an addict, constantly channel-flipping to discover the next new network, the ‘great show I missed.’ Now that I’ve come down from the initial high, I’m back to a reasonable TV watching regiment, but wow, did it scare me how being without it for so long plunged me into TV zombieland so quickly. No more judgments here!

  • Cassandra

    The MUTE button for the ads makes watching TV a much more relaxing event.

  • http://www.mumlifebalance.com/ Mumlifebalance

    Best TV for me is family TV …  when we all watch something with the kids – usually something about nature – e.g. EarthFlight …  amazing new BBC serious filmed from the wings of birds, or a great film … our all time have has to be Monster’s Inc….   

    There are few things that make me happier than enjoying stuff with my kids, so TV can be the highlight of your day…  

    ….   There is also research about ‘backlighting’ on computers and phones super stimulating the brain, and making it hard for people to sleep.    I wouldn’t be surprised if TV can also have this effect.. so switch off around an hour before you go to bed!

  • Jitskekelly

    I slid into a pattern of watching waayy too much tv….news around the clock… When I found myself watching back to back episodes of Judge Judy, I knew it was time to stop. I realized, that as long as the tv was in the room, it would call my name…so we moved it to a spare bed room…only to be used when renting an occasional movie. It has been about 2 years now, the house seems just more relaxed and we really don’t miss it at all.

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