There is more to the world than what you see on a screen, as hard as it is to believe right now. While watching TV (or streaming some form of content) can be a lovely way to spend an evening, it can also be a default activity. You do not feel much sense of accomplishment outside of finishing a season of the show we are most recently binge-watching.
If you are reading this, you likely want to change that or find something new to break up your routine. There are plenty of options for all budgets and situations, and most of them take a few hours at most to get started!
Here are 15 ideas that you can try:
What was the last book you read? Have you received a book as a gift recently and have yet to crack the spine? If this is the case, why not read the book on your couch or in bed instead of turning on the television tonight. Words and a good story can stimulate the imagination in ways that an average television program fails to do. Reading can improve your health, and many books can contain life-changing ideas in them, changing the trajectory of your life in ways you would never think of.
Don't feel you must read this impressive tome that is supposed to make you smarter or the latest in a series of self-help books. If you just want to read a trashy romance novel or some pulp sci-fi, no one is going to stop you. It will still be a lovely change of pace from the television.
If the idea of sitting down and reading something is daunting to you or you want to do something a bit more active, you can start listening to an audiobook. You can do something else at the same time, perhaps a to-be-mentioned walk or workout or some light chores around the house. Incorporating a book into your daily life will make you feel more intellectually engaged, no matter how you do it.
Maybe after a certain amount of reading, you will feel inspired to start writing some words yourself. How you do so is entirely up to you. Yet, there is much to appreciate about having a hot drink at the table with your laptop and writing whatever comes to mind for the evening. It can be peaceful, cathartic, and fulfilling.
If you are not sure where to start, a few options include:
The above are just some examples, and if you want to write something else, go for it! There are no limitations in form, format, length, or audience. As long as you are satisfied, that is all you need.
Fresh air and some different sights can do anyone a lot of good. If you live in a halfway decent neighborhood, you should go out for a walk, either by yourself, with a friend, or with an animal companion. It is excellent light exercise, you can take some time to think (or listen to some music), and you can learn a bit more about where you live if you have a destination in mind. Taking a walk to your local bakery makes the bread or muffins you get taste all the better, and flowers smell all the better if you take a bit to get to them.
If you need a little more guidance, use the internet to map out a route for yourself and find a few specific places you want to visit that are within walking distance. There are plenty of apps to do so, and you can even plan how long the walk will take you if you are worried about time.
Perhaps "get fit" is a bit strong of a statement for something you can do in one night. However, what you can do tonight instead of watching TV is start working on a fitness program, going to the gym (once the pandemic is no longer a threat), and taking advantage of the many free home workout tools available. If you want to get a bit more into it, running shoes and some simple weights are affordable, easy to store, and easy to come by.
It is a bit more involved than the evening walk we mentioned, but if you love fitness and do not feel as though you have the time to work out, well, now you do. Just make sure to pick out something you enjoy, take care of yourself while you workout (be sure to stretch and hydrate), and that you do not work out too late (we recommend the early evening at the latest, as trying to go to bed after a workout can lead to sleep issues). If you really are not sure how it will affect you, start slow and gradually build up the intensity.
Instead of taking in creative output, why not create something yourself? While we are not suggesting you create your own television show (unless you want to, of course), you can certainly move forward with the painting, drawing, sculpture, or knitting you had in mind. Some people might like to cross-stitch while listening to the radio or a podcast or paint on their back porch on a quiet evening.
You do not need to be an expert to enjoy the act of creating art for yourself. You do not need to share it with anyone. Just the act of self-expression can relieve stress and help you deal with whatever life throws at you. In any case, you will be using your mind and imagination a lot more than if you were just sitting down and watching TV. If you cannot keep yourself away from the TV, perhaps make something while watching tonight, and see which you pay attention to.
Sometimes the best things in life are the things we make ourselves and the things we take the time for. While there is no lack of food options in the United States today, and you can get a TV dinner for a few dollars and get it ready in five minutes, perhaps you want something better, and that's more of an event. We know there's a recipe that has been calling out to you for a while, but you haven't made the time for it, but you can make the time if you want to.
If you do not have anything specific in mind, then take a bold step into something new. There are plenty of websites willing to help you step outside of your comfort zone, and you might have a new favorite on your hands, which is probably more valuable than watching the usual programs tonight. If you are uncertain you'll like what you cook, have a simple backup meal prepared if your experiment turns out to be a disaster.
We would also recommend doing this with a partner, friend, or family member to make it more fun, and always make sure to use the best ingredients you can find. It will still be cheaper than going out, and you will not regret it.
Instead of spending your time watching mindless television, perhaps instead, you can focus your efforts on learning a skill, improving a skill you already have, or taking up a language that you have always wanted to start or finish learning.
With what is available online, you can learn whatever you want, from economics to programming to basic quantum theory. You can either digitally rent some study materials from your local library (or libraries in the same network), find a series of videos or essays online, or sign up for an online course. An hour or two each evening can go a long way, and you shouldn't let graduation be the endpoint for your education.
Above all else, learning should be fun for you and follow your interests. You still need to relieve stress even if you are not watching TV, and you should not turn your evenings into more work, so you feel you never switch off.
While many people might watch TV with the family, that often just leads to a bunch of people staring at a screen, barely interacting, or people arguing with each other over what to watch. Sometimes a break from that tradition is in order. Even a date night can be something more than Netflix.
Whether in the home or outside, how you want to do so should be up to your and the rest of your family. It does not have to be particularly special, and it does not have to be expensive. Ask your loved ones what they want to do, and try to figure out exactly what their interests are. Maybe you will all even discover some new interests together! Most of the other suggestions on this list can work in a group setting, and for staying away from screens in general, there are plenty of board games available.
When was the last time you called up a friend just to see how they were doing and to catch up? A proper call that was several hours long. You might do this with several people already, but making a dedicated effort to do so can help you confirm your relationships' value and get you out of your shell after much time spent indoors. It can be a quick call, an invitation to make future plans or an hours-long session filled with secrets and gossip. Hearing the voice of someone you care about can undoubtedly beat the voices from the screen.
If you want to make this a regular occurrence, we recommend making a list of people you want to get in touch with and calling one or two every night, repeating the list if you feel it is appropriate. If you still want to watch TV, perhaps arrange a remote viewing date or party, as has become more popular during the pandemic.
Do you have a list of chores, such as making doctor's appointments or cleaning the blinds? Is dust collecting on practically everything in your home? If so, you might want to skip the television tonight and instead dig into those chores at your own pace. Maybe you can even keep the TV on as background noise while you do it, or you can listen to music, a podcast, or an audiobook instead. Your chores probably do not take up too much mental energy, so you can keep your focus elsewhere in the meanwhile.
Once you have taken care of everything, we are confident you will feel a lot better about your home as well as your day. That, in turn, might spur you into taking on new projects or ideas.
Chores are tedious, but redecorating can be much more fun. While you may feel as though the rooms in your house have to follow a set mode, there are no clear guidelines you have to follow, and who cares what visitors might think? It is your place, and you can change things up as much as you would like. Whether your want to fixate on function or fashion is up to you.
While we understand that redecorating can be a bit of a project and will likely take more than one evening, you can split it up by room or just a section of a room, doing a little project each evening instead of watching the TV. If you do not know where to start, you can always look online for DIY ideas or just for some inspiration. It does not need to be expensive, though a few new things can't hurt.
Just make sure that you are not just looking and fantasizing about a new décor and home, though. You need to follow through and shift things around to feel a real sense of accomplishment from your efforts.
Expanding your horizons and getting to do something new can allow you to expand your mind and look at life in new ways. This new outlook can genuinely make you feel like you are spending your time in a positive way. While you can find some of this from TV, there's no substitute for dedicated immersion or real-life experiences.
Real-life immersion can be tricky while still in a pandemic, and the world is a bit slower than usual. Therefore, this is also something you could probably work on online, so long as you have achievable goals in mind and you are not just visiting the same social media and news pages as before. There is an endless number of blogs and websites that can show you how other people live and places you can go. Try to pair this exploration with books you are reading, the new meals you're trying, shows you are watching, and people you are talking to. Diving in completely is the way to go.
When was the last time you were part of a club or organization? What does your social life look like outside of your family? You might not be able to get things set up overnight, but a little effort can afford new social opportunities and allow you to meet some interesting people with common interests. There are Meetup groups, local boards that post groups looking for new members, volunteer opportunities, and more. Not everything will be your cup of tea, but we are sure there is something in your area (or perhaps online, if you genuinely live somewhere remote).
While many groups are not ready to meet up again just yet due to the pandemic, there are plenty of online groups that will meet regularly via voice or video chat, allowing people worldwide to get to know each other. Even if it's just switching out TV for a meeting a few times a month, it can make a world of difference.
What do you want to do tomorrow? What do you want to do next week? What about next year? There are many answers to these questions, and we hope that you thought about them. It is never a bad time to think about them. Too many of us might have gotten into a comfortable routine, and we might not think about these things. Life does not have to pass us by while we watch other lives unfold on the TV screen. By spending a bit of time planning, you can prevent this.
We recommend that you try to get a journal, sit down at a desk or table, preferably away from other people, and take a few hours to consider what you want. If you do not know where to start, then consult a few resources on the subject or ask a trusted mentor. If you have a partner to make plans with, you might want to consult them as well.
Honestly, this is an intentionally open-ended section because there are so many things you might want to do. Perhaps you are interested in going back to college and want to do some research along those lines. Maybe you want to start collecting stamps or coins, and investing some time into that is the best option. Perhaps your goal is simply to figure out your goal or enjoy an otherwise goal-less life.
Whatever you want to do, watching TV all night is probably not going to get you there. Take the first step tonight, however small it might be.
You might be reading this now and thinking you will get away from the TV tonight. You will do one of the things listed above instead, but the power of momentum is overwhelming, and you likely have formed a TV habit already. That means you might need to put in a little bit of effort to get away from the TV regularly. Here are a few ways to remind yourself of your new plan:
You should be doing whatever you want to do and whatever brings you personal fulfillment, not necessarily what is easiest for you to do. You will never catch up with your TV watchlist, and ultimately most of the shows you are thinking about watching will not matter in a few years (if they will even matter next month). Quality time spent with loved ones or time spent working on yourself is always worth it.
We hope that this article has helped you think of some new ways to spend your time, and we hope that there will be some new activities, habits, and ideas in your future. We are not saying you should quit television entirely. Still, by adding more diversity into your evenings (or afternoons, depending on where you work), you can try to better your life, achieve more, and feel better about what you are doing every day.