As you may remember, I wrote about changing my mood by changing my behavior two weeks ago. I remember thinking that if I spent the rest of my day watching television and reading I would feel better.
In other words, I assumed that watching television) is some kind of “quality time”.
But is it really?
I just started two new hobbies, salsa dancing and singing in a choir. When I compare watching telly to salsa and choir it becomes glaringly obvious that watching television has nothing much to offer in comparison. I get endless fun and energy from learning to dance salsa and sing in a choir. From a night-long television marathon I usually only get a numb butt and a vague feeling of time ill spent. Wait, if I watch television in an awkward position I may also get a headache as a bonus!
But that is not all. There is something really weird going on.
Research has shown that people seek to spend the majority of their free time watching television, even though almost any other activity gives them more flow experiences, including any work-related activities (Csikszentmihalyi & LeFevre, 1989). As Csikszentmihalyi and LeFevre write,
Following the que of their motivation, people will try to do more of those activities that provide the least positive experiences and avoid the activities that are the source of their most positive and intense feelings.
Huh? Say again? Yes, people seek activities that don’t give them satisfaction. As you may or may not know, flow experiences are more likely in activities that are challenging, goal-directed, rule-bound and provide immediate feedback on how you’re doing. So it’s pretty obvious why I get more out of salsa dancing, singing in a choir and yes – scrubbing my tub – than sitting in front of the television.
Sadly, people seem to be somewhat blind about what is really good for them – myself included. I think that our lives have been captivated by television (and mindlessly surfing the Internet) partly because it’s so easy and effortless. Other ways of spending our leisure require much more effort to initiate than watching tv, including exercise and other hobbies.
Be as it may, my original questions stands: Do you spend (any of) your free time in a way that energizes and revives you?
P.S. You might also be interested in finding out what is the most dangerous form of physical activity.