The New York Times reports that the average American adult watches five hours and four minutes of television per day. But could your leisure time be better spent doing something else? Probably. The Harvard School of Public Health finds that prolonged TV viewing – as a sedentary activity – is associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death.
It seems the old adage, “TV will rot your brain,” may be true, too. A 2016 study found that high television viewing and low physical activity were correlated with low scores on brainpower tests. This has serious implications for millions of Americans who will develop Alzheimer’s disease as they age. Currently 10% of those over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s, and that rate is expected to increase dramatically.
Further, TV seems to make us unhappy. A study analyzing 30 years of data found that unhappy people view significantly more television. A co-author of this study says “TV doesn’t really seem to satisfy people over the long haul the way that social involvement or reading a newspaper does.” So why do we do it? Much like addicts, it’s thought to be a short-term pleasure at the expense of long-term fulfillment.
Compare this to the benefits of a hobby. People with hobbies are generally healthier, and have a lower risk of depression and dementia. For finding an ideal hobby, find one that offers an escape from daily life, a passion, and a sense of purpose. Depending on the hobby you choose, it may also encourage social interaction, physical activity, and mental engagement. Each of these benefits has been shown to increase well-being.
Think you’re too busy for a hobby? Think again. Hobbies can also help you structure your time, even if you feel “too busy” for one. By scheduling it into your day or week, you can encourage yourself to be efficient with your time, and reward yourself with a clean break from responsibility. Having a break to look forward to can reduce stress and increase productivity.
So give it a shot – turn off the TV for a week and explore some alternatives. Your health and happiness could be at stake.