11/18/2021 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Do you watch too much TV? If so, you have plenty of company. According to 2020 research from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans had an average of 5.5 hours of leisure time each day. Watching TV was the leisure activity that occupied the most time, at 2.81 hours. However, those 65 and older, with more leisure time available, watch an average of 4.6 hours each day!

Advancements in technology have made it possible to watch your favorite shows on phones, laptops, and tablets, as well as TV sets. Add streaming to the mix, and you can find almost anything you want to watch, making it easier to turn watching TV into a relatively inexpensive habit.

However, TV watching can be detrimental to physical, emotional, and mental health – and even to relationships. This makes the TV habit one worth breaking, or at least minimizing.

Breaking any habit can be challenging. Understanding how to break a habit can set a firm foundation for meeting that challenge.

Why is breaking a bad habit so difficult?

Besides being bad for your health, TV watching is also unproductive. But knowing this and doing something about it is not as simple as one might think.

Habits develop through repetition. Some of them help us in our daily lives in the form of routines, putting certain activities on “auto-pilot” and freeing up our brains to focus on other things.

However, habits can also arise when enjoyable events trigger the brain’s “reward” centers, resulting in potentially harmful routines, such as smoking, overeating, gambling, or compulsive TV watching.

How to overcome TV addiction

When you come home from a stressful day, your TV and recliner appear as an oasis from the realities outside. Your brain connects the dots, and a night of TV viewing is all but assured. If you want to break the TV habit – or any habit, for that matter – psychologists recommend some steps to get you started:

  • Define the behavior you want to change: Be specific – for example, I want to spend less time in front of the TV.
  • Identify the triggers: Is the TV a source of comfort or escape from the realities of your life?
  • Manage the triggers: Do something to unstress (easy-listening music or deep breathing in the driveway) before entering the house.
  • Come up with a substitute: Replace TV watching with something beneficial that you enjoy.
  • Change your patterns: For example, go directly to the gym after a hard day, and work off your pent-up stress while getting in better shape.
  • Look for support: Whatever activity you substitute for the TV, you can probably find others doing it, who can offer support and motivation.
  • Reward yourself: You might feel discouraged at some point as you pursue your new habit. Give yourself a pat on the back, or perhaps take your significant other to a high-end restaurant as a reward.
  • Stick with it: Making new brain connections takes patience and persistence. Stay with it, and the rewards will follow.

A recent article on suggests six suggestions specifically for breaking a TV habit.

Find something better to do: Not to oversimplify breaking the TV habit, but you can replace TV with several meaningful and productive activities:

  • Go out with your friends.
  • Take up biking, swimming, running, weight-lifting, or any activity that improves your health.
  • Take a few classes that interest you.
  • Start a side gig to make some extra money.
  • Join a group or club.
  • Learn – or revive – a hobby, such as painting, scrapbooking, writing, playing an instrument, and so on.
  • Volunteer.

Set goals: You can work on your short- and long-term goals to break the TV habit by dedicating as little as half an hour each day. Start now, and you should quickly see results.

Get rid of cable: Since you pay so much for a cable subscription, you feel obligated to use it. If you unsubscribe, you’ll get your life back and save hundreds of dollars each year.

Start limiting your TV viewing: Rather than going “cold turkey,” wean yourself gradually over time.

Finish up your old shows, but don’t start any new ones: Keep watching your favorites, but don’t get hooked on anything new.

Store your TV: Throwing out the TV can be a bit radical, but putting it in a closet will keep it out of sight and mind.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff