How do you make everything happen? There’s work, money, friends and family, exercise, nutrition, sleep. So much to do, so little time.
My advice would be to drastically cut passive entertainment.
This is when you undertake an activity with little physical and mental activity. This goes from TV, Netflix, Youtube, social media to video games and drugs etc.
My belief is that our relation with entertainment has been skewed in the past two centuries. People are taught to believe that they need to get rich quick so they can enjoy holidays, have free time, retire and do nothing. This is when they will be finally happy.
With experience, you discover this is a lie!
For example, France enjoys 35 hours work week yet has the highest rates of depression, with 32% of the population taking anti-depressants medication. You would believe every French person would be happy since they have the lowest work week in the world. Similarly, those who continue to be active after retirement report higher levels of satisfaction and happiness than those who choose to rest (1) (2). And those who play 2 hours of basketball also report higher levels of satisfaction than those who watch 2 hours of TV, lying on the couch. (3)
While everyone wants to lie down and enjoy passive entertainment, the reality is that it creates little to no happiness. The brain wants the easy way or emptiness, but the brain becomes unhappy when we haven’t achieved anything.
So what to do? How do you go past this paradox?
You can choose to pursue active entertainment. This means an activity that you enjoy, but requires mental activity and physical activity. Ideally, the activity also has mild stressful moments.
For instance, if you like visual arts, instead of watching movies, you could do photography. Walk around, interact with people or go on top of a mountain, take pictures, and study photography post-processing. There is a deep satisfaction when producing a printed photograph or having family friends congratulate you on a nice portrait.
If you like drama and criminal plots, instead of watching Netflix series, you could read crime books such as those by Agatha Christie. Even if it’s not a big challenge, reading requires more mental activity than watching TV, and provides definitively more satisfaction. And later, you could start a project of writing your own novel.
If you are used to watching music clips, instead of spending your Saturday afternoon browsing Youtube, you could learn how to sing or take a dancing class. A course provides a subtle mental and physical challenge and provides deep satisfaction, along with being involved in a community. Look around!
More examples include learning a new programming language, cooking, gardening, hiking, sculpture, painting, bakery courses, weight lifting, community volunteering etc. All these activities allow you to learn new skills, and provide a nice challenge. They also require a minimum of physical activity. Overall, they provide mental and physical balance. Remember, passive entertainment is also linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, poor nutrition and many other diseases brought by modern society.
This does not mean you have to burn your TV. I have a TV to show pictures to family through Chromecast. I also use it to play music when cooking or cleaning up the house. And after a long 2 hours run, it’s definitively OK to watch your favorite TV series 🙂 All in moderation, kids!
- Robert O. Ray & Geraldine Heppe. Older Adult Happiness. Journal
Physical & Occupational Therapy In Geriatrics Volume 4, 1986 – Issue 4
- Verena H. Menec. The Relation Between Everyday Activities and Successful Aging: A 6-Year Longitudinal Study. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci (2003) 58 (2): S74-S82.
- John P. Robinson, Steven Martin. What Do Happy People Do? S. Soc Indic Res (2008) 89: 565. doi:10.1007/s11205-008-9296-6