1. I don’t own a TV.
I haven’t really owned a TV since 2006 and I haven’t had access to a TV in my home since 2010. Two reasons – money and time. I didn’t want to deal with the expense of cable and felt I would be tempted to get it if I had a TV. Also, I’m a creature of habit and if a TV is available, I will probably turn it on, “Just to see what’s on.” Which usually means I get roped into shows that are not very stimulating or educational… just because they are on. I became aware that I could actually live without TV for the first time when I took a 7 week class in Maine in 2006 and the hotel room where I stayed did not have a television. 7 weeks without television seemed impossible to me then but I learned very quickly that I felt more creative, fulfilled and joyful when I devoted my time to people and activities rather than consuming shows.
I do have access to Netflix and Hulu, which costs me less than $20/month, and this allows me to watch many shows I enjoy, but in a limited way. For example, I greatly enjoy shows on the Food Network. If I had cable, I would probably watch it every night, even if I had seen the episodes before. Hulu allows me access to a some shows on the Food Network, not all, and usually only 5 episodes at a time. A new episode is usually added about once a week. I don’t have to worry about managing a list of recordings because whatever is online is what I got. If you try this, it may feel like you are limited in the beginning, but in time you will grow accustomed to it. The system works for me because I have access to some programming but not all of it, and I know that means I watch less and do more. Kinda like saying “You can eat 1 piece of cheesecake, but not the WHOLE cheesecake.”
When it comes to sports, I either go to a bar (which is kinda more fun anyway, being part of a communal experience for a live event) or I listen on the radio. Yes the radio. I cheer for the Cyclones and John Walters is amazing. I’d take him over most network television announcers any day.
2. I got rid of the microwave.
This one had a big impact on my health. I have not had a microwave since 2011. If you think about it, most meals that are pre-packaged and meant to be cooked in the microwave are not healthy – no matter what the box says. They are full of chemicals and preservatives and if you are trying to remove those things from your life, you could make it a lot easier on yourself by removing the appliance you need to cook that stuff. It also forces you to cook what you can eat and not make tons of leftovers. I do use the microwave at my office to heat leftovers that I bring for lunch, but those are usually from the night before. It has also forced me to learn more about cooking, become better at it, and learn how to cook the right amount of food for one meal, quickly and easily. (Hint: it’s a lot less than you might think!)
3. I deleted the Facebook app from my phone.
This is a recent development in my life, which I have been practicing for about a month. I think I’m going to stick with it. I want to keep in touch with people so it is not practical for me to delete my Facebook account altogether. It’s nice to know what old friends are up to and congratulate them on major life milestones and accomplishments. It’s nice to be supportive of healthy choices they are making. But Facebook is kinda like TV – if there is access, it’s gets looked at. A lot. Just because it’s there. Not having FB on my phone means I now only have access to it when I am home, in the evenings. There was a time, not long ago, before smartphones, when that was normal, and fine. And we all survived.
I guess it boils down to this – does FB improve the quality of my life? Yes, it does. It has helped me to not lose touch with people that I care about. That’s a great thing. Does constant access to FB improve the quality of my life? No, it does not. I’ve learned that in the last month by going without. Without constant access, it is easier to focus on the people and tasks that are in front of my face and to live in the wonderful moments of my own life. I don’t want to live in a world where people stare at screens while they eat dinner together, and I’m trying to make sure that doesn’t happen in my tiny corner of it.
4. I spend an hour outdoors daily (weather permitting).
Whether I’m walking or running or gardening or just sitting on my porch, I actively try to be outdoors. Away from air conditioning and electronics. Soaking in some vitamin D (from the sun). Sweating if it’s hot. Feeling a breeze. It’s just good for your soul.
5. I have plants and I try not to kill them.
This one isn’t entirely free but its pretty cheap. Some people might say pets fall into this category but I would disagree. Pets make noise. If you ignore a plant or forget about it, it will just die. Quietly, in the corner where you left it. And I’ve done that more than once. Plants force you to slow down because they are easy to forget about if your life is too full and busy. Your life shouldn’t be so full that you can’t remember to give something water every few days. If it is, then read number 6. Plants also force you to be patient because if you treat them well consistently they will turn into full, beautiful things. If you do not treat them consistently, they will never reach their full potential. Consistency is a good technique to practice and if you can do it with plants, you’ll be more apt to do it with yourself and in your relationships.
6. I created margin in my life.
Margin is a life concept that I read about in a Bible study years ago and it is incredibly simple, incredibly important, and incredibly difficult (especially at this time in human history). Margin is simply unscheduled time. Think aboutyour week. Add up the hours you spend sleeping, commuting, working and doing all of the activities that you regularly do – working out, cooking meals, watching your favorite shows, housework, attending activities, clubs or classes, standing date nights or meetings, etc. This list is different for everyone – but if it’s a regular commitment it should be on your list. Now add up the time that is left over. This is how much margin you have. The amount of time required is different based on the individual but I’m willing to bet that if you are a typical resident of the 21st century in the developed world, you don’t have enough margin. And you need it.
Margin is time when you can sit and just be. Quiet, relaxed, still. Without possibility of interruption. When you can reflect without distractions. Margin allows you to breathe. You might draw or write or read to help you reflect. You might meditate or take a walk without headphones. You may just sit in silence and try to clear your mind. There are no exact rules for what it has to be except quiet and solitary. I would encourage every person to create margin for themselves, no matter how chaotic their life can be. Don’t over-schedule. Eliminate things from your routine if you have to. Don’t spend all of your free time surrounded by noise from the TV or radio or with an electronic device in your hand. And don’t be ashamed to tell people you are ‘busy’ – margin is just as important as other activities you do. Since I became aware of this concept, I have become incredibly protective of my margin time. I have learned that if my life is devoid of margin I turn into a very unpleasant person. I probably need more margin than some people simply because I am an introvert (and introverts are re-charged by alone time). But every human being needs some amount of margin. Even if it starts out as 15 minutes at the end of your day, it will make a huge difference in your state of mind.