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Escaping the Cult of Busy

October 16, 2015
stop the glorification of busy

For more than a decade, every time I asked my husband about his workday, his response has been “We are SO busy!”
To his credit, when I pointed out that his busyness made for BORING conversation, he at least tried to apply some creativity by mixing it up with “We are really under the pump right now”, or “We’ve got a LOT going on”.

Pretty much all variations of ‘busy’.

Similarly, friends will lament that there is never enough time, and even on social media, there seems to always be someone wanting to share just how crazy busy life is these days. If you’ve ever tried catching up with friends and had to book a date four months away, you’ll know how out-of-control our schedules seem to be!

Are we really that busy? And more to the point, should we be slowing down?!

There’s no doubt the digital era has dissolved many of the boundaries that once were created by time and geography. Rather than clocking off at 5pm and going home to our sanctuary, we are now available 24/7 via a device we carry around in our pockets. Work can and will encroach on your personal life if you let it. (If you’re self-employed or working from home, that’s a whole other boundary issue.)

If you’re a working parent, the challenge of juggling parenting, kids’ activities, work projects and maintaining a household is a constant source of tension. I say ‘parent’ but I think for working mothers particularly, the notion of ‘having it all’ generally means ‘doing it all’!

We assume then, that busyness is a fact of modern life… but the question is, does it have to be?

No doubt we all experience times in our life when everything seems to happen at once. The big work deadline, the family visit and the school play are all scheduled in the same week. The only thing you can do is knuckle down, get it done and look forward to some down time when it’s all over. But I’m talking about the chronic busyness that never gives you a break. I’ve come to think there are a few reasons we might unconsciously be choosing unrelenting busyness over the option of a more leisurely-paced lifestyle.

  • Many people feel pressure to excel in every area of life. This kind of perfectionism is unachievable and, contrary to popular belief, is not so much driven by a desire to be your best self, but by a fear of never being good enough.
  • For some, being busy is a badge of honour worn with great pride as if it reflects productivity or importance. “I’m so CRAZY busy”, they say – hoping to transmit the message, “I’m worthwhile” or “I matter.”
  • Avoidance. Staying endlessly busy means we don’t have time to engage in any kind of deep reflection or self-examination. If you’re a bit addicted to busyness (a blank page in your diary causes you to break out in hives), ask yourself what you might encounter if you slow down enough to pay attention to what is really going on in your life, your relationships, your level of personal fulfilment.
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is a pervasive apprehension that other people are having a better time than you are. FOMO causes people to want to say yes to every invitation or opportunity, even when they might be a whole lot happier having a quiet night in or a weekend of doing absolutely nothing.

In this long list of all the ways we can numb ourselves, there’s always staying busy: living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us. – Brené Brown

If you think you might tick any of those boxes or you just feel like your schedule is spiralling out of control, here are a few suggestions for how you might scale back, slow down and escape the cult of busy:

  • Pay attention to the urge to fill every moment with activity. Bring a gentle curiosity (non-judgemental and non-defensive) to what might be driving you to keep moving and doing. Does being still make you a bit anxious? What’s going on there?
  • Track your output. Multi-tasking (that thing you think you’re doing when you’re busy) is actually highly inefficient. If you assume busyness equates to productivity, try using an app such as RescueTime’ to monitor how you’re spending your online time or ‘IDoneThis’ to measure actual outcomes.
  • Change your language. Instead of offering “I’m too busy” as an explanation for not doing something, Laura Vanderkam (author of “168 Hours”) suggests you say instead “It’s not a priority”. You might find this a painless enough substitute when you’re skipping a boring work meeting but feel the difference when you apply it to your child’s sporting event or an overdue medical checkup. Then it becomes a question of values, and your behaviour might not be aligned with what you SAY is most important to you.
  • Learn to say no. A simple no, that is, without a long-winded explanation or apology. Get clear about what truly matters to you and make time for those things above everything else. I highly recommend the book “Essentialism” by Greg McKeown on this topic. In fact I enjoyed that book so much I wrote a whole blog post about it HERE.
  • Remember that Perfect is the enemy of GOOD. Practise lowering those all-too-high standards and accept that ‘good enough’ makes for a full, balanced, healthy life minus the stress of perfectionism (which I also wrote about HERE).

Most importantly, when someone asks how you are, try to catch yourself before you trot out the default response of “I’m SO busy!”  Pause, take a breath, and engage in a conversation.

Better still, make plans to catch up for a coffee so you can both take a break from your busy lives.

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The single most important ingredient for happiness

September 16, 2015
gratitude

In just over a week I’ve had 400 people sign up to my Crappy to Happy 7-day email courseIt seems there are plenty of people who are keen to get the low down on how to be happier! (update: now almost 2000 people have signed up!)

There’s one thing I deliberately left out of the email series and the reason is that I honestly thought it was so obvious as to be unnecessary. But then I realised that sometimes, even for me, it’s the most simple truths – the things we know only too well – that we need to be reminded of, and that can make the biggest difference in our lives.

I had this realisation last week when I was having my own crappy day. I’m not a person who necessarily battles with chronic depression but I’ve been depressed, and I still have what I call ‘dark days’. You might have them too. To me these are the days when it feels like a black cloud has descended over my head and is following me wherever I go. It doesn’t matter how bright and sunny the real day is, my world feels heavy, uninspired and a bit pointless.

I’m fortunate to have enough perspective to know those days will pass. Bad days don’t last forever. (That perspective, by the way, is one of the things I’ve gained from learning mindfulness but that’s not the tip I wanted to share.)

When I had my dark day last week, I commenced my usual trek down the path of unhelpful self-criticism, unfounded fears, certain knowledge that everything really is crappy, not wanting to do what’s expected of me, not wanting to answer my phone or return calls; in fact wanting to do nothing except go back to bed until I could magic up an island holiday, a gazillion dollars and a life of no responsibility. Perhaps you’ve felt that way too at times? And then I remembered…

Gratitude is the golden key to the door of happiness.

On even my worst days, I can think of many, many things to be grateful for – things I could easily take for granted but they should never be taken for granted. At the most basic level, I have running water, electricity, plenty of food and a roof over my head. I hit the jackpot being born into a free, democratic, developed country. And if that doesn’t all put me in the top tier of the world’s luckiest people, I also have my health, family, friends, and a job I love (even when I don’t feel like doing the boring bits). The list goes on and on to the point of being almost embarrassing.

It is not happy people who are thankful.It is thankful people who are happy.

So I walked outside into the sunshine, looked around at my abundant life, felt the warm breeze on my skin and allowed every cell in my body to be infused with feelings of gratitude. Even on the darkest days, it’s gratitude that has the power to let in just enough light to start moving your mind and mood in a more hopeful, positive direction. And don’t just take my word for it. Research indicates clear associations between gratitude and wellbeing, better relationships and better health. If you’re having a crappy day or just want to find new ways to boost your happiness, here are some great ways to grow your gratitude:

  • Take a moment (like I did) to review all the good things in your own life and connect with a deep sense of appreciation for what you have. I don’t mean tick off the boxes like a shopping list but really breathe in those feelings of gratefulness until they fill you up and make you feel truly, utterly, astoundingly blessed.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. You don’t have to write in it daily but regular, thoughtfully considered entries are good (by which I mean try not to robotically list the same three things every day).
  • Send thank you notes to people who have helped you out. The combination of gratitude and kindness is a powerful antidote to misery.
  • Change ‘have’ to ‘get’.  For example, instead of saying “I have to go to work”, say “I get to go to work” or “I get to go to school/university”. Instead of “I have to pay bills”, “I get to pay bills”. Instead of “I have to clean the house”, “I get to clean my house”. Seriously. You get to earn a living, further your education, have somewhere to live and have instant daily access to all the creature comforts of modern life. It’s insane.

Why not try it? What do you get to do today that you can be grateful for?

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All about Essentialism

August 23, 2015
essentialism

I’ve been reading a book called “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. I ordered it on the recommendation of a friend without even bothering to read the blurb and assumed it was going to be about my wardrobe. (In theory, I’m very interested in the minimalist movement but I’m crap at putting it into practice). While this book does use wardrobe analogies quite frequently, I was surprised to find it’s actually a book about how to simplify your  work (and life) and I’ve absolutely loved reading it.

My husband also loved reading it so if you count my coaching friend that’s three from three who would recommend it, so I thought it was worth sharing some highlights. (And if you’re time poor, I’ve dot pointed the highlights at the bottom of this post!)

The gist of it, as applied to your working life, is that when we’re good at doing things, we get asked to do more things (or we volunteer to do more things because we know we can do it better than anyone else) or we get offered business/career opportunities. However the more we stretch our resources to do more things, the less energy and focus and time we have available to devote to the things we truly love to do, that we are exceptional at doing, and that give us the highest satisfaction/return for our efforts.

So, in order to make our highest contribution, we need to say no to all the non-essentials.

Which all sounds utterly lovely and makes perfect sense but as you can imagine, it’s a whole lot easier said than done. Sometimes opportunities present themselves and we get hooked up in thinking we should take them because they’re good opportunities, or we don’t like to let people down and we’re not very good at saying no.

Ultimately the price we pay for this ‘non-essentialism’ though is that our resources are stretched, our energy is scattered, our focus is unclear and our work is not the best it could be, which means those opportunities quickly stop appearing. Not only that, but you’ve sacrificed the opportunity to continue targeting and focusing your efforts on making your highest contribution.

To go back to the wardrobe analogy, McKeown suggests that if you decide to clean out your wardrobe using the criteria of ‘Is there a chance I might want to wear this one day in the future?’, we end up holding onto a lot of stuff we don’t want or need. The question to ask instead is “Do I love this? Would I buy it right now if I didn’t already own it?” and that this gives us a much tougher selection process but the result is so worth it when we have a clean clear space, a select few pieces we highly value, and we are no longer overwhelmed by too many choices when deciding what to wear.

What I love about this idea is that it can be applied to any area of your life. Think about your personal commitments, social obligations, and even (dare I say it?) your friends.

When you consider where you spend your time, money, physical and mental energy, how much of the stuff of your life truly nourishes you and fulfils you and how much is there out of obligation, fear, or just because it’s always been there and you’ve never thought to get rid of it?

beware the barrenness of a busy life

Below I’ve listed a few highlights from the book if you’re interested in applying a bit more essentialism to your own life:

Discern the trivial many from the vital few

Non-essentialists view all opportunities as equal and ask “How can I make it all work?”

Essentialists ask “What do I want to go big on?” using the criteria: “What do I feel deeply inspired by?” and “What am I particularly talented at?” and “What meets a significant need in the world?”

Starting from zero

In zero based budgeting, every expense has to justify itself at the start of the financial year (rather than just being included because it was there last year).

Using this analogy, if you had the opportunity to build your life from scratch today, what things, people and projects would you add right now if it didn’t already exist?

Learn to say no without apology

I don’t think this one needs any more explanation. Saying no feels awkward and impolite but it’s a vital skill if you don’t want your time and energy drained by non-essentials.

And remember, if it isn’t a clear yes, it’s a clear no.

Recognise sunk-cost bias and know when to bail out

We overvalue things we already own (see your wardrobe for evidence).

We also feel compelled to continue investing in projects, people and things we have already heavily invested in. It’s why we keep waiting on hold even after hours of our time have been wasted – we want to hang in there until we see a return.

We need to get better at admitting mistakes and changing course when we realise something is no longer working for us so that we don’t keep throwing good money (time, energy, effort) after bad.

Live with intent

This applies to more than just your job. It’s a bit like having a clear mission statement for your life.

Your essential intent will be informed by your values, create a sense of purpose and help chart your life’s course.

It is making one decision which eliminates a thousand others and it takes courage because to decide literally means to cut off all other options. This means making tough trade-offs and getting over the fear of missing out, but only with this kind of clarity and purpose can we live truly fulfilling and inspired lives and achieve our highest point of contribution.

SO… if you were to be more of an ‘essentialist’, what might you declutter from your life? It’s definitely worth thinking about!

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Highlights from the Happiness Conference

June 13, 2015
Happiness and its Causes Conference

This year, I attended the annual Happiness and Its Causes conference for the second time.

2015 marked the 10yr anniversary of this hugely popular annual event and so it was set to be quite a party at Luna Park! The conference usually attracts some of the biggest names – researchers, authors, and storytellers – in the fields of happiness and positive psychology, and is usually a great source of information and inspiration.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama normally attends every second year to coincide with the Dalai Lama in Australia tour, so his presence this year (his 80th birthday year!) drew a huge crowd. I’ve been fortunate to see His Holiness twice now, and both times have been so inspired by his wisdom, compassion and his incredibly infectious laugh.  

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

I decided I’d do a quick wrap up of the highlights from the conference and then later I’ll do separate posts to expand more on some of the presentations I liked best. So if you weren’t there, it doesn’t matter because I took notes for you!

So here goes, and I’ll try to keep it brief:

Because of my interest in Buddhist psychology and mindfulness, I was particularly interested to see Barbara Fredrickson, Ruby Wax, and several others who referred to the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace.

Barbara is a Professor of Psychology whose interests are in emotions and positive psychology. What I did not know, and what I was fascinated to learn, is that her research has found that people who practice Loving Kindness meditation (anyone who has done my courses will know what this is) demonstrate changes at the cellular level which reflect reduced likelihood of inflammation in the body and therefore reduced likelihood of disease. That’s my quick layperson non-scientific summary – and I’ll expand more later. But seriously.. WOW! Scientific data which demonstrates that kindness = not just feeling good, but actually being physically healthier.

Ruby Wax is best known as a comedienne and actress (and did you know she was a writer for Absolutely Fabulous? I did not know that!). With a long history of mental illness, Ruby decided 7yrs ago to actively seek out a treatment to prevent relapse and came across Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. She went on to complete a Masters degree in MBCT from Oxford University and this year was awarded an OBE for her services to mental health. Ruby’s presentation was of course funny, honest, and insightful and I, for one, as a practitioner of mindfulness and teacher of MBCT, was thrilled to see the word being spread!

Happiness and its causes on going conference

I was excited to see Gretchen Rubin in the line-up this year, since I’ve started reading both her New York Times bestselling The Happiness Project and her new book about habits called Better than Before. Yes, I’ve started reading both books at once because, unlike Gretchen, who describes herself as highly organised and self-disciplined, I am neither of those things. I do not seem to have the capacity to finish reading one book before picking up another, but it’s something I’m working on.

I introduced myself to Gretchen and asked her to sign my copy of her book. I told her I’m working on my own Happiness book and suggested that she and I have coffee next time I’m in her hometown of NYC. At that point, she surprisingly did not back away slowly and motion for security, but she wished me well with my book and even recommended to me a book for writers (which I have swiftly ordered from Amazon because Gretchen Rubin personally recommended it to me!) AND THEN she said she’ll see me in NYC!

Yes you will, Gretchen. Yes you will!

Making friends with Gretchen
Making friends with Gretchen

Other highlights included the amazing Lior (I didn’t even get a photo as I was too busy being in awe) and the story of his collaboration with composer Nigel Westlake and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Lior sang Avinu Malkeinu live with no accompaniment (spine-tingling) and then we heard the story of Lior and Nigel’s journey together to create ‘Compassion’, a seven song orchestra.

I’ve included this link to the final, full orchestral version of Avinu Malkeinu for your viewing and listening pleasure.

Among others, Ben Lee spoke and sang a few tunes for us. Michelle Bridges gave us a pep talk on motivation. Dr Tim Sharp aka Dr Happy was there.

Then there were the ‘ordinary’ but incredibly inspiring people who had overcome diversity and trekked across the Himalayas, sailed across oceans, rewired their brains following a stroke and tumour respectively. There were teachers doing amazing things in schools to help children learn the value of positive psychology, first-hand experiences and taking risks (no cotton wool!), and connecting with other kids globally using internet technology.

Truly an amazing line up of speakers.

And finally, a personal highlight for me was being interviewed for an upcoming documentary on Happiness! It was a great experience even if I do end up on the cutting room floor, which is very likely. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on and consolidate my own ideas about the causes of happiness, and I was heartened to hear my own thoughts reflected in the presentations of leading thinkers and researchers from around the world.

Getting prepped for my interview
Getting prepped for my interview

I think that’s enough for now! I’ve included lots of links so you can check out anything that might interest you, and later I’ll post some more info about the really interesting stuff.

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Update: Life on the farm

April 30, 2015
Kookaburra

It’s been almost three months since we relocated from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast hinterland and what a busy time it’s been as we all adjust to our new surroundings and routines. Inwardly, I’ve been reminded of what William Bridges calls ‘the neutral zone’, which is how he describes the ‘no man’s land’ we find ourselves in after we have experienced an ending of some sort, but before the new beginning has fully taken shape. In the neutral zone, he says we find ourselves withdrawing from the outside world, spending time in quiet contemplation, and reflecting on our values. This is very much what the last couple of months has been like for me. (Bridges’ theory of transition is one that my clients frequently find relevant when they are going through a time of change, so I’ll write more about that separately.)  

Only in the past few weeks have I found myself emerging back into the real world and re-engaging with social connections and work projects (and this website and this Facebook page) so I thought it timely to post an update.

Starting with the fun stuff…

The animals!

One of my long held dreams has been to live on acreage and rescue farmed animals and this was one of our main motivations for moving to the country. We are still working on getting some paddock fences to contain larger animals but meanwhile we have added to our menagerie with six more ex-battery hens (Eggy Azalea, Chicky Minaj, Victoria Peckham, Jennifer Heniston, Kylie Mineggue and Bjork) and a lovely rescue dog named Jake who is great company for Scout, our 3yr old border collie.

Jake the border collie
Jake is around 8mths old and loving farm life.
Chicken
Eggy Azalea

The Cabin

Now that we’ve settled in to our home, my next major project is going to be renovating the existing 2-bedroom cabin on the property so that it can potentially be rented out as a writer’s/artist’s retreat. There is also a shed nearby the cabin, which I plan to convert to a meditation space so that I can offer mindfulness classes here on the property. I look forward to sharing progress photos as the work gets underway!

Inside the cabin
Inside the cabin
The Cabin
The Cabin

And the work stuff…

I am now available for psychology appointments on Fridays at Circle Wellness Clinic in Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast.

I am no longer taking on new clients in Brisbane but I am still available in Ashgrove on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for existing clients and returning clients. So as long as you’ve been to see me before, you’re welcome to come and see me in Ashgrove!

Upcoming courses and workshops:

Introduction to MindfulnessThis afternoon beginner’s workshop is a great way to learn about the theory and practice of mindfulness meditation. Come along and bring a friend to take advantage of the couple’s discounted  price.

Saturday 30th May, 2pm to 4.30pm @ Circle Wellness, Peregian Beach. Register your interest by emailing me or filling in this form.

Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy for Stress and Self-Care : It’s hard to imagine anyone could be stressed here on the Sunshine Coast but I’m sure there must be a few people around who would be interested to learn how to use mindfulness for stress reduction and self-care. Dates and venues aren’t yet finalised but if you’re interested, contact me to register your interest and I’ll keep you updated as I firm up details!

Remember that the best way to stay updated with dates for courses and events is to subscribe to my newsletter. I only send it out when there is new information so I promise not to overload your inbox.

Until next time, remember….

Quote by Dalai Lama
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The ‘slow’ movement and why it’s gaining momentum

October 5, 2014
slowdown living

It’s a funny thing, really… that for all the advances in technology and the myriad wondrous inventions we’ve created to make things quicker, easier and more efficient, somehow we’ve come full circle and now find ourselves so overwhelmed by the busyness and sheer pace of life that we are all looking for ways to slow down.

Fast food, cheap fashion & social media are the signs of our times. They are relatively new concepts in our culture, and all serving the common purpose of providing instant gratification.

But the truth is that despite all the inventions designed to make life easier, the number of ‘friends’ just a button click away, the prosperity we enjoy and the abundant choices presented to us every time we hit the supermarket or the nearest shopping mall, we are experiencing our highest ever levels of anxiety, depression, obesity and debt.

Depression is in fact the leading cause of disability globally. Consumer debt is at an all time high. The planet is being destroyed. We are disconnected, isolated, and dissatisfied; working harder and longer, yet never being rewarded with the grand prize of happiness that we so long for.

And so it appears we have woken up to the con of ‘fast’.

Voluntary Simplicity. Downshifting. Minimalism. These are all terms used to describe a growing movement towards unhooking from our technology-addicted, consumption driven lives and finding five minutes of peace and quiet in the simple activities and lifestyles our grandparents might have enjoyed.

The slow food movement was born in Italy in the 1980s when Carlo Petrini and a group of activists objected to a McDonald’s being constructed on the Spanish steps of Rome. Fast food is a disaster for animals, the planet and our own health. Today, ‘slow food’ embraces the values of wholesome food, grown locally and sustainably, and offering a fair price and conditions to its producers. It is the antithesis of fast food and processed food.  ‘Slow food’ values time taken to prepare and enjoy meals and the role of food in connecting family and friends. Most importantly, it’s a reminder to slow down in every aspect of our lives.

The slow living movement takes its cues from these same principles of mindfulness, connection and community.

Slow fashion for example, objects to the speed at which clothing designs move from catwalk to chain store, inviting us to reconsider our fashion purchases and opt for choices that will sustain us beyond a seasonal trend.  Fast fashion pollutes the environment with its manufacture and its rapid disposal, and demands we keep spending money as seasons and styles change.

Where ‘fast fashion’ often utilises offshore labour with unfair working conditions, chemically laden textiles, and rapidly obsolete trends, slow fashion calls us to choose quality over quantity. It also emphasises getting back to basics and repairing or re-purposing pre-loved clothing. Big fashion houses are lining up to get themselves accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia. Thus, it would appear that consumer demand for high quality, ethically produced fashion exists, and that suppliers are happy to meet our demand.

Slow living invites us to unhook from the continual distraction of our screens and gadgets by taking a regular ‘digital detox’  and spending quality, purposeful time in our real lives and connecting with our people face to face.

With a quick Google search (the irony), you can find a multitude of manifestations of the slow movement: people living in tiny houses, embracing thrift and minimalism, and living in intentional communities. Blogs like Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist have millions of subscribers, such is the level of interest in scaling back and slowing down.

Most of us will never truly escape the hustle of modern life with our gadgets and our shops and our busy jobs. But we can look for small ways to slow down, shed what is unnecessary from our homes and schedules, shop more ethically and choose more wisely in every respect.

What about you? How do you find ways to slow down?

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Is your TV making you miserable?

September 30, 2014
Downsides of television

I could happily live without a television and yet we have two televisions in our home. I admit there are some programs on commercial telly that I really enjoy, but my tendency to get hooked on a cooking or home improvement show is, for me, another reason to not have the TV in the house because much like wine and hot chips – while I may well enjoy those things, I also know they’re not very good for me.

For now, I’m stuck with a TV due to fierce opposition from my husband and daughter, but I’m not anywhere close to giving up on my anti-TV crusade, and here are all the reasons why:

1. Commercial TV advertising

Research confirms that television advertising increases our desire to buy stuff. Suddenly we want stuff we never even knew existed and our levels of life satisfaction decrease. Of course the TV is not singularly responsible for our increased consumerism but there’s a reason TV advertising is so expensive and that’s because it’s powerful. Children are particularly susceptible to this effect if we aren’t actively educating them about advertising in the media. A Dutch study confirmed that 8-11yr old children who watched more television were more materialistic. I use my 8yo daughter as my litmus test for this. After she’s watched commercial TV for any length of time, the list of stuff she wants grows longer… every time.

2. The News

Don’t even start me on the news. Is there anything more depressing? Of course we all know that there is a lot more going on in the world than the 30 minutes of depressing highlights you’re fed via a (probably biased) television news program each weeknight. I think it’s important to be aware of what’s happening in the world around us – that makes us responsible citizens. And the older I get, the more effort I make to know who I’m voting for and what they stand for and how this affects my family and broader community. But I do not believe it’s vital to my existence to know of every violent death that’s occurred locally and internationally in the preceding 24hrs and I do not need that negativity in my lounge room and within earshot of my daughter. So I turn off the news.

3. Television kills conversation

I know it from experience and I hear it all the time from my clients. Time spent sitting in front of the box with your partner is not quality time. If there are particular programs you enjoy watching together and which prompt you to engage in conversation, that can be fun for sure. But coming home at the end of the day and veging in front of the telly for a few hours before crawling into bed (or worse still, falling asleep on the couch) creates disconnection and dissatisfaction in relationships.

4. Television is often mindless

And I’m much more about being mindful in my daily life because the benefits of mindfulness are immense and proven. When you sit down to ‘relax’ in front of the television, you’re more likely to eat (or drink) more than you intend to, because you’re not paying attention. More importantly, escaping into television prevents you from dealing with whatever unpleasantness you are seeking to escape. In this way, mindless television viewing is a form of avoidance, whereas living a whole, happy, vital life requires us to increase our capacity to turn towards and tolerate discomfort, not find more ways to escape it.

5. Television shortens your lifespan

That on its own is surely enough to make anyone miserable. It’s been estimated that every hour of TV viewing reduces your lifespan by 20 minutes. Exact reasons aren’t clear but presumably it’s a combination of all those things already mentioned. TV watching is a sedentary activity so unless you’re watching TV while pounding out a few k’s on the treadmill or climbing Kilimanjaro on the stairmaster, the more hours spent television viewing, the less you spend moving your body, breathing fresh air and engaging in physical activities. Our bodies are designed to move, not sit at a desk all day and then come home and sit in front a television all night.

So what’s the answer?

If like me, you can’t have your way in getting rid of the TV, or if you’re not ready to make that change, I offer the following tips to minimise your exposure to its harmful effects.

1. Limit your viewing

Instead of turning on the TV and channel surfing until you find something appealing to watch, check the TV guide online and only turn the television on when there is something you really want to see. Each week, try to have one or two TV-Free days (or even better, no screens at all).

2. Skip the ads

Set your timer to record your favourite program so you can watch it at your leisure some other time and fast-forward the advertisements. The program without the ads will take a whole lot less of your precious time and you won’t be exposed to those enticing advertisements convincing you of all the new things you need to buy to be happier.

3. Do something while watching TV

Lie on the floor and do some pilates exercises or stretches, or if you have a treadmill – position it in front of the telly and get on it during your favourite program. The distraction of the TV should make working out seem less painful and if you’re going to do something mindlessly, it might as well be good for you.

4. Create a TV-free zone

If you’re fortunate enough to have space for a couple of living areas in your home – say a family room as well as a lounge room – make one of them television-free. Keep that space for reading, music, playing board games or talking without the noise and distraction of the TV. If possible, make this space the one that’s more accessible to you and your family, nearer to the kitchen and the major hub of activity in your home. Put the television in the room that’s further away and harder to reach so it’s less intrusive.

5. Consider the possibility of getting rid of it entirely

Rather than immediately shutting down the idea, start to play around with the possibility of what life would be like without it. Be curious and open minded about where your hesitation comes from. What would you be missing out on? What else might you do with your time instead? If staring down a whole evening with your own company seems intolerable, perhaps this is something to work on.

Who’s with me in the No-TV camp? What strategies do you use to minimise it, and if you’ve already gone TV-free, how is that changed your life (for better or worse)?

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