I’ve written before about how we’ve cut out cable TV, preferring instead to use Netflix and over the air channels for our entertainment needs. Recently, however, we allowed cable back into the house. I’m a huge Olympics and tennis junkie and my husband is a big NASCAR fan. And March Madness is coming. Between the 2010 Olympics, the Australian Open, and the beginning of the NASCAR season, there was going to be a lot on TV this winter that we wanted to watch. Since the weather is so crummy and we’re stuck inside, we agreed to have them turn the cable back on for just a couple of months and see whether or not it was something we wanted to reinstate full time.
While we’ve been enjoying the sports, I’m being reminded of why I eliminated cable in the first place. Television makes me feel bad. Unfortunately, I’m the sort of person that, if the TV is in the house, I watch. I guess I have no discipline, but I’m easily sucked into the TV. I end up wasting hours watching junk and mindlessly surfing. That makes me feel bad because later I think of all the things I could and should have done with that time.
TV also makes me feel bad because much of it is depressing. The news is nothing but a rundown of various murders, betrayals, and disasters. The news anchors blow up small problems into huge traumas in an effort to raise their ratings. In turn, my blood pressure and stress level is raised for no reason. Many reality shows are full of backstabbing, stupidity, and anger which can be funny in small doses but ends up making me angry and irritated in turn. Criminal shows and medical shows depict a very depressing world. I get enough of that sort of thing in real life; I don’t need to see it flashed across the screen. And then there are the commercials that I just find annoying. I either don’t want what they’re selling, can’t afford it, or just find the commercial off-putting. In short, to me, there are only a select few shows that are worth watching (but I can get those on DVD if I’m patient) and then there are sports. Sports are really the only reason for me to keep any sort of TV. The rest of it makes me feel awful.
Midway through our return to cable experiment I turned to my husband and asked, “Why are we paying to feel this bad?” He agreed with me and we decided that as soon as the Olympics are over, cable will once again be exiting this house. If I could be more disciplined and turn off the news, etc. and only watch when something really great is on, maybe we could keep it. But since I am weak, it has to go.
My question continued to nag at me. TV isn’t the only thing that people pay for that makes them feel bad. People pay for food that makes them fat and unhealthy. Once in a while is fine, but many people eat like this every day then wonder why they’re sick. Some buy things they don’t need which ends up making them feel bad because they either can’t afford it, have no where to put it so it becomes clutter, or both. Other people spend a fortune chasing trends and then feel bad when they can’t keep up. Cigarettes and alcohol are a whole other world of paying to feel bad. There are a lot of ways that spending can make you feel bad, and not all of them are immediately obvious.
What the cable experiment has taught me is that feeling bad from spending on certain things can sneak up on you. When we had cable before, I didn’t fully realize the effect it had on my mood. It was just the status quo. But when we got rid of it, I felt better even if I couldn’t exactly put my finger on why. Now that it’s back, I realize exactly why it makes me feel bad and I know it needs to go. Had I not gotten rid of it in the first place and seen what life was like on the other side, I’d still be accepting my bad feelings as normal. It’s the same with bad food. When I was addicted to soda, the caffeine and sugar made me jittery and moody. I didn’t realize it until I got rid of it. Now if I do have a soda, say at a party, I can feel the effect immediately and I’m reminded of how much better I feel without it. All those years I felt bad and didn’t realize it, or realize why.
Sometimes you have to pay for things that make you feel bad. A trip to the doctor is no one’s thrill (particularly when shots and tests are involved), but you have to do it, for example. In general, though, you don’t want to spend money on things that make you feel bad. It’s a waste of money, even if it seems like a good idea at the time. Why would you want to pay to feel bad? There are going to be a lot of things in life that are going to make you feel bad for free and without your input or control. Why pay to make yourself feel even worse?
Take some time and think about the things you spend money on in your life. Honestly evaluate how it makes you feel. If you’re not sure or if you suspect it makes you feel bad, try eliminating that thing for a little while and then gauging the effect on your feelings when you add it back in. You might find that things you thought were fun have really been making you feel bad and you might decide to stop spending money on them and instead start spending your money on things that make you feel better.