Written by: Jeffery Craig
When I was a kid, I remember spending my afternoons getting out and making use of my time. You would often find me riding my bike around the neighborhood, playing games with my friends in the front yard, or going to baseball practice. No matter how little free time I had, I was always productive.
Nowadays, more and more of us spend time indoors doing absolutely nothing. It is not uncommon to hear one of my friends talk about binge watching a television show. Topics of conversation typically center around what happened on the last episode of The Walking Dead or who is going to die next on Game of Thrones. Netflix has become a common term in our everyday vocabulary. And with this crazy cultural obsession of watching television for hours on end has come a significant consequence. We have started to become lazy, unproductive, unmotivated, couch potatoes.
Now don’t get me wrong, it is important to relax daily. Burnout is a serious issue in our society and there are some actual health benefits to “vegging out” every now and then.
But perhaps we need to take a closer look at our relaxation behaviors. Maybe what we believe is relaxing us to increase our productivity is actually hurting us. And could it be possible that we try to convince ourselves that we are relaxing when in actuality we are just avoiding getting things done?
First, lets look at the science.
Many people believe watching television is a great way to relax after a stressful day. Although it does feel great to sit down on the couch and shut off the insanity that is going on in our brains, this is not a good form of relaxation.
Us humans need to rest our brains. It can get overwhelming if we focus on a task or tasks too long. Our brains function on two different frequencies: alpha waves and beta waves. When we are relaxed and at peace, our mind produces alpha waves. These alpha waves allow us shut off external information and process the old information we have taken in throughout the day. This allows us to store important information and free up room in our mind for new information. Beta waves focus on taking new information. Beta waves are active when we are focused on a task or receiving external information.
One would think that watching TV would shut down the beta waves and allow our mind to relax, but it doesn’t. Although the neocortex, the part of our brain that focuses on analysis and reasoning shuts down, the visual cortex is still running at full force. Because of this, our beta waves are stuck in a limbo and we cannot achieve true relaxation.
Another main cause of lazy behavior is lack of motivation or fear of failure. Many of us have the energy to get shit done, but instead we choose to waste our time in front of the tube. This is because we either are unmotivated or we are afraid of the tasks at hand. A lack of motivation typically stems from ineffective subconscious thought patterns. We put an immense amount of pressure on ourselves, we fail to break our tasks into manageable pieces, and we focus on tasks that are unpleasant. As the cycle repeats, so does our lack of motivation.
It can also be caused by an attachment to our own self deprecation. Believe it or not, we sometimes lack motivation because we are comfortable with sucking at life. Yup! I said it! We are comfortable with sucking at life. It’s easy to suck. We don’t have to try hard and we don’t have to take risks, so we convince ourselves it’s what we want. Being productive is unfamiliar territory, so we avoid it at all costs and slip back into our comfort zone.
Our lack of motivation could also be influenced by a fear of failure. Many of us want to achieve great things in life. We see what others have accomplished and we want that for ourselves. But when the time comes for us to take action, we run back inside and grab the remote. A fear of failure can be detrimental to our personal happiness and overall well-being. We tell ourselves that our dreams are too big, that we aren’t worthy, or that we have too much going on right now to deal with it. It is these negative self-talk patterns that hold us back from doing what makes us feel most alive.
Finally, we as a society have unconsciously placed television at the top of our priorities. According to Nielson Media Ratings Company, adults spend more than 20 hours a week watching television. In fact, the average American watches more than five hours of television a day!
Now let’s think about this for a second. If we have five hours of time to watch TV, what else could we be doing? The time we spend on tasks throughout the day is a reflection of how important it is to us.
If you met someone who spends three hours a day working out, it would be safe to say that fitness is at the top of their priorities list. If you met someone who said that they spend two hours a day studying, one would assume that they place a strong focus on their education. Well, if you are spending five hours a day keeping up with the Kardashians, you are making television a top priority in your life.
So now that we all know the problems that cause the laziness, how do we fix it? Most of you reading this are probably expecting to see some tips on how to be more productive with your time. There are already numerous articles online that give tips on productivity, but that is not the answer here. This issue is about motivation and relaxation. We are here to heal the disease, NOT the symptoms.
If we want to make better use of our time, we must first allow ourselves the chance to relax our minds to re-energize. Then, we need to motivate ourselves to get off our asses and do something about it.
Below are some tips on how to overcome the inner couch potato and become a more highly motivated and highly productive version of you.
Get Out: Take a walk. Spend some time alone in nature. Take in your actual surroundings instead of an image projected on a screen. Studies have shown that exposure to natural sunlight provides us with Vitamin D, which can actually positively impact our mood and decrease symptoms of seasonal affect disorder. It has also been proven to reduce anxiety and stress.
Meditation: Meditation is a natural cure-all for the mind. Meditation silences our mind, allowing alpha waves to do their thing. Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Through meditation, we learn to relax in the truest sense of the word, focusing solely on our breath and nothing else.
Sleep: It appears that more recently, people have been neglecting this extremely important behavior in their daily lives. Sleep is necessary for us to allow our mind to process the information from the day. This is why we dream. When we don’t get enough sleep, we are exhausted, weak, and anxious. When we do get a good night’s sleep, we are energized, refreshed, and calm throughout or day.
Nourish Your Body: Taking care of our body is an essential part of nourishing our mind. When we take care of ourselves physically, our mind functions more efficiently and requires less effort to accomplish certain tasks. By eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, and getting regular checkups, we can ensure that our body is running as efficiently as possible so it can help the mind.
Vision Board: This may sound like some cheesy self-help advice, but vision boards have proven to be extremely effective. They are great tools in holding us accountable of our goals and desires. They are constant reminders that we cannot get what we want in our lives by sitting on our ass. If you’re unaware of what a vision board is, basically you get a large piece of poster board and paste images of things you want in your life. Perhaps it is six pack abs or that car you’ve always dreamed of having; or maybe you want to see the Eiffel Tower, whatever it may be, it goes on the board and you put it up somewhere that you will see it every day. This will be a constant reminder of your life goals and will help get you moving forward.
One Step at A Time: If we focus on one small task at a time, our goals are more easily achieved. We cannot focus on the result and expect to reach it immediately. Small successes build over time and lead us to our final result. Studies have shown that if we break one big goal up into smaller manageable tasks, we will become more motivated to achieve them. Take your goals and break them into small achievable pieces. Chip away at the big block every day until you eventually reach the center. No one achieves success overnight. Every new page we write in our story adds up to create an epic novel.
Get Inspired: There is a reason Tony Robbins is a millionaire. People love to be inspired. Inspiration fosters motivation. When are inspired, we begin to believe that our dreams are reachable and we are worthy of achieving them. When we are inspired, our self-esteem increases. Watch an inspiring movie, listen to inspiring music, do whatever gets your blood pumping and the motivation will find you.
Try New Things: One of the reasons we lack motivation is because everyday we relive the same old boring routine. We wake up, get dressed, go to work, come home, eat dinner and go to sleep. We visit the same bars, the same restaurants, we visit the same spots day in and day out without any deviation from our normal routine. Trying new things is great way to get ourselves out of a rut. It exposes us to new interests, new experiences, and new people. It opens our minds to new ideas and adds depth to our overall worldview. Try out a new restaurant, begin practicing an interesting skill you’d like to learn, travel to a place you’ve never been. These experiences will open your eyes and motivate change in your life.
Get Uncomfortable: There is a great quote by Neale Donald Walsch that states “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” You see, when we live a life of safety, we miss out on some of the most exciting things the world has to offer. When we challenge ourselves and give ourselves permission to experience discomfort, the world opens up to us. It’s never easy, but when we push ourselves to step out of the bubble we have lived in, we experience personal growth. We evolve as humans. If there is something you have been afraid to do because you feared failure, go for it. Allow yourself to feel the pressure. It’s good for you and may just lead you on a path of greatness.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying an episode of your favorite show every now and then. But if you find that you’re using the terms “binge watch” and “Netflix” on the daily yet you have failed to accomplish any of your goals, it might be time to reevaluate things. We all feel unmotivated at times. That is just one of many ebbs and flows in our lives. However, if we want to do great things with our lives, we must be willing to turn off the TV and go do something about it. We all love watching a great story of adventure unfold. Why not make one of our own?