Does TV Really Make You Happy? 3 Fun, TV-Free Activities

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Vegging in front of the TV is good for frittering away your time, but at what cost? Today, we challenge convention. Here are a few TV-free activities to try.


To each their own (a primer)

Happiness eludes and confounds us. For some, happiness means traveling the world or enjoying the beauty of nature. For others, it’s finishing a triathlon in record time. For those with a mental illness like depression, happiness is a daily struggle.

I’ve never been into the whole Law of Attraction and “positivity” movement. To me, it feels like shoveling manure over the truth. Being the science-prover that I am, I said: “Show me empirical evidence.”

A cool book (and stuff)

Recently, I’ve been challenging the concept of what makes me happy, and how I spend my free time at home. Right now, I’m knee-deep in a fascinating book (The Happiness Advantage) based on a happiness course developed at Harvard.

Here’s a quote from the author, Shawn Achor, that hit me where I live:

“Studies have found that American teenagers are two and a half times more likely to experience elevated enjoyment when engaged in a hobby than when watching TV. . . . And yet here’s the paradox: These same teenagers spend four times as many hours watching TV as they do engaging in sports or hobbies.”

Give me back my evening, TV

TV just ain’t doing it for me these days. I may not be a teenager anymore, but I can relate. (At least I still get carded.) And no, I’m not being paid to endorse this book. (But I’m happy to accept cash from anyone who’s willing.)

It’s so easy to flop down on the couch and just zone out. I get it. But what would be possible if we watched less TV? For some, that could mean one, two, or even three hours a day of extra time. How would you spend that time? You could learn to play an instrument or pick up a new language. You could take your kids to the park or write that novel you’ve been meaning to start. You could even throw a disco dance party. (Whatever tickles your fancy.)

3 fun-filled, TV-free activities

If you feel like TV is stealing away far too many evenings—with diminishing returns—then maybe it’s time for a change. Enjoyment is just one, small aspect of happiness, but it’s a start.

Here are a few TV-free activities that are bound to boost your enjoyment at home:

1. Host a karaoke night

karaoke machine and microphone

(image: Holmes Palacios)

Your neighbors might hate you for this (unless you invite them), but hosting a karaoke night is heaps of fun. Plus, after a drink or two, no one will notice your off-tune screeching. A karaoke machine could set you back anywhere from $40 to $500, depending on how fancy you get.

For a more budget-friendly option, you could find an app for that. I’ve heard Karaoke Anywhere isn’t bad. (Just plug your phone into your TV and choose from over 50,000 songs.) To me, that sounds more enjoyable than marathoning House by my lonesome.

2. A friendly game of bocce ball

bocce ball

(image: Jenny Poole)

With the weather heating up, now’s a great time to invest in a bocce ball set. You don’t need that much lawn space to pull it off. If you don’t have a backyard, you could gather up your friends and family, and head down to a local park. It’s a great way to get moving, socialize, and get some fresh air. Personally, I like playing bocce ball in the evening when it’s a bit cooler. (Don’t forget your bug spray!)

3. Throw a summertime potluck

picnic spread

Steaks. Potato salad. Bacon-wrapped shrimp. (Mmmmm.) Who doesn’t love a good ol’ summertime BBQ? Instead of lounging TV-side, invite some friends over for some old-fashioned fun. Catching up with friends on Facebook isn’t quite the same as a face-to-face hangout. So turn off the TV. Put away your phone. Throwing a get-together is a great way to reconnect with the people who bring joy to your life.

Over to you

If you didn’t watch TV, how would you spend your free time? This summer, I might cut my cable and see what happens. The experiment begins…

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Tanya Roberts

Tanya Roberts is a writer and marketer who loves to spin stories about interior design and home decor. She is principle strategist at