I was at a party the other night and I was listening to a group of people on the couch who were discussing the latest episodes of their favorite TV series. One lady was describing how she spent a full day catching up on last seasons’ drama so she could start watching this seasons drama. I wasn’t too interested in the conversation and didn’t have much to contribute so I left. About an hour later I came back to the same room and the group was still there and still talking about TV shows.
This must be their favorite way of checking out from life.
Think about it. When you are in front of the TV watching someone else’s drama unfold, you’re not really thinking about your own dramas, are you? It’s a way of escaping the stress of our lives. We don’t have to think about our mounting responsibilities when we are watching someone else unsuccessfully deal with their own. And for some people, it’s a daily indulgence.
How else can you check out from life? What about food? Do you know anyone who checks out from life with a triple-chocolate milk shake? Or maybe a colossal cheese burger and a bucket of fries? Our food has become our medication and not the kind that makes us healthy but the kind that makes us numb. We use food as an anti-depressant or an anti-anxiety pill instead of using it to nourish ourselves. Again, we spoil our senses with a distraction to keep us from having to deal with our less exciting and uplifting lives.
Maybe this is sounding familiar to you. Maybe this is sounding like another way we check out from life’s little hardships. What about alcohol? What about drugs? As long as we’ve been alive we’ve been experimenting with ways of altering our state of minds with these devices. It’s just another way for us to escape from our problems. And along with TV and food, these become addictions that our minds prefer to our own existence.
So how can you check back in? How can you stop the indulgence of escaping your responsibilities with these pastimes? How can you live your life instead of trying to hide from it?
- Self-Discipline – get focused on what you are consciously and unconsciously doing to check out. Take steps to turn off the TV, remove the food, or take away the alcohol or drugs from your environment. Consistently do this even if sometimes you fail. Your brain likes repetition so the more you take action to stop, the more it learns to stop.
- Check-in – find something you can check back in to. What hobby do you want to take up? What have you been putting off that you could just get done? What can you finish, start or take the next step on?
- Combine checking out with checking in – do you really not want to give up your TV or your milk shake? How about combining the indulgence with a task? For example, when I watch TV, the rule is that I do the ironing as well. No ironing to do? No TV. Those are the rules. I can sit and watch back to back episodes of my favorite show as long as I’m doing the laundry at the same time. What can you combine so that you aren’t completely letting go of the stuff that needs to get done?
The choice is really up to you. You can be that person at the party who talks about their favorite TV shows or you can be the person that talks about how they re-modeled the kitchen, volunteered at the hospice, wrote a book, learned how to speak Mandarin, and is getting another degree.