After a long and difficult eight-hour day at work, it’s now just you, your sofa and your television. For the next few hours, you can snack on chips, drink some pop and watch all of your favorite television shows until bedtime. It’s paradise for many couch potato enthusiasts and concrete jungle victims.
This may sound like heaven to millions of 9 to 5ers, but it’s actually the worst possible way to spend your off-hours. Although it’s perfectly reasonable and expected to unwind, sitting in front of the television set on your recliner can actually be the worst thing to do for your health, mind and career.
In July, a new study published in the Journal of Communication entitled the “Guilty Couch Potato Study” discovered that feelings of guilt over wasted time and procrastination can actually prevent individuals from getting an earned respite. Called ego-depletion, a feeling of being drained after work, deteriorates our self-control and prompts us to play video games, watch television or any other time wasters rather than actually accomplishing important tasks.
“You can think of self-control as a sort of a muscle, which is exerted every time you use willpower over the day,” said Leonard Reinecke, assistant professor at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz’s Department of Communication in Germany and lead author of the study, in an interview with the Washington Post. “When we come home from work, people tend to be in a state where it is difficult to control desires.”
This means that instead of wasting six hours in front of the boob tube, you should be doing more productive tasks, such as reading a book, organizing your home, updating your social media profiles and learning a new skill. Of course, it’s still important to wind down and watch an hour or two of your favorite show or motion picture because it allows your mind to recuperate for a little while.
In other words, the important term is moderation.
With that being said, here are five ways to stop being a couch potato after work and instead be productive, healthy and happy:
No, you don’t have to be Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson after work. However, even the mildest of exercises, like a walk or a stroll around the block, can be a perfect alternative to willowing away on the couch. If you have a dog then that’s even better because you can travel longer distances and play in the park, and perhaps interact with other dog owners. Anything that helps you get on your feet and moving.
Just because the chips you’re eating are low in fat doesn’t mean they’re healthy. If you want to sit in front of the television for an extended period of time then it’s likely you’ll want to snack on something, even if you’re not hungry. To circumvent this problem, munch on carrots, celery and nuts while drinking plenty of water. This is a lot better than imbibing chips, cookies and chocolate.
Yoga has become all the rage in the last couple of years. Although you don’t have to become a yogi, moderate stretches can help improve your health. A lot of Western workers sit in awkward positions that diminish their posture and tax their muscles. Stretching can heal your bones and joints and assist in your plight to relaxation, and a better posture, after work.
A non-digital evening
It has often been recommended that individuals should avoid computers, smartphones or television screens at least one hour before bed. Screens with blue light can hurt the quality of your sleep. Rather than entertaining yourself with a marathon of “Seinfeld” or all “Godfather” films, lie down in bed and read a book or do a crossword puzzle.
A (home) spa
After dinner, consider taking a shower or bath and create a spa-like ambiance. This could entail candle light, classical music and a glass of your favorite beverage. Your DIY spa can consist of a shave, applying cucumbers to your eyes and/or putting cream all over your body (this is especially important in the wintertime).
Life isn’t all about television. Remember, after staring at a screen all day at the office, you don’t want to stare at another screen in the evening. Although winter is coming and it’s a time that encourages you to transform into a hermit, you can still venture outside by wearing a couple of layers of clothing to make the trip a lot more bearable.