Saying No To Passive Entertainment


How do you make everything happen? There’s work, money, friends and family, exercise, nutrition, sleep. So much to do, so little time.

My advice would be to drastically cut passive entertainment.

This is when you undertake an activity with little physical and mental activity. This goes from TV, Netflix, Youtube, social media to video games and drugs etc.

My belief is that our relation with entertainment has been skewed in the past two centuries. People are taught to believe that they need to get rich quick so they can enjoy holidays, have free time, retire and do nothing. This is when they will be finally happy.

With experience, you discover this is a lie!

For example, France enjoys 35 hours work week yet has the highest rates of depression, with 32% of the population taking anti-depressants medication. You would believe every French person would be happy since they have the lowest work week in the world. Similarly, those who continue to be active after retirement report higher levels of satisfaction and happiness than those who choose to rest (1) (2). And those who play 2 hours of basketball also report higher levels of satisfaction than those who watch 2 hours of TV, lying on the couch. (3)

While everyone wants to lie down and enjoy passive entertainment, the reality is that it creates little to no happiness. The brain wants the easy way or emptiness, but the brain becomes unhappy when we haven’t achieved anything.

So what to do? How do you go past this paradox?

You can choose to pursue active entertainment. This means an activity that you enjoy, but requires mental activity and physical activity. Ideally, the activity also has mild stressful moments.

For instance, if you like visual arts, instead of watching movies, you could do photography. Walk around, interact with people or go on top of a mountain, take pictures, and study photography post-processing. There is a deep satisfaction when producing a printed photograph or having family friends congratulate you on a nice portrait.

If you like drama and criminal plots, instead of watching Netflix series, you could read crime books such as those by Agatha Christie. Even if it’s not a big challenge, reading requires more mental activity than watching TV, and provides definitively more satisfaction. And later, you could start a project of writing your own novel.

If you are used to watching music clips, instead of spending your Saturday afternoon browsing Youtube, you could learn how to sing or take a dancing class. A course provides a subtle mental and physical challenge and provides deep satisfaction, along with being involved in a community. Look around!

More examples include learning a new programming language, cooking, gardening, hiking, sculpture, painting, bakery courses, weight lifting, community volunteering etc. All these activities allow you to learn new skills, and provide a nice challenge. They also require a minimum of physical activity. Overall, they provide mental and physical balance. Remember, passive entertainment is also linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome, poor nutrition and many other diseases brought by modern society.

This does not mean you have to burn your TV. I have a TV to show pictures to family through Chromecast. I also use it to play music when cooking or cleaning up the house. And after a long 2 hours run, it’s definitively OK to watch your favorite TV series 🙂 All in moderation, kids!


  1. Robert O. Ray & Geraldine Heppe. Older Adult Happiness. Journal
    Physical & Occupational Therapy In Geriatrics Volume 4, 1986 – Issue 4
  2. Verena H. Menec. The Relation Between Everyday Activities and Successful Aging: A 6-Year Longitudinal Study. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci (2003) 58 (2): S74-S82.
  3. John P. Robinson, Steven Martin. What Do Happy People Do? S. Soc Indic Res (2008) 89: 565. doi:10.1007/s11205-008-9296-6

8 thoughts on “Saying No To Passive Entertainment”

  1. I think another issue here is the current climate we find ourselves in. Times are hard. A lot of new skills and activities require money and set times. TV is cheap, easy and always there 😐 Maybe you can suggest things to do for free? 🙂


    1. I agree. TV is cheap, easy and always there. But that’s why it’s so dangerous. We don’t get any satisfaction or happiness from watching TV. It’s just a short-term relief.

      If there’s no money, walking in a nearby forest is free and can be very satisfying. Thanks to youtube videos, you can also learn how to cook or learn yoga. That’s free.

      Again it’s all a matter of balance. As I wrote, I still have a TV. When I run a half-marathon, I’m so exhausted I cannot do anything. All the muscles hurt. So the only thing I can do is watch something on TV. And that’s ok. Otherwise it’s off.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is estimated that one third of all French take anti-depressants every year. That’s how bad it gets. I love France but the focus on leisure and free time is not good for them imho

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh I agree. I think it’s pretty individual too..some people are happy & fulfilled working 18 hour days while some would be happier with 5. I wonder if they’re depressed bc when they’re at work they are more social. And if they’re not at work as much they aren’t being as social which is an aspect to overall health. That’s my first thought


  2. Another excellent post, this blog is a true gem! I sometimes feel that passive entertainment can paralyze you in a slur of addictive nonsense. It is interesting that the two Chinese characters that make up the phrase “activity” basically means: If you want to live, you have to move.


    1. Thanks for pointing this out. Passive entertainment can be indeed addictive and destructive for our mental health. I wouldn’t be surprised to see studies on how passive entertainment has the same effects on our brains as drugs. Maybe the subject of another post.

      Glad you like the post !

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: