The surprising happiness-boosting benefits of keeping your eyes open

My Dad’s mother had an unusual way of describing her TV viewing behaviour, which she described as ‘looking in’ – as in ‘I looked in at Dixon of Dock Green last night’.

Since this seemed an odd turn of phrase, I thought I’d better check to make sure I wasn’t imagining it, and found just a handful of entries (but see below) in Google for “looked in at television”, one of which referred to a speech made in the UK House of Lords in 1954 by Earl De La Warr.


Apparently he’d been ill and had spent a week ‘looking in’ every day, only to discover a surfeit of crime plays.

No change there then.

Today we’re more likely to say we ‘watch’ TV, of course, but I wonder how accurately this describes our behaviour? The dictionary suggests that the word ‘watch’ means ‘to keep under attentive view or observation’, yet when the box is on all evening, I’m sure our degree of attention is not necessarily undiluted.

I wonder how you might describe the use of the sense of sight when the average person goes about their everyday life?

Would you say they ‘look’ at the world?

Do they ‘see’ it?

One thing that’s clear is that we’d rarely apply the word ‘watch’ to it, unless of course they happen to be sitting at a cafe table watching it go by.

On a low mood day, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own thoughts, which doesn’t always help.

That’s when it can be really helpful to take notice of the world around you.

It seems that when we do this, we give ourselves a break from our inner rumination.

So as the day progresses, rather than simply looking and seeing, why not try and purposefully watch?

Not in the same way that you ‘look in’ at TV, but in a more observational, questioning way.

Watch the world as if for the first time.

As for that apparently rare phrase “looked in at television”, there should soon be one more entry for it, if Google does its job of finding today’s piece of writing.

I’m sure my Gran would have been tickled pink to have been associated with the venerable Earl De La Warr.

And vice versa, possibly.

3 thoughts on “The surprising happiness-boosting benefits of keeping your eyes open

  1. Hi Jon, this is fascinating, the phrase ‘looking in’. In my childhood in Sheffield, the – as i thought then ‘elderly’ neighbours (aged 50 something!) used to talk about ‘looking in’. My theory is that it was very common in those still early days of TV (this would be the early 60s) but among working class people who probably weren’t recorded in a fom Google can now pick up. so the Earl of Warr, but not your Gran, or my next door neighbours, Mr and Mrs Kirton (who remained Mr and Mrs for the res of their lives, to me). Bear in mind this assumes that your Gran was working class and you’re roughly the same age as me – but a bit younger… Thanks, as ever.

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