Changing Habits with Insight Timer
I have a confession to make. I’m a binge-watcher of Netflix. Well, until recently, I was a binge-watcher. Now, I guess you’d say I’m in recovery.
It started the summer I was supposed to be writing a book but instead was secretly binge-watching the entire series of Lost. From there I moved on to Shameless, Queer Eye, Outlander, The Girlfriends Guide to Divorce, and others I can’t think of right now. While I would joke about binge-watching with my girlfriends (I need to go to NA—Netflix Anonymous), none of them really knew the extent of my addiction.
Here’s how it would go…
I’d get up early, get my work done as quickly as possible, have an early dinner and settle into the couch for a good three hours (sometimes more) of the series du jour. I’ll admit it: I was ashamed of my behavior, but like any addict, I couldn’t stop. I rationalized. What else was I going to do in the evening? (read, go out with friends) It’s not like I’m gambling away the family fortune or buying hundreds of pairs of shoes. (true) Was my Netflix addiction really getting in the way of my life? (sort of). Was I willing to change? (maybe) Where could I get help? (I had no idea).
One day I decided to quit cold turkey. Instead of turning on Netflix, I picked up Becoming Michele Obama’s book and spent the evening on the couch reading, getting to know about this remarkable woman’s life. Since it was the weekend, I continued reading until I finished the book. I’ll give Michele Obama partial credit for my recovery.
I know you’re thinking…Oh, she just replaced binge-watching with binge-reading. Yes and no. I do read much more now—nonfiction mostly because I’m really into learning new things and making up for the time I lost on the couch.
But the real credit goes to my friend Jane who introduced me to Insight Timer, a meditation app, which I’ve grown to love. The app has been a life-changer—mostly because of the courses you can take (more on that in a bit).
Let me back up…
For the record, I’ve been meditating off and on ever since I read Autobiography of a Yogi in the late 80s and began following the methods taught by Self Realization Fellowship. The lessons would arrive weekly and I was a faithful devote except for the times life got in the way (kids, project deadlines, Netflix…). As recently as 2015 I attended a Vipassana 10-day silent meditation retreat. But then I fell off the wagon and Netflix filled my schedule.
Insight Timer has been a lifesaver. As the app implies, you can just set a timer for a specific duration, but you can also take 10 and 30 day courses from a variety of teachers on a myriad of topics related to becoming a more evolved human. And given the state of the world, this type of insight is not simply helpful, it’s necessary—especially if you’re a news junkie!
Jane got me started with a guided meditation she had been listening to, but I quickly discovered a course and a talk that provided insight and clarity on my binging. Hugh Byrne’s 10-day course, How to Change Unwanted Habits, explained, “how mindfulness is a key to habit change because it brings into awareness behaviors and thought patterns that have become unconscious and automatic.” And a 52-minute talk by Tara Brach, Healing Addiction: De-Conditioning the Hungry Ghosts, “examines the suffering that arises when due to unmet needs for love ad safety, our desire becomes narrowed and fixated on substitute gratifications.” Okay, I get it!
Insight Timer helps me sleep
The app also has an entire section devoted to helping people sleep. Last night I tried the 34-minute Peaceful Sleep Meditation. It must have been great because I fell asleep about 5 minutes into it and didn’t wake up until morning.
In addition to using the app at night to help me sleep, I also spend about 30 minutes in the morning listening to a daily course. I just finished, Manifest Your Ultimate Goals & Dreams by Kenneth Soares which “guides you on a journey to take control of your life and destiny” in 14 minutes a day. I just began “Knowing Your Soul’s True Purpose” by Kim Newing who has a fabulous Australian accent. Although I’m pretty sure I know what I’m on earth to do, why not gain additional insight?
It’s been 40 days (yes, it keeps track) since I began using the app and here’s what’s changed:
I’m sleeping through the night (a miracle at best). Not once have I been tempted to check out Netflix. I’m reading more, and best of all I’m doing more things that I love: writing every day, going out to the movies (once or twice a week), getting together with family and friends, and I’m meditating again. Every. Day!
Jan Fishler is an author, motivational speaker and writing coach. You can learn more about her at janfishler.net and dontstopnow.us.