Media Fast – Changing Habits

Matt | Media fast | Friday, February 13th, 2009

On the first day of Spring Festival, Jan26th, I decided to go on a media fast, to not watch any movies or TV for seven days, and I can happily say that I made it.  Yes, I know this fast is a bit lame compared with a no-food fast, but I’m working my way up to a no-food fast.

After I finished the 7 day fast, I was surprised and a little shocked at how easy it was. So I decided to try and push on to see if I could keep it up for 30 days (I’m working on 30 day goals this year taken from my favourite Net sources TheSimpleDollar, ZenHabits and 4HourWorkWeek).  Unfortunately around day 14 I popped in a movie during lunch and broke the fast.  My girlfriend told me I was greedy going for 30 days (hah)  Now I am around Day 19 (if I were still counting) and I can say that I am on my way to changing this habit.

Now if I put in a movie it is either as a reward, for say finishing 30 minutes of work, or as a distraction while I’m doing something else like cleaning.  But I am consciously aware at the deal I am making and the risk that I’ll waste more time by splitting my focus on two tasks.  I figure this conscious awareness and mental negotiation are steps in the right direction.

To be honest, the most difficult time for me was Day 2.  After that, I actually did not want to waste time watching DVDs or TV.  I felt great having freed up at least 2-3 hours per day.  I also felt calmer and more relaxed.  It was nice to call friends and family back in Canada and catch up.  It was nice to pick up a book at 9pm and read for an hour or so and then go to bed, instead of putting in a movie and then not getting to bed until past midnight.  It was nice to find my more natural sleep patterns as I get sleepy around 10pm.  The biggest gain for me was to feel a lot more peaceful.

Besides the gut-wrenching pain of getting over the Day 2 hurdle, the next most difficult time for me is when I first get home after work.  As my usual habit was to turn on the TV or put in a movie to have some background noise (as I live alone).  But now I put on music and it works too.

If you want to try a nice fast, try not watching TV or Movies for a week and see the impact it has on your life.

If you want to try a very difficult but amazing experience, try a complete media fast by turning off all media sources – no TV, movies, Internet (ex emails), music, books and or newspapers.   I did this a few years ago and this was an amazing and terrifying experience.  This is a great one if you like writing in a journal or blogging because it gives you hours and hours of time to think.  It is difficult though.

If anyone has any thoughts on fasts, especially no food ones, I’d love to hear about them.

Good luck in any habits you are trying to change in 2009.  If you need any tips or suggestions those three websites I mentioned earlier are great starting points.

Fasting in Beijing

Matt | Media fast | Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Yesterday was the first day of the Year of the Ox, so I decided to try something during these days off work and to go on a fast.  I’ve done this before a couple of years ago, but I thought I’d try it again.  It’s now my second day of the fast and I feel uncomfortable.  My body is aching.  My head hurts.  Just the thought of going a whole week without…, is almost too much for my mind to bear.  It’s day 2 and I don’t know if I can make it.  Even after eating my breakfast, I’m now in my weakest state.  All I want to do is pop in a movie and relax the time away, but I can’t.

I’ve decided to go on a fast.

I’ve decided to not watch any TV or DVDs for 7 days.

I’ve decided to go on a media fast

Now, this may seem easy and/or ridiculous to most of you.  For me, living in China, this is a real challenge.  Not watching TV isn’t really the problem.  The issue for me are the DVDs.  Usually if I was bored I’d pop in a movie.  Or when I was eating food, I’d watch the end of “Batman” again.  But I’ve decided to do this, to not watch TV or movies for 7 days, and to see what happens.  As this is a good amount of time to be off from work, 5 days, and since my girlfriend is busy with her family during the holidays, I thought this would be a good time to quietly reflect on my life.  So I thought a media fast would be a good idea.

Day 1 Insights

I have more than enough time to do anything I want.

I remember at many times in my life so far I’ve complained that I just didn’t have enough time, “if only I had more time,”, “I wish, but I’m so busy…”, but in reality that’s a load of crap.  When I woke up on Jan 26, 2009 and didn’t turn on the TV and didn’t put a movie in, my apartment was silent and I was afraid.  I asked myself, “So what do I want to do today?” and I didn’t have an answer.

The silence was deafening.

I went outside to get some groceries to make a bean salad later in the day.  Fortunately, during the trip a friend called asking if I wanted to go out and tour the city.  And I went and had a great time. Turning off the TV gave me more time to do things outside with friends.

Also I called two friends and spoke to them for about an hour each.  That was nice.  I don’t call my friends as often as I’d like to.  So it was great to catch up.  Not wasting time with movies gave me more time to catch up with the exciting stories of my friends’ lives: both of whom are more interesting and more odd than any character in a movie.

So day 1 was a great day.

Day 2 Insights

It’s amazing how uncomfortable I feel. I really am craving to turn on the television and to hear some noise coming out of the “boob tube”.  I truly am addicted to watching TV.  I have developed a bad habit of turning on the TV or putting in a movie when I eat.  So eating in silence or while reading a book is awkward.  I wonder how long it will take to get over this feeling of discomfort.

Like I said before I have done this previously and it was quite difficult.  That time I decided to do a stronger fast by not taking in any outside influences – no TV, no movies, no reading, no Internet (except emailing) – and that was tough.  It was a great feeling though after the week.  So we’ll see if I can do it again.

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