What I learned from giving up alcohol and Netflix.

I just finished binge-watching the Netflix series “Marvel’s Luke Cage” while also sipping some wine. It was satisfying in a numbing kind of way. At the same time, I also had a sense of dissatisfaction — overall, sort of a blah feeling.

The following morning, I woke up without feeling rested and with a slight headache. Feeling bloated, I got on the scale. I had gained three pounds. This led me to summarily wonder if that extra glass of wine was really all that satisfying? It was not!

I’m guessing I’m not alone in these two experiences. For me, neither one of these activities was raising my quality of life. In fact, they were a distraction. So over two four-week periods, I gave them up. What I discovered was lovely.

It’s not uncommon for me to have a social or business activity most evenings. Of course, cocktails are generally flowing. Here is what I noticed giving up alcohol for a month. Initially, I felt like I was depriving myself of a reward, a way to relax and have fun. At the same time, I noticed that I felt more engaged and clear in my conversations. My brain was sharp. I quickly noticed that I slept more soundly. Additionally, when I woke up, I wasn’t distracted with thoughts of, “Dang it, I just drank a bunch of extra calories.”

As the month went on, I started to enjoy the lack of distractions. It became a winnable game. I wasn’t grazing while sipping. Things didn’t worry me as easily. I just felt better. And I noticed I had a renewed vibrancy.

Next, off to the movies. I asked myself, “What else is distracting me from my life? Something that is also out of balance.” The answer emerged: It was checking out at the end of the day on Netflix.

It’s crazy, because there is a part of watching programs that’s comforting to me — simply being entertained. Without Netflix as a default in the evening, I wondered around a bit. Once I got present, the evenings seemed enjoyably longer. I went for walks at dusk with the dogs. I finished a book. By the end of the four weeks, I had gotten ahead of my household chores, and my home was in order. I experienced a sense of satisfaction.

Many of the clients I work with initially think they need to make big changes to positively affect their lives. What I have come to know is that it’s the little things, the things that have crept into our lives and distracted us from living fully in the moment, that have an impact.

I invite you to take an inventory. List the possible diversions that may be distracting you from being present. Maybe it’s Pinterest, a video game, shopping, or eating ice cream. Pick one. Release it. Let it go for a period of time. After that, be curious about what shows up, notice, and make shifts as required. Life is a game to be played — play it to win!

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