January 3, 2019

Do Not Disturb

Modern mindfulness tips for connected life

Ever found yourself eagerly awaiting a message?

Your phone makes a *ding* that pierces your eardrums with more discomfort than a Clean Bandit track. Your heart races. You awkwardly sprint to your phone, only to find a notification for a game you played once 4 months ago.

This reaction is a conditioned response.

With this fairly exaggerated example in mind, it's no wonder that we're finding ourselves more glued to our devices. In 2018, the average Briton spent 24 hours a week online and checked their phone every 12 minutes (Ofcom).

Phone addiction is on the rise, and so are the mental health risks.

Regaining Control

"Mindfulness" is the ancient concept of focusing awareness on the present moment through meditation. A concept still used today in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to treat depression and anxiety; a process I experienced first-hand in early 2018.

With anxiety featured in my repertoire of skills, it's important that I focus on what I can control in the present rather than ruminate on the things I can't. This gets particularly difficult when spending long hours online for work, entertainment and social connection. How can I be more mindful of my device usage?

Life should be complemented by our devices, not revolve around them.

1. Declutter Your Notifications

Ask yourself: Do I really need a notification for this?

It's lovely you've got a "like" or "comment" but do you really need to be notified? Don't hoard, filter out the unnecessary. The same goes for app "badges" or notification counts.

Consider setting up your device to allow only notifications for reminders or direct forms of interpersonal communication:

Allow 🔔Hide 🔕
iMessageGroup chat
WhatsAppRecommended posts
Direct MessagesTrending posts
AlarmsEmail newsletters
Brexit News

2. Take a Breather

Be selfish and take full control of your time to focus on the present. Try out the following for an hour or two:

Do Not Disturb

Make the most of your device's "Do Not Disturb" mode (iOS/Android) to mute all notifications excluding alarms.

If someone really needs to get through to you urgently, they can always bypass the setting by calling twice (or if specified as an exempt contact).

Feeling the benefits? Keep it going and try for longer periods of time.

Airplane Mode

If "Do Not Disturb" mode isn't enough and you need a little more head space for a short burst of time, try going AWOL and switch on Airplane mode. Don't do this without first alerting those close to you.

Alternatively, travel on a CrossCountry train service for the full no-signal experience.

3. Release Your Thoughts

No matter how big or small you think your problem is, don't keep it in your head.


Grab a pen and paper or fire up your "Notes" app and unbottle your thoughts in writing. This can often alleviate rumination and clear an overloaded mind.

Not sure what to write? Here are some ideas:

  • Is it a personal matter? Write a letter to yourself.

  • Is it about someone or something? Write a letter to them.

    (but for the love of all things holy, don't actually send it)


Meet (if not, call) a friend, family member or colleague who you know is a good listener. A good listener won't interject with criticism or judgement.

Be prepared to listen too, you're not alone.

Other support