Musings from Bahraini entrepreneur, design agency creative director and magazine editor, Wafa Alobaidat
It takes forever for me to fall asleep at the end of the day. My mind always seems to be going in 300 different directions and it hardly helps that I’ve replaced my bedtime reading ritual with mindless scrolling through my Twitter and Instagram feeds.
No matter how much I try I can't seem to switch off the noise in my head. There are always a million and one thoughts vying for my attention, each one spawning another until I feel like I’m a dog chasing its own tail – mentally at least. But then I noticed something. The first thing I see in the morning and the last thing I see at night is my smartphone.
Every day, I start and end my day with my trusty smartphone in my right hand. I became a tad worried when I woke up one day at 4:35 AM on a weekday only to find myself skimming through my Twitter feed. I just had to ask myself, how did I get here?
When examining the tools around me I realized that having two phones, an iPad (always charged and ready to go), a laptop with my Skype account always on, and my email always signed in, probably had something to do with it. My email inbox is constantly overflowing and on top of that I deal with calls and a buzzing office full of girls all day.
I also realized I was always charging some gadget; most of the time I have a charger stuffed in my handbag. To add to that, my bedroom floor is littered with wires, my radio is constantly blaring some annoying lyric of a pop song, the TV news is always switched on at the office, and my WhatsApp groups are chatting at all hours of the night. Sometimes I can even hear two competing TV boxes in my house.
The amount of noise we consume on a daily basis is incredible, but funnily enough we’re almost too distracted to notice. Its effect on my health and well-being is becoming more and more apparent. Some of the symptoms could include:
- Not being able to switch off or relax.
- Lack of sleep and erratic sleep patterns.
- Impatience and a short temper.
- Being in a constant state of panic, for no reason in particular.
- Attachment to one or more “smart” devices.
- Not being able to enjoy the moment – a disconnection from the experience.
- An obsession with documenting EVERYTHING.
- Always rushing around.
- A perpetually cluttered mind.
It has become evident now more than ever that when it comes to our generation it takes skill to separate the noise we consume on a daily basis. Learning to prioritize different noises over others and learning to choose certain noises at certain times is a great way to discipline oneself.
One of the best ways to slow down noise is to switch off gadgets during meals, or when you are at home, or whilst you're driving or travelling; especially during the time when you know you want to use it the most.
Switching off my gadgets gives me some control of the situation and allows me the choice of switching it back on again whenever I please.
Disciplining myself is the toughest part. Learning to drive in silence or have the TV off while I have a meal is also a skill one must maintain as this allows room for the mind to relax and focus on good old conversation as a method of communication.
The goal here is to control what we consume and use all this available information and technology when we please rather than have it raining on us day in day out diverting focus from our daily goals and distracting us from our own thoughts.
Meditation and prayer has also been suggested to me as a way to switch off, in addition to practicing breathing techniques that can slow down my pace and relax the brain so it can refuel. The techniques and methods are endless, but the goal remains the same: to switch off the noise.
What do you do to switch off the noise?
Wafa Alobaidat writes a bi-monthly column for Khaleejesque and muses on fashion, art, culture and culture shock in the Middle East. Wafa is also the editor of Sketchbook magazine and runs design and PR agency Obai and Hill.