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The 1-Second Switch That's Made My Mornings So Much More Peaceful

Katina Bajaj
April 16, 2019
Katina Bajaj
Master's in Clinical Psychology
By Katina Bajaj
Master's in Clinical Psychology
Katina is the co-founder of Daydreamers, a clinical psychologist researcher and expert on creative flow. She is a published well-being author and has been featured in Fast Company, Teen Vogue + others.
Image by Leah Flores / Stocksy
April 16, 2019

Think back to the last time you were on an airplane. The stewardess likely came over the loudspeaker and told all passengers to turn electronic devices on airplane mode.

Airplane mode is a setting on most modern phones or tablets that automatically removes any wireless signal. Think of it as a blockade around your phone—it’s still on, but you could rightfully consider yourself offline. That means no EMF signals, emails, or blaring red notifications can make their way to you.

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Most people only utilize this feature during long bouts of travel, but I’ve been turning my phone on airplane mode every evening before I go to sleep and keep it on throughout my entire morning.

Yes, I’m not receiving any unnecessary disturbances. But more importantly, I’ve been finding the importance of airplane mode is much more symbolic than that, especially in the morning.

The problem with a digitally connected morning.

Take a moment to pause and reflect on your morning routine.

Even the most mindful wellness practitioners can find themselves scrolling through their phone the moment the alarm goes off and unconsciously checking their emails with their head still on the pillow. We feel work stress before our morning coffee and know more about our great aunt’s morning through her Facebook rant than we know about how our partner lying in bed next to us is feeling.

Over 60 percent of people say they scroll through their phones within five minutes of waking up, and that number jumps to nearly 90 percent within 30 minutes of starting your day.

Our mornings, especially the first hour or so after we wake up, are critical in setting the tone for the rest of the day. And if we spend it checking our phones, we end up reacting to what we’ve missed instead of being proactive about what’s to come.

Why you should start your day on airplane mode.

As a writer and wellness influencer, I thrive in creative environments. But I found my days were often a jumble of disparate activities—starting from the moment I wake up and browse through my phone. The problem is, even though I may want to, I could never completely abandon my digital devices since they are so connected to my career. But when I started to realize the impact it was having on my overall happiness, productivity, and well-being, I knew I had to find a solution. So I began to implement the most peaceful morning ritual I could imagine: starting my day in airplane mode.

I’ve found this one-second change has had a profound impact on my life in many ways:

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1. Airplane mode creates more creative space.

Beyond just avoiding distractions in the morning, airplane mode allows me to stay in that dreamlike, calm, creative state for longer than I would if I were interrupted by an Instagram message.

Mornings are often inherently our most creative and relaxed time of the day. According to scientific research, our analytical parts of the brain “sleep” much longer than our prefrontal cortex—the part that makes connections and fires up the creative process. So, it’s important to allow our bodies and minds to leverage our natural daily cycles without distraction.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a creative, one of my favorite practices for harnessing morning creativity is stream-of-consciousness writing. One version of the practice I particularly like is Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages activity, which is just about putting down anything that comes through your mind on paper and filling up three full pages. It’s a short, simple practice that you can do for a couple of moments each morning no matter your level of writing abilities.

Creativity is a basic human craving that most of us don’t get to engage in, especially when we spend hours staring at a computer screen or answering emails until nighttime. Incorporating creative habits into our everyday can actually have a deep impact on our ability to think more clearly, more deeply, and more imaginatively. 

2. It also helps you create space for mindfulness.

When you wake up without distractions, you can seamlessly enter a mindful practice and ground yourself for the day ahead. For me that practice looks different each day, though it’s really important for me to incorporate some version of mindfulness to move about my day more clearly. Typically I start with a short meditation and visualization exercise, then do some EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) tapping, and spend time reflecting on my moments of gratitude.

Regardless of what your practice looks like, any form of mindfulness and meditation in the morning sets up your day for success. It’s scientifically proven to help you develop deeper levels of focus, productivity, and perspective as you move throughout your busy day.

Even if your airplane mode session can’t be first thing in the morning, setting aside a designated 30 minutes during some point of your day—during your lunch break, after work, or just before bed—can still allow for a profoundly mindful pause in the flow of your day.

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3. Every moment on airplane mode is a moment in service of our health.

It’s worth stating the obvious: our addiction to our digital devices comes with some serious mental and even physical health repercussions. We know tech usage is connected to higher levels of stress and anxiety, more risk of depression, attention problems, and fatigue.

There’s also the question of EMF radiation, which is emitted from every cell phone when connected to wifi or cell phone towers, and which many studies suggest could potentially be harmful to our bodies. Some research has shown exposure to this tech radiation over long periods of time can lead to tumors in rats and fertility problems in us humans, among other potential risks. The research is still ongoing, but it’s worth giving a second thought to how often your phone is lying on your stomach, chest, or next to your head as you sleep. That's another big plus of the overnight-through-morning-routine airplane mode strategy: your phone can be far away from you for a solid eight to ten hours.

That means spending a few moments away from technology is not only important for our mental well-being—it might also lead to better physical health down the road.

4. Airplane mode leaves you in a cabin with your travel buddies with nothing else to do but connect.

That's what happens when you're on an actual airplane, anyway. And the truth is, going on airplane mode anywhere else can create much the same experience: it allows for moments of pure connection IRL.

Life is made up of small, beautiful moments that often go unnoticed. When we start our mornings heading straight into our productivity zone, we often lose that magic of pure human connection. In our world today, over a third of Americans say they feel lonely at least once a week and that they have only one close friend. When we’re running on the hamster wheel, we usually forget—or don’t believe we have time—to connect with other people in a meaningful way. But as social creatures, engaging in deep regular connection allows us to get outside of our busyness bubble and put things in perspective.

So, have that cup of coffee with a loved one. Ask your child or roommate what they’re excited about. Connect—for real—with someone you care about in a deep, meaningful way.

There are many things that can light you up without a blue light behind it. Let’s try to find more of those.

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Katina Bajaj author page.
Katina Bajaj
Master's in Clinical Psychology

Katina Bajaj is the co-founder and Chief Well-being Officer of Daydreamers. After getting off the burnout cycle, she became fascinated by the power of creativity to improve our overall well-being. Katina is a published well-being author (Simon & Schuster), a certified coach meditation teacher, and has a Master's in Clinical Psychology from Columbia's Mind-Body Institute. Her work on creative well-being has been featured in publications like Teen Vogue and Fast Company, and she has amassed a following of nearly 100k globally.