06/01/2015 09:55 GMT | Updated 08/03/2015 05:59 GMT

This Is How to Halt Instant Gratification

Raise your hand if you regularly use a work phone, personal phone, tablet, laptop, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... let's leave it at that; you're probably already a 'sufferer' of Instant Gratification.

Instant Gratification is a condition of the digital world. It began, as bi-products of using brand new tools often do, as a positive thing. Picture the scene...

You're having a discussion with your friends about modern inventions. There's a dispute over who was responsible for the inception of the flushing toilet. Surely everyone knows, says one friend, that Thomas Crapper was the man - that's where the word 'crap' comes from. Then you have a brainwave. I know how to settle this, you say. For the very first time, you type the question into an internet ready device and the answer comes back:

Contrary to widespread misconceptions, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. He did, however, do much to increase the popularity of the toilet...

Brilliant, dispute solved!

As time has gone on, however, we have become more reliant on our devices to give us the answers we're looking for, until now we find ourselves entirely uncomfortable with the unknown.

Nearly 1 in 5 British people feel anxious a lot or all the time and two thirds of these people experience it on a daily basis. In the same YouGov survey conducted last year, it was found that it is the young that are more likely to feel anxious a lot or all the time.

No surprises there.

Imagine - and some of you won't have to imagine - how you might feel if you're embedded in a world of Instant Gratification, and yet there's so much about which you're uncertain.

We're not accustomed to feeling unsure, or in the dark.

Google will provide an answer to pretty much anything, but I'm afraid there are some things that Google just can't help us with. Google can't tell you what you should be doing with your life, or reassure you that you made the right decision yesterday. So, in our fragile, digitally reliant states, we worry. And more and more of us are worrying more of the time.

So, what can we do? Perhaps we can take a mindful minute.


Mindfulness has been around for thousands of years and is the practice of "present-focussed awareness". Increasingly though, it is known as an effective tool for easing psychological stresses and is taught in leading institutions like Parliament and the Home Office, as well as being recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as a frontline treatment for stress and depression.

For the next nine months, I am on sabbatical. Having come across mindfulness a few months ago, I'm going to use this time to explore it fully.

I'll be working in a Mindfulness Recovery Centre abroad and, whether it be whilst travelling, in the practice of yoga, mindful breathing, meditation, mindful observation of nature or of architectural beauty, I will be taking a moment every single day to notice what is happening in the present, and be aware of my thoughts and feelings as just that: thoughts and feelings. They come and they go.

Anxiety and stress are all too common. Without being down on technology, I'm opening my eyes to the part it's playing in this and the possibility that there's a gap in the education of those that are embedded in, or growing up in, the digital world as to the healthy way to approach it. So I'll be sharing with you how I get on in these next nine months. It's not intended to be a complete digital detox. Think of it more as a crash course in mental health and safety.

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