3 small recent changes that enhanced my life

Cassia Attard
4 min readJan 27, 2024


Over the last 3 months, I’ve made 3 very small changes that have made a material difference in my quality of life.

1. Changing my notification settings

Have you ever noticed how notifications impact you on a physiological level? I did a micro experiment where I paid deep attention to my body every time I heard or felt my phone buzz.

It was shocking. I found that every time my phone went off, I had a dramatic swelling sensation in my chest. My arms itched to move. The distraction of desire to touch my phone was unpenetrable by any other thought. I felt on edge. For every notification, the unsettling feeling lasted at least 30 seconds (or until I picked up my phone).

I get an average of 238 notifications per day (you see this on an iPhone under Settings → Screen Time → See All App & Website Activity). If I let the sensation swell for those 30 seconds, I would spend 119 minutes daily feeling on edge. 2 hours of my day, interrupted. Every day.

Most notifications are not worth the dramatic impact they have on your physical, emotional, and cognitive state.

Like most, I’ve played around with Do Not Disturb. But I can’t shake the worry of missing an important text or phone call if DND were to remain on 24/7.

The good news: iPhone notification settings are very personalizable.

I changed my settings to only receive text notifications from a select few people who regularly send me timely messages (ex. roommates), and calls. Nothing else.

It takes ~1 minute to set up a Personal Focus mode on an iPhone, and can bring back hours of productivity and undisturbed peacefulness to your day.

Happy with my bananas and a buzz-free lifestyle

2. 10-Minute Meditation

I’ve tried to get into meditation many times. I often commit for a few days, but fall off the habit. Twice, I’ve managed to hold onto the daily habit for over 1 month, and the results were tangible.

The benefits of meditation are only seen after continued practice. I can barely substantiate that claim, given I’ve only held the habit for a 60-day period. But even in that short time, I’ve noticed a change.

I can more easily put worries into perspective. I’m more focused. I can calm momentary panic with greater ease. I think I’m on a path to better understanding my thought processes, biases, and insecurities.

I use Waking Up. I’ve tried various meditation apps and found that Waking Up has a unique and effective way of teaching meditation. If you, like me, can’t afford the annual price, they offer a scholarship available upon request.

3. Dealing with the long-lasting ‘silly’ problem

I’ve had acne since I was 15. For those who have never had skin problems, acne may seem like a superficial non-issue. For those who’ve had it, you know what it can do to your self-esteem.

It is not fun to approach every social interaction worried about your skin. It’s anxiety-inducing to watch people’s eyes reflectively dart around your face instead of looking you in the eyes.

For 7 years, I scanned the internet for advice. It was all contradictory and ineffective.

Recently, I went back to a dermatologist (a strategy that failed me when I was 16, and I gave up on). It was a 6-minute appointment. They prescribed me a cream, and my skin cleared almost entirely in a month.

This experience reinforced that…

Instant access to information is often conflated with easy access to knowledge. This seems especially true of the internet-savvy generation. The ability to Google anything ≠ the ability quickly understand everything.

I often notice people (and myself) accept short and insufficient answers to complex questions. Real understanding can be achieved online. It’s faster and easier to acquire knowledge than ever before. But that doesn’t mean knowledge and true understanding come fast or easy.

It was nieve of me to give up on a dermatologist in favor of quick internet advice. No matter the quantity of information available, several hours of Googling cannot replace decades of study.

Healing my acne taught me:

  1. If it bothers and distracts you, it’s a problem. Solve it.
  2. If you’re not willing to spend immense effort on online learning, seek an expert on complex issues.
  3. “If there was a good solution, everyone would know about it” is not true. Some life-changing information, tools, and fixes aren’t on WebMD or WikiHow.

I’m not big into New Year's resolutions, but 2024 is off to a dynamic start. I hope your 2024 is filled with growth and joy 🤗

Thanks for reading 👋 You can find me on LinkedIn or Instagram.



Cassia Attard

Hey, I'm Cassia! I'm a 23 y/o Sustainability student at McGill. Previously, I've worked as a climate consultant and with various climate-tech projects :)