Early on we are taught about the importance of focusing our attention. It was a drill sergeant, commando, fear driven approach. Of adults clapping their hands and stern displeased looks when our attention wanders. Threats and consequences were enforced to improve learning and productivity.
In this day, we have even more distractions that competes with our attention. We are constantly swept up to attend to devices that are so easily accessible we don’t even recognise it’s power to steal time from our relationships and responsibilities. We are encouraged to do and fit in more into our already crammed days.
Research clearly shows that multi-tasking reduces productivity and creates mistakes but it is constantly being praised in modern society. The brain is a sequential processor, focusing on one thing at a time. It is unable to pay attention to two things at the same time.
Stress, anxiety, frustrations, fear builds in our overwhelmed brains as we switch from one task to another. The stakes are higher when health and relationships are put at risk at the expense of overachieving and over functioning.
We need to strengthen our awareness skills so we can harness our capacity to be clear and calm. Then we can choose with meaningful intention what we attend to rather than being constantly enticed. We can cultivate this power which builds our resilience to respond to life challenges.
Try these ways of strengthening the brain’s attention “spotlight” in your daily routine:-
- Create an interruption-free zone during the day and turn off distractions such as electronic devices, social media, notifications to see if you get more done.
- Schedule 5-10 minutes of daily focused attention practice. It can be a breath practice or even as simple as focusing attention on making a cup of coffee, shower, music, nature, smells
- Download Apps that help with guided relaxation and Mindfulness such as Calm, Headspace or Smiling Mind
- Wandering is what the mind does. Recognise that you’ve become distracted and intentionally guide the mind back to its intended focus.
I wander whether a kinder approach to paying attention would have enhanced our learning through trigonometry than ruler slamming on the desk technique.
Wandering is what the mind does, no need to judge or be angry at the wandering. Recognise you’ve been distracted. You’re only human…
…and now please guide your attention back into algebra.