Everything around you exists due to a process that takes place in your mind – attention. You don’t even realize how important it is in your life, until you start, obviously, paying attention to it.
The things you are paying attention to are the things you will remember in the future and the things that have the power to affect you. Essentially, your focus determines your personal reality.
In the digital era, maintaining focus has become a challenging task for almost everyone. From making our lives easier, gadgets went quickly to ruining our vision, attention span, cognitive skills and self-regulation ability.
Our smartphone and Internet addiction brought us to a significant decrease of the attention span. Today, the average attention span is estimated to be only 8 seconds, compared to 20 seconds in 2000. It’s quite disappointing taking into account that attention determines the state of our lives.
How attention affects the quality of our lives?
Being able to focus on something means channeling your energy and resources in that direction. If you can’t stay focused for a decent amount of time, you miss the opportunity to invest your best resources and therefore, you miss the opportunity to receive something valuable from that investment.
By paying attention you absorb specific patterns that lately become a part of your automatic mind, which is why the things you focus on can tell a lot about who you are as a person.
Your focus allows you to stay connected to tasks and relationships that matter to you. It also makes it possible to create memories and manifest your full potential.
From a neuroscientific point of view, whatever you concentrate on wires your neuronal pathways or creates new ones. The experiences you pay attention to are always recorded by your brain and end up guiding your later actions and thoughts.
Why is it so hard for us to pay attention?
Attention is a powerful tool. The only problem is that nobody taught us how to use it. What’s worse, almost everything in our lives is sabotaging our ability to stay focused and present.
Instead of practicing concentration, we allow ourselves to get easily distracted by nearly everything. We don’t even pay attention to the mind’s tendency to constantly shift from one thing to another. It has become normal to be absent-minded.
We’ve lost our ability to stay focused not only because of modern distractions, but because of our attitude as well. The persistent illusion of not having enough time leads us to start multitasking.
You may believe that you are good at executing multiple tasks at the same time, but your brain is not. It simply wasn’t designed to focus on more than one thing at a time. Multitasking increases errors and consumes more brain energy than is actually needed for those tasks.
An unhealthy lifestyle is also a significant factor that obstructs our ability to stay focused. Lack of physical and mental activity, poor sleep, stress, smoking and an inadequate diet, all contribute to attention span decrease and poor concentration skills.
If attention is such an important skill that can improve or worsen the quality of your life, then why not try and train it so it can work in your favor?
1. Practice Mindfulness
Despite the fact that mindfulness became another lifestyle trend, it really works. Studies show that even a brief 10-min guided mindfulness meditation can improve concentration. There are no strict rules for practicing mindfulness. The only thing you should take care of is to bring back your attention to the object of your attention when your mind starts to wander.
You can find tons of mindfulness exercises on the internet and practice them whenever you feel like it. Don’t expect to see incredible effects after one session of mindfulness meditation. Like any other skills, concentration requires practice and time.
You can try practicing mindfulness throughout your day by reminding yourself to be completely focused on what you are doing. Allow yourself to become absorbed by the present activity. You can even set an alarm that will remind you throughout the day to stop and observe what is happening around you.
2. Train your brain
Brain training exercises have a big impact on your attention and other cognitive skills. Treat your brain like a muscle and exercise it in order to give it strength. Crossword puzzles, memory games, sudoku, learning a new language or building your vocabulary are some activities that keep your brain fit.
You can search for brain training apps, so it will be easier to incorporate mental exercise in your routine.
3. Manage your distractions
It’s one of the hardest things to do as almost everything around you can be perceived as distraction. Phone calls, constant notifications, various sounds from the environment, food and other people are all sources of distraction.
Try to make your working environment as boring as you can. This way you will have no option but to focus on what you have to do. Put off the unimportant notifications and emails and deal with them when you’ve finished working on your specific task.
4. Stop multitasking
Stop multitasking and manage your time instead. You can try using different focus and time management techniques. The one that worked for me is the Pomodoro technique . It helped me increase my productivity and also solved my problem with multitasking.
Multitasking not only interferes with your productivity, it also overloads your brain and obstructs its normal functioning.
Living a happy life is more about what you pay attention to than what really happens around you. Notice the simple joys, stay present and never underestimated the power of your attention. Attention is the one that creates your subjective reality.