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How to increase your attention span (using mindfulness to become more present)

How to increase your attention span (using mindfulness to become more present)

In a world of constant stimulation and distraction it’s no wonder that the diagnosis of ADD and ADHD grow at an alarming rate.  From birth we are bombarded with stimuli to keep us captivated and enthralled.  Is it any wonder that our children can’t focus in school with: T.V., video games, internet, cell phones, and social media distracting them at every turn?


A major contributing factor to the inability of people to pay attention is that our brains can actually be “rewired” over time through repetitive stimulation.  Much like the drug addict experiences diminishing returns from each use, we often seek more and more stimulation as we get bored and complacent in life.


We have all seen the memes on the internet of a couple on a date, or a group of friends meeting up and everyone is on their phone.  In years past, people would engage in conversations, laugh and participate: their full attention would be focused on the task at hand.  In the world of technology, not only are we less focused on the conversation (because we have other things running through our minds), but if the conversation loses its luster for even second, instead of offering up a new topic or waiting through boring silence, we will often get on our phones instead.  With instant entertainment and distraction at your fingertips, its much easier to just tune out a boring encounter than it is to make it an interesting one.


The implications of entertainment technology on a world of social interaction can be drastic.  On one end, we have people who are not able to form meaningful bonds with other human beings, and on another, we have people who cannot learn, grow, or improve efficiently as human beings.  So is all hope lost, or can we break the cycle?


The first step is to realize the cycle.  Just like a drug addict must admit that they have a problem, we must realize the absurdity of wasting away hours on youtube or checking facebook instead of trying new things, reading or learning, or developing a new skill.  There are an infinite number of productive things we can choose to do with every second of life, we must realize the craziness of giving it away to mindless distraction.


Next, we must devote ourselves to decreasing distraction and increasing productivity.  When you get the urge to waste a day on youtube, check out a book from the library instead, or when you find yourself checking your text messages instead of studying, we must re-devote ourself to more meaningful tasks of life.


We must learn to focus on each moment: to detach ourselves from the mindless numbing effect of technology and see ourselves as human beings once again.  When you find yourself stuck in inattention, focus on the room around you, name three things within the room, and then take a deep breath and close your eyes, imagine the three things with your full imagination and then open your eyes; with this simple technique we can become conscious again and gain control over our mind.


Unplug as much as possible.  Any time you are able to unplug from stimulation can be highly therapeutic: meditation, a walk through nature, reading a book, or enjoying some excellent music.  Committing to taking time to concentrate on only one thing not only helps to slow our minds down and relax, but it also slowly begins to increase the amount of time we can focus on one task.


The final step is to increase our attention power.  By removing distractions and forcing ourselves to focus on one task at a time we can retrain our brains to focus intently on one thing.  Try to focus intently on each task you do and don’t allow yourself to become distracted unless a planned break was part of the idea.  Over time, we can actually learn to focus and learn to use our self awareness to take back control of our actions and lives.

First, realize the craziness of wasting away your life; next, devote yourself to increased focus and concentration; then, focus on the moment at hand and use breathing to re-center yourself.  Unplug and remove life distractions when possible; and finally, practice the art of concentration.  With these simple techniques you can increase your focus and accomplish tasks that you used to think were impossible.  Every solution to every problem exists right now in this moment, learn to concentrate fully on the moment at hand and seize each opportunity in your path.

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