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Simple Steps to Strengthen Your Attention

chanting mindfulness Dec 14, 2020

In today’s world, we’re constantly flooded with distractions from a constant barrage of emails, 24-hour TV news cycles, and scrolling through social media accounts. All of which can make staying focused downright impossible.

I’m sure you noticed these interruptions have little to do with what’s most important to you. (When’s the last time a news alert on your smartphone really made your life any better?)

But the good news is, you can actually reduce your own. In fact, it’s a skill that can easily be cultivated. And doing so isn’t just good for your productivity—it’s also excellent for your overall health.

 


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The fragility of attention

The truth is, our ability to pay attention has limitations.

Knowing this, businesses have been drastically increasing their advertising spending—to the tune of $263 billion in 2020 (up from $183 billion in 2015)—to capture your attention.

But the problem is, the moment your attention is captured—or maybe “hijacked” is more accurate—you’re no longer using your precious energy for what’s most important to you.

So, if want to kick these “mental hijackers” to the curb—mindfulness can help. Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with awareness and without emotional reactivity. In other words, observe without judgment.

And a multitude of studies show that simple mindfulness exercises can positively affect brain health.

A 2019 study showed that even brief daily mindfulness sessions—less than 15 minutes per day—can offer major benefits including:

  • Enhanced attention
  • Decreased negative mood
  • Improved working and recognition memory
  • Decreased anxiety

And according to Dr. Amishi Jha, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami, people who regularly do mindfulness exercises find that their attention actually gets better over time.

Easier said than done right?

Not necessarily! That’s why I want to show you a simple exercise that can help you tune in to the present moment, starting right now.

Turn off the noise with mindful vagus nerve stimulation

Here’s a simple technique you can do anytime to help quiet the external “noise” of distractions and shift your focus to what matters most to you

In this exercise, you’ll combine slow deep breathing and mindful attention to your body with vagus nerve stimulation.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sit up with your spine straight. Relax your jaw and shoulders.
  2. Take a moment to scan your body for tension, and if you notice any, take a deep breath while imagining that part of you is starting to loosen and relax.
  3. Inhale deeply through your nose for 4 seconds. Your belly should extend outward.
  4. Breathe out, making the sound “ohhhm” (like the word “home”) for the full duration of your exhalation.
  5. Repeat this cycle four to eight times (or as long as you like). As always, take your time, don’t strain, and always listen to your body.

I encourage you to try out this exercise to not only improve your attention, but also reduce stress—especially in these trying times.

Here’s to investing more of your moments into what matters the most.


Sources:

Paying Attention: The Attention Economy: https://econreview.berkeley.edu/paying-attention-the-attention-economy/

Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30153464/

http://www.amishi.com/lab/

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