I was reading a book, I found a new English word whose meaning was not known to me. So I opened my laptop to search that word, when I opened my browser google news as my homepage appeared. I found there one interesting news in the front line and I started reading it. After 15 minutes I realized that I was here to search the meaning of that English word but for the last 15 minutes my attention was wondering in the news. Yes I lost my focus.
Today, we are in the digital age where twitter, facebook, mobile apps, 24 hours news channel, ipod etc etc are available to draw our attention and we hardly have enough time to be alone and free from all information.
I often see two people are sitting in a restaurant for dinner but none of them are looking at each other, both of them are busy with their mobile phones or tablets. I often find people texting while walking, talking while driving.
I saw mother updating her status on facebook and child is crying for her attention. Students are having huge problems in their studies. They can’t even study for 1 hour in a strech, they check their phones in every 10 minutes.
This digital world is trying to draw our attention every now and then via news channel, live updates, breaking news, social media etc and in that process they also sell their products, they do their business at the cost of your attention.
What are distractions?
We loose our attention because of distractions. According to Daniel Goleman, famous neuroscientist, there are two types of distractions
1) Sensory Distractions: These are physical distractions and distraction is caused by information received through our senses. e,g, you are listening to a song and then suddenly from your window you see a car accident in the street. Now that visual scene received by your eyes will divert your attention from the song. Sensory distractions are limited and can be controlled easily.
2) Emotional Distractions: They are the toughest one and need extra effort and knowledge to deal with. Emotional problems, things not going well between you and your partner etc etc all negative thoughts running in your mind will distract you every time and everywhere.
How to deal with distractions?
Sensory distractions can be eliminated just by controlling yourself or changing the environment. e,g, if you want to study then close your room, switch off tv, mobiles, internet and you can easily remove all sensory distractions but the problem is how you will control emotional disturbances running in your mind? e,g, thoughts like “how could she reject me?”
Then there is a way to deal with it. There is a brain network dedicated for attention. If your that brain circuitry which is responsible for attention is stronger then your attention capacity is stronger and if that brain circuitry is weaker then your attention capacity is weaker.
In my Neuroplasticity article I said that you can change your brain. It is same as body building. If your practice weight lifting then your hand muscle will grow more, same with attention.
The simple practice is, choose 10-30 minutes everyday. Sit straight up and close your eyes. Now observe your breathing. Do not try to control your breathing, let it be natural breathing and just put your all attention in your breathing.
Whenever your mind wonders, bring it back to the attention. The key is here, this way you are training your brain to keep focused in one place. Every time your attention moves away from your breathing just bring it back. Practice it everyday and your brain circuitry for attention your become stronger.
We need attention to become successful. We need enough control on our mind so that we can focus on the important thing in the present. We can do it just by a little practice. Instead of removing distracting we can train our brain to stay focused and this way we can have a better life and career.
By Prakash Sutradhar, Asstt. Manager (A Govt. of India Enterprise) – B.Tech, M.Tech (IIT Bombay)