✎ Written by: Dubravka Rebic
We're sure there are days when your attention span feels like a balloon that's escaped your grasp, causing you to look on in horror as it floats toward the clouds. You try to make a few futile attempts to stop it from floating away but, ultimately, you watch as it becomes a tiny speck in the sky until – poof – it's gone.
So, even when you try your best to keep your focus intact, how does it manage to escape you? And is there anything you can do about it?
The mind's natural inclination is to forage for information and engage with it, whether it be on the phone in your pocket or the bubbling thoughts in your mind. So even if you could wipe the world clean of technological distractions, you would still struggle to focus your attention.
In fact, there are records of medieval monks in the late 420s fretting over how they could not keep their thoughts on God because they were constantly thinking about lunch.
Yet, just because keeping your concentration has been a concern of centuries past, it doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions to increasing your attention span and improving your focus – even in the modern world where distractions are in abundance.
New Science, Ancient Solutions
Since the attention crisis is fundamentally an ancient problem, not a modern one, it requires an ancient solution with some very modern updates.
A neuroscientist and associate professor of psychology at the University of Miami, Dr. Amishi Jha, led research on the neural bases of attention and the effects of specific mindfulness-based training programs on cognition, emotion, resilience, and performance.
In her book Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day, Dr. Jha, offered research-based mindfulness exercises that can help you declutter your mind, improve your attention span, and strengthen your focus.
According to Dr. Jha, you should do the following exercises in a row and each one should last three minutes.
Pro tip: Since your eyes will be closed, and you won't be able to track the time, set a timer on your phone or use this YouTube video to switch between exercises. Every three minutes, you'll hear the sound of a relaxing gong and know it’s time to move on to the following exercise.
Exercise 1: Find Your Flashlight
Think of your attention as a flashlight – when you point it at something, that object becomes brighter, highlighted, and more salient. However, if you’re distracted, you may struggle to keep the light where you want it to be and find it challenging to stay focused on a task.