Do You Get Distracted Easily? Practice Focus… in the Shower

Do You Get Distracted Easily? Practice Focus… in the Shower

According to a new neuroscience book by an expert in the science of attention, the ability to focus can be trained and developed, just like a human bicep after months of pumping iron.

Dr. Amishi Jha, a professor of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Miami has written a book called Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention following a research she had conducted on people in high-demand jobs like soldiers, elite athletes, or emergency personnel.

Prof. Jha says that stress is one of the biggest obstacles to focusing. In a high-alert state, we often start ruminating and catastrophizing. We get stuck in “loops of doom” or imagined scenarios. This mode impacts our “working memory”: the amount of information that can be held in our minds and used for a task. For example, choosing the words to put together in an email, or reading a page in a book.

“Working memory is like a mental whiteboard with disappearing ink,” Jha told The Guardian. “When that whiteboard is full of thoughts, feelings and images relating to what’s making us stressed, there is no room for new information. We might start blanking, zoning out or snapping at our partners, then feel guilty, which makes focusing even harder.”

According to the Professor, our eyes give the brain10 million bytes of imagery data each second, and we have around 6,000 spontaneous thoughts each day. It truly seems like a miracle we can focus on anything at all. According to the findings of her research, Prof. Jha recommends these following exercises.

Exercise in Attention

1: Paying attention to your breath and where in your body you feel it passing the most. Direct your focus like a beam of light. Do this for three minutes a day, for a week.

2: Spend three minutes a day focusing on the sensation of doing exactly what it is you are doing (here comes the shower part): great to practice in the shower. If you’re thinking about your to-do list as you’re scrubbing, bring it back and focus on the sensations.

3: Ignore “mindfulness myths”: you are not “clearing your mind.” This is an active mental workout. Your job is not to stop your mind from being busy – your job is to exist with it, and to place your attention back where you want it.

4. The whole point of the exercise is to be more present to the moment, and the idea is to do this by focusing on your senses: what are you seeing, feeling, smelling, hearing, touching.

Invest 12 minutes a day for four-weeks doing this simple mindfulness exercises, many aspects of cognitive and emotional health, including attention, are improved.