Fo­cus on fo­cussing to avoid be­ing de­railed by dis­trac­tions

Gloucestershire Echo - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE - WITH DR EL­LIE MILBY Dr El­lie Milby is a coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist

AT­TEN­TION is a nat­u­ral function of our brains that helps to keep us safe. It is in­nate in all of us and you may have no­ticed how our at­ten­tion seems to au­to­mat­i­cally flit be­tween dif­fer­ent things. This could be peo­ple, ob­jects or sit­u­a­tions that are un­fold­ing around us, or things that happen within us, such as our thoughts, feel­ings and bod­ily sen­sa­tions.

Fo­cus is slightly dif­fer­ent from at­ten­tion. Fo­cussing is an act of will that re­quires choos­ing to pay at­ten­tion to a par­tic­u­lar stim­u­lus for an ex­tended pe­riod of time, whilst tun­ing out other dis­trac­tions. Our ca­pac­ity to fo­cus is a skill that is learned and can be im­proved with reg­u­lar prac­tice.

One way to think of it is like our at­ten­tion be­ing an in­ner spot­light that is con­stantly on the move. Fo­cus is our abil­ity to har­ness that spot­light and choose where we point it at any given time.

If you find it hard to fo­cus, then it can start to feel like it’s a strug­gle to get things done and tasks can build up and be­come over­whelm­ing. If this gets to the point where it makes us feel anx­ious or stressed, we of­ten avoid tack­ling prob­lems al­to­gether which just makes us feel worse in the long run.

Tak­ing steps to im­prove your fo­cus can help you stay on top of your to do list, mak­ing life eas­ier and less stress­ful. The fol­low­ing fo­cusen­hanc­ing ex­er­cise is a good place to start.

First, pick an ac­tiv­ity to fo­cus on. This could be a hobby or in­ter­est or a work-re­lated project. What­ever you choose, pick some­thing that you can re­turn to on a daily ba­sis.

Once you have cho­sen your ac­tiv­ity, min­imise any dis­trac­tions. Turn off all your electronic de­vices. Do your ac­tiv­ity some­where quiet and choose a time when you’re un­likely to be dis­turbed.

Now set your­self the task of fo­cussing on your cho­sen ac­tiv­ity for five min­utes. No­tice what your mind does. Ev­ery time you no­tice that your at­ten­tion has wan­dered, gen­tly guide your fo­cus back to what you’re do­ing.

Aim to set aside time to do this ac­tiv­ity ev­ery day and grad­u­ally in­crease the amount of time you spend on it, per­haps work­ing to­wards 30-60 min­utes over the course of a few weeks.

Re­search sug­gests it takes around three weeks of reg­u­larly re­peat­ing a new be­haviour to form a habit, so be pa­tient and don’t ex­pect a vast im­prove­ment over night.

With time, prac­tice and min­i­mal dis­trac­tions, your abil­ity to tame your wan­der­ing mind and fo­cus your at­ten­tion will flour­ish and grow.

It’s easy for our minds to wan­der when busy

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