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Focus People!

by Beth on February 10th, 2011

When is the last time you spent an hour focused on doing just one thing?  I’m talking not a single interruption.  Doesn’t happen often, does it?  In her new book, The Art of Concentration, Harriet Griffey discusses the attention crisis that we are facing.  We are so hyperstimulated by technological input, constantly checking emails, phone messages or twitter, that we are unable to focus or to relax.

This is a serious problem for our happiness!  It turns out that both focusing and relaxing are important positivity boosters.  Experiencing flow, when you are so immersed in an activity that time seems to stand still, is a great way to increase happiness.  But the secret to finding flow is attention.  You can only become fully engaged in something by directing your entire attention to the task at hand.  You will never achieve flow if you are multitasking or are frequently interrupted.

Relaxing or calming your mind increases positivity by reducing anxiety and stress.  But relaxing requires centering your attention on something without being bothered by distractions.  You can bring your attention to your breath or your body, for example.  In Buddha’s Brain Rick Hanson explains that being mindful means having good control over your attention.  He argues that “developing greater control over your attention is perhaps the single most powerful way to reshape your brain” in order to have more happiness, love and wisdom.

So how can we increase our ability to focus?  According to researchers from the University of Michigan we can restore attentional power by spending time in nature.  That’s because being in nature uses involuntary attention, which doesn’t require conscious effort.  Walking through a city, on the other hand, with buildings, people and cars uses voluntary attention, which is more effortful and thus depletes our attentional resources.

Here are a few more tips on increasing attentional power:

  • Don’t multitask
  • Check email at set times only
  • Get enough sleep
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Meditate

From → Flow, Mindfulness

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