The world is filled with buzzing, pings, lights and other distractions. The average American spends the majority of their leisure time behind a screen, and the majority of their work time behind of screen. This provides greater efficiency and communication, but also greater distractions.
These distractions affect our brains and bodies. When we are interrupted in a task it can take an average of 25 minutes to return the work. And when people move from task to task quickly, it wears on the brain and decreases cognitive abilities.
It can be impossible to avoid these distractions, particularly in a work environment, but you can train your brain to focus better. Mindfulness, the practice of being present in a non judgmental way, has been shown to improve focus, lower the heart rate and blood pressure and provide emotional and cognitive benefits.
Mindfulness is something we practice with students in Digital Respons-Ability workshops. We’ve found that when introducing the practice to teens, for most of them the concept was brand new. They had never heard of it, and it was difficult to do. Slowing the brain and focusing is an exercise. When you first start a new exercise routine, it’s tough. You get sore muscles and pushing through is difficult. Mindfulness can be hard at first but over time becomes easier. One group of teens who struggled at first soon became to enjoy the process. At the end of the workshop series some of the teens asked for even more.
You don’t need a teacher to learn mindfulness. There are many books and articles online to get you going. One way to start is practicing deep breathing from the diaphragm. Just take 10 seconds to pause and breathe. Then increase that 10 seconds to 30, then a minute, and like exercise the practice will get easier.
Digital Respons-Ability recently wrote about mindfulness for the International Society for Technology in Education’s blog. Check it out for some tech and non-tech tips to focus through distractions.