– By Jennifer Enchin, Staff Writer –
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We live in a society where humans have an average attention span of about 5 seconds. Considering the amount of distractions (smartphones, day to day stresses, social media etc.) this is a problem. More and more people are being diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder than ever before. We can no longer read a book from cover to cover in an afternoon, nor can we listen to someone speaking without our minds wandering. This lack of focus can evolve into anxiety, depression and a whole host of other mental disorders. How do we fix this? How do we stay focused in today’s world? Here are 3 simple ways to hone your attention span.
We inundate ourselves with random content day in and day out. One second you’re watching a video of a rabbit eating raspberries and the next you’re reading an article on how cannabis oil can cure stomach ulcers. Where are you getting all this useless information? Social media: Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Absorbing all this in-your-face information, on top of the stressors of the day scrambles our concentration. We no longer give our brains a rest. When was the last time you simply lay on your bed, looked at the ceiling and let your thoughts free? We don’t allow any time to process the enormous amount of information we consume hour after hour. Going from topic to topic makes us less focused and unable to complete daily interactions and tasks. To remedy this, limit social media use for uploading posts only at certain times of the day and try not to mindlessly scroll through your feeds. Keep your phone off the dinner table and spend time with loved ones face to face, avoiding any distraction in the palm of your hand.
There is no doubt that meditation helps with mental focus. The whole goal of meditation is to quiet your mind and become aware of the present moment. Doing this for about 15-20 minutes per day will eventually train your brain to focus on “what is” and keep all jumbled thoughts at bay. During meditation, it can be difficult to sit still for 20 minutes and let’s face it, it can be hard to find the time to do it everyday. A good alternative is mindfulness. Think about all the times you felt the most alive. It was probably those moments when you felt one hundred percent engaged in what you were doing, right? You were being mindful. You can choose to be mindful at any time of day while doing any activity such as washing dishes or working out. Look around the room and observe every little thing. If you are washing dishes, think about how the soap feels on your hands, the weight of the dish, the heat of the water. This will launch your mind into a single flow of consciousness and will train you to focus for longer periods of time.
As a supplement to being mindful and keeping your social media use in check, a herb called “holy basil” can help you amp up your focus. Monks often take it before meditation in order to deepen concentration. The herb makes you calm, and surrounds you with the feeling of Zen rather than drowsiness. This is the result of Holy Basil lowering cortisol levels, which is a chemical released in your brain when under stress. You can buy the herb in capsule form or in an herbal tea. Sip on it when you’re reading or when you know you’ll need a little extra brainpower.
Jennifer Enchin is a freelance writer living in the big city of Toronto. A self-proclaimed musical theatre geek, philosopher and playwright, Jennifer spends most of her time in the rehearsal studio or dreaming up the next big hit.