“The ancients defined concentration as the ability to focus the mind on one object for 12 seconds, approximately one breath”
I’m doing my best to say “no” to distractions and encourage my mind to stay focused on one (significant) task at a time. Sounds easy in theory, but in reality life is full of many lovely and not so lovely distractions, each doing their best to grab my attention and tempt me away.
Some days I feel like I have the concentration span of a 2 year old, and the simple task of writing an article is constantly interrupted with a sloppy wandering mind. I’ve discovered however, that an overstimulated, rushed, ungrounded body and mind are open to being pushed and pulled around by the distractions of the world.
When I remember and honour a few simple mind/body rituals, I feel more in control and distractions are less likely to tempt me away.
I’ve realized (after all these years) that if I nurture my body, and allow my mind time to arrive at the task before me - distractions are less likely to occur. If I haven’t, then I’m easily distracted due to scattered thoughts about the past, future and what if’s - or fuzzy thinking due to dehydration - or agitated nerves due to lack of food, rushing, anxious breathing, lack of movement or poor sleep.
For me personally, the calmer I feel on the inside and more nourished my nervous system, the greater my ability to keep my focus on one significant task at a time. I’m also more creative and productive.
Set Your Mind, Body and Environment Up To Win:
I trust you find one or more of these suggestions helpful. Please let me know what you think. Feel free to share any of your successes for staying focused.
1: Arrive at your task. Get present:
Thich Nhat Hanh a Zen Buddhist suggests a little breathing ritual so you can feel settled and more present within yourself before you do anything. Repeat slowly “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile”. Keep repeating gently until you feel you are here, right now.
2: Grow your concentration muscle:
A five minute daily meditation can sharpen your concentration powers. Meditation can be as simple as being still and repeating a word or mantra in your thoughts such as, “I am calm, clear and focused” or “Peace”.
Start with one minute ( if you have too) and gradually increase over time. It helps if you keep your eyes soft or closed and breathing relaxed.
Alternately for something a little different try a walking meditation, click here for details. I find walking meditation incredibly soothing and very effective when I’m feeling rushed, agitated and scattered.
The purpose of your daily five minute meditation ritual is to let your mind know you are in charge and its not. Nor are the distractions.
3: Your breathing habits influence your state of mind:
Jerky, shallow, fast, constricted or tight breathing reflects that you live your days in a constant stressed out - push and pull state. When your breathing is calm your mind will be calm. When your mind is calm its easier to hold your focus.
Quality breathing (breathing down into your belly) can reverse fear, anger, stress and encourages clarity of the mind despite your external circumstances. I do my best to adjust my breathing every hour. Remembering to breath regularly, I believe to be one of the best medicines you can give your body and mind.
3: Clear your head and get centred with humming therapy:
This is perfect to do just before you are about to start a task. Place one hand on top of your head and the other on your stomach. Close your eyes and start humming. Feel the hum reach the top of your head and flow down to your belly. Feel the soothing effects of each hum. Humming clears stagnant energy, refreshes your mind and calms your nervous system.
4: Hydrate your mind, eat your water:
The brain is the first place to lose water and become dehydrated in your body. This in turn of course effects your ability to think straight. If you find it tricky to drink lots of water then eat your water. A bowl of grapes or orange slices are around 98% water.
A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy thinking. Many practitioners have told me over the years that lack of water is the number No.1 reason for day time fatigue.
The mind can be easily distracted by what it sees or hears around it. Turn off phones, TV and the likes which might easily cause a distraction for you. Simply take a look at the space around you and scan for any likely distractions. You’ll know what they are.
6:Satisfy your body first:
To hold your concentration you need the co-operation of your body. If you are anything like me, I can’t concentrate to save myself if I’m hungry, restless, feel fidgety or need some fresh air. It’s worth checking in with your body before starting your task to find out if its hungry, thirsty, needs a shower, a stretch or simply a walk.
Hunched shoulders block the flow of blood to your brain. A frowning, squished up face holds in tension. Relax your shoulders, have a stretch, breath into your collar bones/shoulders, lengthen your neck and smile.
Practice getting more oxygen and blood flow to your extremities and brain , whilst detoxing at the same time. Stand up & inhale a full breath. Hold your breath as you clench fists & tighten your leg and arm muscles; release slowly as youexhale.
Start your day in your body and not in your head. If you start your morning rushed by jumping out of bed and rushing down your breakfast then your whole day will be rushed. When I’m rushing distractions happen far more easily. Start your morning gently with plenty of time and notice how it effects the flow of your day ahead.
Rushing activates your sympathetic nervous system. You are living in flight or fight mode. Not a healthy way to live. My article Slow yourself down when feeling rushed has a great list of suggestions that you may find useful, if you are prone to rushing.
9: Exercise can help sloppy concentration:
Lack of movement and exercise can equal a lazy mind. I find the days I miss my walks and yoga classes my mind and body are not as refreshed and therefore prone to stagnancy and sloppy concentration and thinking.
Yoga, tai chi and qi gong are exceptional exercises for strengthening your concentration muscle.
10: Get grounded :
When you are not grounded your mind and body are split. You miss vital guidance from the universe, get distracted easily, can’t complete tasks and overlook hunger and thirst needs.
The easiest way for me to get grounded is to rub and massage my feet. Think of your feet now. Is energy flowing down through your body and into your feet with each breath cycle, or is it stuck in your head? Do you feel earthed, connected to the ground? Have you be spending enough time in nature lately? When was the last time your bare feet actually touched soil, grass, sand or rocks? Have you been spending too much time in front of computers, TV or on your mobile phone?
To be grounded you need a balance between the natural world and the electronic world.
Thanks for reading my article. Carole.
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