Forget about “Reboot”, “Restart”, or “Refresh”… for many of us, it is seriously time to click on “ Shut Down”! Digital distractions are frying our brains, making focusing on tasks fuzzy, and affecting what most young people don’t realize is a mind-body connection.
Critically acclaimed American novelist and essayist, Jonathan Franzen, who famously wrote much of his book “The Corrections” wearing a blindfold and earplugs to reduce disruptions is quoted as saying “ It’s doubtful that anyone with an Internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction”. Even supposed “casual” Internet users know all too well the distractions of those unsolicited tweets, email pings and hilarious YouTube videos… Browsing the web for school reports, research- even as a social networking guru or video game master – can end up taking up enormous amounts of time from our day, because when we start looking on the Internet for one thing, it’s easy to get lost for 20 minutes or more! It’s part of the far-reaching and addictive quality of the Internet…the hours that seem to some how speed by in the blink of an eye while we become immersed, zombie-like, in the wearisome world-wide-web.
As it turns out, learning how to minimize distractions can dramatically increase our productivity and effectiveness, as well as reduce our stress. Who knew right? Without distractions, we could all get in to a proactive flow, produce high-quality work, and achieve much more during the day.
What researchers call mindfulness training– or becoming more mindful -seems to be about a connection between our minds and our bodies. Recognizing patterns of this connection in daily life, consistent practice, and retraining our brains to block out interruptions and remain focused, has helped many people improve their scores on exams, and improved their “working memory”- our mind’s ability to retain and sort through small pieces of information.
Our brains contain several regions that scientists collectively call the “default network,” which kick into high gear when our minds wander, which they do quite frequently when being targeted by so many distractions. By training our brains to focus on simple sensory cues, it may be possible to decrease activity in the default network. Helping all of our minds to stick to a single task could actually change the face ADHD and ID.
A quick technique or step in mindfulness retraining is to begin by ditching distractions (whether you’re on the train home from work, at your desk, or having dinner, begin by setting aside anything you may be reading, watching, or listening to). Next, sit upright and try to focus only on your simple sensory perceptions: like your breathing, the sound of rain, or the way your food tastes etc… It’s okay if things pop into your head, but try not to think about them too directly or judgmentally. Counting your breaths while in this mindset, up to 10 and then starting over at zero, can help to keep your thoughts clear and focused. Doing this for 5 to 10 minutes a day can improve your mind’s ability to stay focused.
In treating Internet addictions, young adults in wilderness therapy programs have the opportunity and undistracted time to gain a firm grasp on emotions by practicing mindfulness- or mind-body relaxation techniques. They can parcel off a portion of a day for quiet, stillness and solitude, calm breathing and deeper mediation work. It is this kind of intentional care that seems to have lasting positive effects on mental health. “Grasping and caring for the health of the mind-body connection is a mainstay of therapy programs for young people. Without the health of the mind, the body suffers. Without the health of the body, the mind suffers. When that connection is made between the two, striving for optimal, whole health is possible.”
More active tips for improving focus and diminishing distractions:
- Use Special software – There are some amazing new software applications such as Freedom and Anti-Social that can help to eliminate online distractions. You can specify which websites you want to block, and even set a timer for how long you want the block to remain active! Using technology to help you from abusing technology. Genius.
- Close That Internet Browser – You can eliminate Internet distractions by keeping your browser closed when you’re not using it. Log out of your accounts if you are a big Facebook or Twitter user- or even a constant email checker! If you’re forced to take those few extra seconds to log in each time, it may act as a reminder to you that you’re not focusing on work. (As an adjustment to this tip you can allow yourself to only check in at set times of the day – for instance, before lunch and at the end of the day.)
- Take Little Internet Breaks – Remember that taking little breaks, especially after working for an hour or more in deep concentration, is always useful for resting your mind and rebooting. These tiny breaks allow you to return to focus with renewed energy. Perhaps you can use casual Internet browsing as a reward for every hour that you devote to high quality, focused work. Feeling empowered is much more effective tool in mindful retraining.
Now that you’ve utilized your time (extremely wisely) by reading about Internet addictions and distractions, it is a perfect opportunity for you to turn your computer off, do a little stretch and settle in for some highly effective mindfulness retraining.