The ability to concentrate and focus on a particular area is seen by many as the cornerstone of peoples success be it in sport, business or education.
I have never been the best at sitting still but it seems my ability to sit and read even simple texts for a period of time is diminishing. The author Nicholas Carr sums this up perfectly in his book The Shallows.
“Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. “My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”
If your concentration is getting worse maybe you need to check how much time you allocate to the following two habits.
The first one is multitasking, a term originally created for people trying to juggle lots of activities all at once in an attempt to impress the boss. Today, with the rise of smart phones, multimedia devices, social media and on demand TV shows, multitasking has moved on to another level. The average lifestyle now is full of constant interruptions: we walk and text (some even when they drive!), we surf the net whilst we eat, we check our emails on the train, we check our social media activity 24/7 for the feel good factor, we simply never let up.
The Brain Drain
The more we multi-task, the more it drains our brain of energy, reducing our ability to concentrate as the mind cannot do more than one thing at time. You may look as if you are doing more than one thing at at a time, but you’re not.
Try it and you will find your mind simply cannot give full conscious attention to more than one thing at a time. During heavy multitasking exercises your brain has to constantly switch between each task, which is very tiring.
Our current use of technology encourages this type of behaviour. Take for example teenagers who listen to music, whilst playing a game on their laptop and watching TV at the same time. The constant switching between tasks is very tiring and this is why heavy multi-taskers often look very tired.
The email Drain
Checking emails and social media is addictive and creates a habit of self interrupt. This is where you randomly check your emails and go off task, thus breaking your concentration.
Once concentration is broken it takes on average about 24 minutes to get back on task. Just simply checking your emails or replying to a text or surfing the net can destroy large parts of your day. It takes about a quarter of a second for the conscious mind to register that a particular part of the body is moving. If you are checking emails in automatic pilot you may well have the habit.
The email or message checking habit can steal large chunks of your day so its not surprising we don’t don’t get as much done as we used to.
Make a note of when you check your emails. Ask yourself, what made you check your emails? Was a thought? Or did it just happen? If this is happening automatically then its possible your random interrupt has just become your new habit.
If you take the time to do the above, then you have made a decision to be a little more mindful and brought your actions into the awareness of the conscious mind.
Next time you check your email you will be a little more aware of this and you can attempt to change this habit. Adopting a Mindful approach will certainly help to improve your concentration. May be even practice de-stressing your mind by getting you to simply concentrating on your breathing and gently bringing you back into the present moment.
In short multitasking is a bad habit and breaks up you attention. Mindfulness will help bring your attention to the present moment. So set aside a little space to be more mindful, turn off your notifications, create set times each day for checking email and social media.
2. Excessive screen time
Let’s face it most of us are guilty of this, but most of us are not aware of the damage it can cause such as poor concentration, impaired decision making and cognitive control, which means you may struggle processing information.
The feel good factor
Studies show that dopamine, the reward hormone responsible for cravings or urges is released during gaming and social media responses. This produces brain changes that are similar to drug cravings. The more you play the worse the symptoms get and you become increasingly motivated by reward and less insensitive to loss, which means you play even more, nothing puts you off.
In the first part of the document I spoke of multitasking that breaks up your concentration, now we are looking at something that gets you so transfixed you don’t notice anything else. It was recently reported that a young gamer in china lost the use of both legs after a 20+ hour game playing binge at an internet cafe. I don’t think I have ever seen an internet cafe I could spend more than a few minutes in so that must have been some internet cafe!
Excessive screen time impacts on the important frontal lobe, which governs executive functions, like planning, prioritizing, organizing, and impulse control or to you and me its the bit where you get stuff done.
Once this happens you start to lose the power to make the decision to stop playing the game.
Half your brain is “gray matter” and the other half “white matter”. Excessive gaming can shrink this part of your brain. The white matter cells connect networks from the brain to the body and vice versa.
If these connections are disrupted it can slow down signals or short circuit them. So if you are sluggish one day or your reactions are slow it might be an idea to look back at what you did the day before.
It can also damage our capacity to develop empathy and compassion for others and our ability to integrate physical signals with emotion. Aside from the obvious link to violent behavior, these skills dictate the depth and quality of personal relationships.
If that’s not enough it can cause poor sleep patterns leading to insomnia which will ruin even the best concentration levels.
In short, excessive screen-time impairs brain structure and function, especially in young adolescents whose brains are not fully formed until around the age of 22.
Mindfulness is a fantastic way to improve your concentration and has been slowly growing in popularity over the years as people look for alternative ways to manage the ever increasing pace of the modern lifestyle. If you are interested in learning how mindfulness can help your concentration then send me an email for free mindfulness information.
Hypnosis, NLP and mindfulness can all help improve your concentration, but it is important to take an holistic view of your issues before agreeing to any therapy.
Stay calm, take a breath and get your concentration back!
Post from http://www.digitalwellnesshub.com