Tag Archives: Attention

Double Your Ability with Mindfulness

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Dance with Sensations

Dance with Sensations

I heard an expression today in which a woman referred to there being a “dance of sensations.” That is something I have never heard of before but it provided me with an image that I absolutely loved.

It leads back to mindfulness and how wonderful it feels to connect to the moment with an awareness and a focus that I don’t get until I call on it. Along with it comes an amazing sense of peace and serenity that restores me and fills me with a renewed emotional energy.

For those of you who have practiced this type of self-care, you will know what I am speaking about immediately, but for those of you who have not, I encourage you to wipe away your doubts and predispositions and just try it. There is so much happening in our lives, the intensity of which ranges from small, insignificant moment to moment things, to major issues that are extremely important. And if we do not become actively involved in where we devote our focus and energy; we are subject to being pulled and shoved in countless directions and winding up feelings bruised and battered.

It is not anybody’s fault because nobody is trying to drain us of our resources and energy; it just happens because we allow ourselves to drift from issue to issue throughout the day, without setting aside a few moments of time for ourselves where we can tap into our own energy source and recharge.

Not only do the people in my life benefit from me being more fully present for the times they need me when I care for myself this way, but they are actually beginning to realize that my personal care time is where I get the energy from and they are respecting it. I heard one of our boys tell his brother “shhhh, she’s doing that quiet stuff she does so she has the energy she needs to deal with us later on.”

Energy Zapping

Energy Zapping

One of my hugest resistances to going along with the self-care regiment for so long was because I viewed it as taking my energy and time away from the things and people I needed to devote myself to. Now I realize it is the total opposite. It is the way I obtain that energy, not lose it.

The level of attention and focus I have because of this regime, is so superior to what I regularly have, is so amazing. Because I have restored myself and cleared away all the unnecessary emotions blocking my efforts, I can provide so much more of myself to handle the situation, it feels as if there are two of me, with twice the amount of energy. I am no longer burdened with other ‘stuff’ that gets in the way of me being a more productive person.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

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What Color Is Your Flower?

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Unable to Focus

Unable to Focus

The other day, I read something that spoke about neuro scientific research reporting that the average person spends 13 per cent of their time in a frame of mind that is best described as “zoned out.”

At first I felt upset with this information, considering all the wasted time that this indicated my mind wandered. But as I read on, the tone of the article remained upbeat and optimistic. Why? Because these periods where we zone out and don’t have the cognitive awareness we feel we should possess are actually good for us. Yep, it seems they are vital to our being able to stay imaginative and creative. This is the place where our brains free float through what seems like insignificant streams of consciousness.

The reality is that these places of spontaneous thinking are the birth places of creativity and imagination. They are places where our judgmental selves don’t have a chance of surviving so we are free to just let ourselves go. These zone out times permit us to unleash restrictive, rational thought and just allow whatever comes to come.

I have nothing against rational and logical thinking. Far from it. Thinking logically is totally necessary and a good thing. But giving our brains the ability to zone out and just free-flow is equally necessary and provides us with a healthy compliment to routine, structured and rational thoughts.

Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin

One of my favorite songsters of all time is Harry Chapin. I hope most of you have heard of him and remember him, not only for the songs that were the most popular like “Taxi” or “Cats in the Cradle” although they were good songs with a message or story to tell too. But the song that comes to mind is called “Flowers are Red,” a song with a wonderful message about society’s traditional response to thinking differently and seeing things through a lens that is different than the one most of us see through.

There is a degree of comfort in knowing we are all alike and zeroing in on all the similarities we share with our fellow human beings, but there is also something extremely worthwhile when we celebrate our differences and our being unique. There is so much we can learn from these differences. We can complement each other because of these differences if we learn how to embrace them and value them.

This is still something I am learning how to do better. Sometimes my knee-jerk reaction is to expect other people to think the way I think or feel the way I feel and I get upset if they don’t. I want to feel more connected to them and I mistakenly think if they are more like me then we are more connected.

Embrace Diversity

Embrace Diversity

Relationships take a lot of work because of the differences. We need to learn how to accept and respect people despite them. Even if we are similar to another person in our beliefs, the times when we have our zone out moments may not be the same. We may be experiencing something quite crucial to us when our most trusted and closest confidant is going through a zone out moment and is unable to be there to understand.

We may be zoned out when our co-worker asks us for our utmost attention or when our son or daughter is facing potential danger.

Nobody said relationships were easy, and with some of the newer finding about human behavior, we are able to better understand ourselves and each other; and hopefully help us deal with each other with more understanding and kindness.

And what better time to start than right now as this holiday season begins?

Mindfulness and Trauma

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Stability

Stability

Mindfulness is about stabilizing. Studies have shown that people who have experienced trauma can benefit highly from this type of work. (Cullen, 2011). When people have experienced trauma, they can be challenged with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression at any time.

When we increase focus, stress and anxiety decreases, and as insight increases, depression may also be reduced. The implications of effective mindfulness on these specific features are truly significant and the more studies that are being done, the stronger the evidence of effective results of mindfulness.

When a person experiences trauma, racing thoughts and chain reactions of distressed thinking and intense emotions are more frequent, more intense and can last for longer periods of time. The thought pattern easily becomes negative and thereby creates greater levels of anxiety and depression, especially if ignored.

What mindfulness does is brings us into the present moment. Being in the present is provides direct opposition to the racing thoughts which are based in the past, thoughts about things that have happened, or based in the future, worrying about things that might happen. When we practice mindfulness, we pull away from these past and future thinking patterns and redirect ourselves into the moment, grounding ourselves in the present where we regain the ability to address the negative emotions of anxiety, stress and depression that are associated with our thoughts.
We can, for example, tell ourselves that in the present moment, there is nothing bad or harmful occurring to us. We are most likely sitting or lying quite comfortably in a safe place where we can focus on slowing down our breathing and letting the negative feelings go as we exhale. We can ground ourselves and regain our stability, acknowledging the feelings but proving to ourselves that in this present moment, we are okay…we are fine…and we are safe.
We have managed to regain control over the intense emotions that were beginning to overwhelm us. We have become more aware, more able to calm ourselves and less of a victim to our run-away thoughts.

Kabbat-Zin (1994) provides this definition of mindfulness: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” We are actually doing an awful lot although it seems we are doing nothing. We are freeing ourselves and giving ourselves permission to just be in the moment. And it is extremely soothing. It is like allowing our mind to float and just immerse itself in now.

It is very important for people to work out their own form of practicing mindfulness, something that works for them. I strongly advise people to do some research on it and see what feels like it might be a way to begin your personal journey.

Attention

Attention

Remember that the point is NOT to empty our thoughts but rather to pay attention to them in a purposeful way without judging them and then refocus attention onto whatever it is you were focusing on prior to the thought popping up. Mindfulness is a journey of exploration, discovering sounds, textures, shapes, temperatures, things that always exist but that we don’t focus on because we are not being mindful to them.

If you are just starting out, I suggest just a 10 minute exercise in which you find something to focus on, an object to look at or hold perhaps. It is wonderful if you become adept enough at it to practice it when you begin to notice any negative thoughts or symptoms that you are trying to decrease such as depression, racing or distressing thoughts, etc.

Snoopy Writing

Snoopy Writing

There is a wealth of information available on mindfulness as more and more people are finding it beneficial to many different situations they encounter. I would love to hear from you about your mindfulness journey and results. Feel free to comment or contact me directly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

The Psychology of Attention

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“Every day we we are bombarded with perceptions, ideas and emotions and what we choose to pay attention to shapes our lives, it makes us who we are.”

Attention is one of the most fascinating and highly researched areas in psychology. Psychologists have found that with training we can perform impressive feats of multitasking, we can divide our visual attention (without moving our eyes) and we are surprisingly effective at picking out just one voice from a multitude.”

Several short pieces, first published in PsyBlog, highlights some fascinating cognitive work and research on attention. See especially the piece on meditation…

http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/05/attention-how-it-works-how-it-fails-and-how-to-improve-it.php

 

Once accused of being absent-minded, the founder of American Psychology, William James, quipped that he was really just present-minded to his own thoughts.

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Fascinating perspective on mind wandering….allowing our thoughts and feelings to float along…and this article outlines the cognitive and emotional advantages….(implications for those that feel their distractibility or ADD symptomatology is out of hand at times?) See the link below…

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/2013/09/25/mind-wandering-a-new-personal-intelligence-perspective/

The Illusion of Attention

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Before you do anything and read any further, watch this video:

That was fun! I love these things that teach us about how our minds work.

I have to admit, I didn’t see the gorilla. I was so focused on getting the number of passes right. It turns out it’s not so shocking that I missed the gorilla, though. Across diverse audiences, under different conditions and in different countries, 50% of people didn’t see the gorilla. What is shocking is that I was sceptical that I could possibly miss seeing such an obvious thing, and I replayed the video just to see if it was true. Yes, the gorilla really did come on the screen, and I completely missed it; it was invisible.

I guess this isn’t really shocking, though, since 75% of people say they believe they would notice something unexpected even if they were focusing on something else. The illusion is not that we don’t see the gorilla (unexpected things); the illusion is that we don’t think we won’t see them. We might think we know our minds and how they work, but in this case, most of us are wrong.

This experiment appears in a wonderful book called The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. Take a look at their website for more fun videos and information: theinvisiblegorilla.com.

This article comes from the first chapter of the book, “I Think I Would Have Seen That.” It speaks of “inattentional blindness” where our brains have a limited ability to pay attention. If we pay more attention to one thing, we pay less attention to other things; there’s no endless supply of attention. We can’t focus on everything at once, and even though we think we can multitask well, experiments have shown the more tasks a person does simultaneously, the overall performance of each task decreases.

Our mind is a limited resource. For example, when people were asked to count the number of aerial and bounce passes between players—like in the invisible gorilla video—while talking on a mobile phone, it was found they could still count, but it increased their chances of missing the gorilla. Increasing the amount of attention needed to go into counting two types of passes meant that less attention was available to notice the gorilla.

Now, apply this to driving while talking on a mobile phone. We can still go through the mechanical motions of driving—turning the wheel and pushing the pedals—but our attention given to the person on the other end of the phone means we’re more likely to miss unexpected events like a cyclist, pedestrian or even a car approaching or turning. This should be enough to convince us not to talk on the phone while driving. If you don’t believe this, you’re experiencing the illusion of attention.

Not convinced, read the book.

Cover of "The Invisible Gorilla: And Othe...

Cover via Amazon

Test your attention

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Test your ability to keep your attention.

You will watch a brief video clip, and your chal­lenge is to count the total num­ber of times that the bas­ket­balls change hands

You can read about the fas­ci­nat­ing results here.