Your life can feel like the inside of a pinball machine — and you’re the pinball.
Your attention flicks from one thing to the next, demanding that you give your best toward that which demands your attention.
You feel like you have little control over where your attention goes.
When you’re doing one thing, your mind is thinking about the next thing — or something else entirely.
What’s more, traumatic life experiences can loom over your daily life, demanding emotional attention that you simply don’t have the energy to give.
Living your life in this manner can become exhausting. No matter how hard you try to “keep up” with the world around you, it seems the effort is hopeless.
You push away your past experiences to try and focus on the present, but the future hijacks your thoughts.
What’s more, you’re not the only one experiencing this hyper-vigilant lifestyle, a way of living that allows for very little examination of self and your inner wisdom.
It’s a lifestyle that tends to ignore living mindfully because it’s not effective or efficient, but everyone you know is pushing harder than ever to keep pace with the rest of the world.
You do your best to manage your time, putting apps and tools in place to improve your life — always “busy” doing something.
Deep inside, you know this isn’t how you want to live.
In fact, you’re searching for a way to better your life, not add more stress to it.
You’ve read a few articles on mindfulness, and you’ve attempted to practice it.
But the world continues to press in on your “time” to be mindful.
So how do you go about becoming more mindful and cultivate your attention?
William James wrote:
“My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind.”
So does this mean we must control where we focus our attention to get the most out of our lives and not spread our attention so thin that we physically and emotionally drain ourselves?
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the Center for Healthy Minds, and his colleagues concluded that there are four constituents that govern well-being in our lives:
Here is Davidson speaking about attention in his talk on well-being:
From a scientific standpoint, Davidson asks an important question: “How would you show up [in your life] if you paid attention?”
Here are some other questions you may ask yourself about mindfulness and attention in your own life:
- “How do I cultivate attention?”
- “How does my lack of focus affect my life?”
- “Will practicing mindfulness make me happier?”
These questions are reasonable to ask, but have you considered where you’re looking for your answers?
Most search the internet for answers to their concerns.
However, there is an inner wisdom that you may have not tapped into yet that can have a wealth of knowledge awaiting for you to call upon it.
Here are some studies on mindfulness:
- Mindfulness has been shown to reduce the effects of anxiety.
- Mindfulness was studied and shown to improve perceived self-worth.
- Mindfulness practices have been shown to improve cognition.
When you practice mindfulness, you are able to focus your attention on what you want, including how you cope with traumatic experiences from your past or that show up in your life.
Here are six ways you can practice mindfulness to better control your attention:
6 Ways to Practice Mindfulness to Better Control Your Attention
Mindfulness can sound complex at first. However, it’s anything but complex. For most, mindfulness is simply paying attention to their own feelings, thoughts, and actions, grounding themselves in their moment-to-moment experiences.
For others, they spend time meditating to focus solely on their breath, allowing all other feelings and thoughts to pass by like clouds in the sky. Here are six ways to practice mindfulness in your daily life:
#1. Be Mindful During Routine Activities
The next time you are washing the dishes, taking the dog for a walk, or going for your run, be mindful of your experience. Instead of allowing your mind to wander off to other feelings or thoughts, focus your attention on what’s happening right now in the moment. Hone in with your senses and engage with the experience.
#2. Be Mindful in the Morning
Before you do anything else in the morning, practice being mindful. You can stand or sit and be mindful of your emotions, thoughts, body, and your surroundings. When you start your day with a mindfulness practice like meditating, you set the tone for your nervous system for the rest of the day.
#3. Allow Your Mind to Wander
Mindfulness is about being present. You can practice bringing your mind back in a loving, compassionate way. First, you let it wander, and when it gets too far, bring it back to your breath or senses. When your thoughts take over, bring yourself back to the present moment sense experience.
#4. Practice Short Mindfulness Sessions
Take the time a few moments every day to practice mindfulness. It can be a few minutes or up to 20 minutes. You want to be present, utilizing all your senses to ground yourself in the now. Even a three-minute mindfulness practice can be beneficial. You can focus on something as simple as how your shoes feel on your feet as you sit and breathe.
#5. Replace Boredom with Mindfulness
Boredom is a great state. It allows our minds to wander. Amidst that wandering, practice mindfulness. If you’re waiting for transportation or a meeting to start, you can engage in your mindfulness practice, grounding yourself.
#6. Create Mindfulness Reminders
It’s important to create gentle reminders to remain mindful of your attention. These reminders can be notifications from your phone. They can be an affirmation in a frame near your desk. For some, they deem certain doorways as reminders to be mindful.
Practice Mindfulness Daily
It can be tough to be mindful throughout the day. So much of what we call modern society demands our attention across a wide variety of needs.
What’s more, our traumatic experience as LGBT+ individuals can influence our ability to be mindful. One way to work on discovering our inner wisdom is to schedule a session with a local therapist in Portland to help you through the process.
Here are the key takeaways from this blog article:
- You can cultivate your attention with mindfulness practices.
- Practice mindfulness during routine chores and activities.
- Start a mindfulness practice first thing in the morning.
- Gently, lovingly bring your mind back to the present when it wanders.
- Keep your mindfulness practices short.
- When you’re bored, practice mindfulness.
- Remind yourself gently of your ability to be mindful.