Has it ever happened to you? That you sit down with the intention of completing an assignment, but after a few initial moments, your awareness wanders off and you end up wasting all your time, instead.
You started off attentively by saying something like this, “Today, I have to finish this project. After all, it’s pretty urgent!” but after an hour or so you got distracted by social media and spent all your time watching ‘cute puppy videos’, instead. “Oops!”
What went wrong? What seems to be the problem here? The problem is the lack of focus. Without focus even the simplest of tasks like - reading, driving or listening to someone could feel like impossible feats to achieve. When there is a lack of focus you tend to waste a whole lot of your time as well. Something which could have been completed in 15-20 minutes takes a good 3-4 hours if you aren’t focused enough, isn’t it?
Experts even believe that focus is in fact the key ingredient when it comes to harnessing success. How well you could focus on something determines what kind of thinking mechanism you have which includes your ability to solve problems and make crucial decisions. Even your memory is directly linked with your ability to focus. When you learn something with great concentration, you tend to memorize it very well. So, it becomes incredibly important that you learn how to enhance your ability to pay attention to something with all your concentration.
Mindfulness and focus are deeply connected to one another. When you practice mindfulness meditation your focus increases and similarly, when your focus increases your practice tends to become better and better. There are two ways in which mindfulness could help you with your focus -
Since mindfulness meditation involves purposefully, paying attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental manner, it helps you train your mind to become better at focusing on things. It’s a wonderful tool to enhance your concentration power as it teaches you how to remain interested or involved with things which usually people do not pay much attention to. For example, mindful eating habits are designed to teach you how to enjoy every bite of your food with the utmost attention and a sense of gratitude.
During the practice, every time your mind wanders off, you intentionally bring your attention back to the present moment. When you do this, again and again, every day, you will see that your ability to focus on something gradually increases.
When you practice mindfulness new neuronic networks are created in your brain. So, in a way, you rewire your brain, enabling it to find better, more effective ways of handling tasks or dealing with stress and anxiety. As your brain’s capabilities increase, so do your focus.
Now, it has been scientifically proven that practicing mindfulness increases gray matter in your brain. This is the area of your brain where the most number of the brain cells are located. Simply put, more gray matter means better, more coordinated brain activity, which allows you to focus in a much more effective manner.
While some people struggle with how to focus on something, many others struggle to decide what should they focus on, in the first place. There are so many areas in your life that should be your top priorities such as your health, your mental wellbeing, career, relationships, etc.
Depending on who you are, what kind of circumstances you are dealing with, and what is it that you want at this stage of your life, you need to focus on certain things, while making sure you aren’t wasting your time on things that distract you from your goals.
If you are not sure you are focusing on the right things in your life, or you feel confused or lost, practicing mindfulness could help bring some clarity into your life. When you practice mindfulness, you observe your own thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a non-judgmental manner.
This allows you to see your own strengths and weaknesses from a third person’s point of view. When that happens, you could clearly see whether you are on the right track or not. You would be able to analyze which areas in your life need improvement in order to get what you want or to become who you want to be.
Before we delve into how mindfulness enhances your focus, let’s make one thing clear - in order to enhance your focus via mindfulness, you need to stop multitasking. Yes, some people are really good at multitasking, but if you are trying to handle too many things all at the same time, because of which your productivity is suffering, then what’s the point?
For example, if you are listening to your boss but in your head, you are planning a surprise birthday party for your daughter, chances are that you’ll miss some of the details your boss was trying to convey and also, you’ll miss some of the ideas your daughter would have really appreciated during her party. When you are learning how to focus on something, it’s better to have a single object of observation.
Now let’s explore how mindfulness enhances your ability to focus on something -
When your mind is occupied by a million different things, it’s really hard to focus on just one object, idea or task. You must have noticed that sometimes when you are trying to do something really important, random thoughts start appearing out of nowhere and soon they distract you completely from that original task you were trying to accomplish. Why do such things happen?
It’s because it is the nature of your mind to keep wandering from one place to another, from one thought to another, endlessly, without ever stopping. Mindfulness allows you to keep your mind in check.
Mindfulness means being aware of what’s going on in your mind at any given point in time. This awareness allows you to pinpoint that exact moment when your focus is shifting to something else which can be termed as a ‘distraction’. If you could cultivate this awareness that you are about to get distracted, you’ll be able to stop yourself right there to maintain your focus on the important task which needs to be accomplished.
Of course, it needs some practice, but by putting in some effort (of being consistent with your meditation practice), it can be easily achieved. Anyway as your practice develops, you’ll notice that the appearance of these distracting thoughts will start reducing on its own since your consciousness will be on the rise. As you’ll become a more calm and peaceful human being, your mind will reduce its compulsion to keep on chattering all the time.
This is something you must’ve done so many times that it must’ve become an automatic thing for you. Let’s do it mindfully this time! Focus all your attention on the process of tea/coffee making. As you pick up one ingredient after the other pay attention to what you are doing and how you are doing it. Pay attention to how the whole process is making you feel. How’s the aroma, color, and texture of your tea/coffee. Try to be as present as possible.
If you see a bug or a butterfly or any insect for that matter, start following it around for 10-15 minutes without disturbing it. Pay attention to how it moves, how it behaves, how it explores its surroundings, etc. Be in the present moment and be aware of how the whole process is making you feel. Whenever you get distracted by your thoughts or emotions, pause, take a few deep breaths and start observing again.
So, now that we’ve covered how mindfulness enhances your ability to focus, here’s an important side note regarding focus and concentration in the context of mindfulness -
Yes, mindfulness helps you improve your focus, but it also teaches you how to be more involved with life. If you are greatly involved in something, say your job or your relationship, focus comes naturally. If there’s no involvement and you try to bring focus, you’ll realize the process becomes torturous. You don’t need to tell children that they need to focus on their games. They are so invested and involved in their games that they dread doing anything else (especially studies!), isn’t it?
With the help of mindfulness try to be like a child. Learn how to be more involved with those aspects of your life where you think you lack as an individual. Then, you won’t have to worry about not being able to focus on them. When what you do is kind of a ‘love affair’ instead of just a mundane task which you have to achieve, you’ll naturally become more focused, without any additional efforts from the outside.