From the moment we open our eyes in the morning (and check what our friends have posted on Instagram) to the seconds before we doze-off at night (after our fix of the current favourite web series), there is always some attention-grabbing, sensational and dramatic content on every screen we open! We have become so comfortable with this lifestyle that we find it ‘normal’, without having to pause and think about the impact of this sensory overload on our health, relationships and life goals. Addicted to Netflix? 5 Best Apps You Can Use to Reduce Your Screen Time Addiction.
The irony is that even though technological advancement is meant to be for the benefit of humankind, we often create monsters that gobble us up in return! And that is exactly what has happened with the proliferation of social media, web content, gaming apps and noisy news channels!
I’m hardly unaware of the brighter side of this picture, and have welcomed the ease of online learning, information, networking and entertainment (compensating somewhat for our freedom of interaction and movement being taken away by the pandemic). But without the judiciousness to utilize the best of this media while avoiding the worst, we are bound to suffer long-term consequences!
One such consequence of our current lifestyle choices is reduced attention and concentration. Let me explain how this can prevent us from living our lives to the fullest and leave us with a sense of incompleteness. Screen Time: Obesity, Low-Self Esteem and Other Side Effects of Screen Exposure in Children Parents Didn’t Know Of.
The tendency to be distracted and preoccupied existed even before the advent of social media because it is intrinsic to human nature. Paying complete attention to something or someone requires effort, and often our inherent laziness seeks to avoid this effort. The easiest way to observe this is when someone is talking to us. We pretend to listen, but our mind has already drifted away elsewhere. Parents often don’t realize the impact of poor or selective listening on their children’s development. Not only do children feel a lack of acknowledgement, they also grow up to mirror the same behavior in their adult relationships.
Now, with gadgets and electronic media increasingly ruling our lives, this problem has multiplied manifold. Be it among spouses, friends or colleagues, there’s hardly any meaningful exchange where both parties are ‘fully present’ and paying attention because there’s always something more adrenalin-inducing to be lured by! Little surprise that empathy in relationships is reducing and we are feeling lonelier.
I feel most concerned for adolescents who might have been warned about the impact of gaming and smartphone addiction by parents or teachers, but find it impossible to give up their compulsive patterns of media consumption. With their brains in a state of constant arousal and the dopamine-driven desire for social validation, they find themselves in a constant haze, facing a variety of physical and mental health issues.
This situation applies to working professionals and home-makers too. Without realizing it, we’ve slipped into a way of living where our time is being guzzled, and our energy is drained. We’re busy all day but not as productive or effective as we can be.
How do we re-kindle our ability to pay attention and improve our focus? The answer lies in being smarter than our smartphones!
Here are five suggestions that you can implement immediately to improve your attention and optimize your use of electronic media:
1. Quality Over Quantity, Always!
Be selective about what you watch, who you follow and what you give your time to. Ask yourself how it is enriching your life. Is it something you’re genuinely interested in? Avoid the tendency to browse mindlessly. Instead, take the time to absorb the details of someone’s post or read articles with credibility! Send thoughtful feedback or comments to posts or content by friends and content creators. Find ways to ‘create value’ through your digital presence!
2. Create Device-Free Time-Windows in the Day
The simplest things have the most profound impact on us. You can never find a more rejuvenating force than nature! I recommend at least 3 device-free time windows in the day – 1 hour after you wake up (for setting goals, prayer, a walk in the park or exercise), 1 hour before you sleep (write a journal, read a good book or take a warm bath) and dinner-time (reserve this for conversation, laughter and family bonding).
3. Awaken to the Power of Living in the Now
There is no other way to live fully and maximize your life’s potential than to live in the present moment. We can achieve this through mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, breath-work or any other effective habit that brings us back to NOW every time we lose ourselves in the past or future. Your self-awareness will grow in ways you had never imagined, and your attention, focus and memory will improve greatly.
4. Stop Multi-Tasking!
There was a time when I thought multi-tasking (defined by me as the practice of taking up several tasks together) was a great time-management tool. But the more I multi-tasked, the more scattered and restless I felt! I had to re-wire myself to do one-task-at-a-time, sequentially, and put all my concentration and focus into it. Making a well-thought-out daily schedule has also helped, wherein I add short breaks to relax myself or get easier tasks out of the way.
5. Turn Off Notifications on Your Phone
This is just one of the many simple tips and hygiene factors to reduce distractions and build your attention span. If you put your mind to it, you can create many such solutions. You can mute Whatsapp chats that are not critical to your work or personal life and read them occasionally (or never)! Instead of watching nasty news reporters screaming on television channels, you can choose to get a saner, more in-depth version of the same news in a good newspaper or magazine.
I strongly suggest putting these insights into action and evaluating your progress after a month. Reclaiming your ability to pay full attention to life, people and goals will be worth the effort!
Kanchan Wadi (File Image)
About The Author
Kanchan Wadi is a Mumbai-based wellness coach, relationship counsellor and motivational speaker. Here's Kanchan Wadi's Instagram handle. If you have any comments or questions about this article please write to her at email@example.com.