Mindful Distractions

Distractions, disruptions, and managing the information highway is part of life. It can be delightful and frustrating. Balance is a tough to find.

Technology helps us manage schedules, our communications and our time. Whether we plug in for email, texting, social media, scheduling, working on projects or playing a game, etc. technology is BIG. Tt can also create mayhem. How do we manage our distractions before they overtake our best intention?

Each of us have an average of 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot of internal traffic! Thoughts can trigger emotions and we experience roughly 400 trigger events a day. More internal traffic. With such a crowded internal space, it’s no surprise when we see soo much “unusual” behavior. It’s not so much that we’ve LOST our minds, but we may need help in finding our way through them.

Mindfulness is a helpful navigation tool. It reminds us to redirect ourselves inward to gain better composure and effectively manage our responses. We may like or dislike some behavior better than others. However – behavior is an “end product”, the result of the internal experience. So, if you want different behavior, you’ve got to start internally with thoughts, attitudes and emotions.

Managing behavior is an inside job. Let’s call in our IT (Internal Technology). Internal chaos shows up in chaotic behaviors. When someone else is “misbehaving”, we too, can get distracted. Venting about behaviors is also distracting. So how do we manage all of the distractions? Ah – so glad you asked!

Whether distractions are coming from your technology, interruptions, disruptive behavior of others, or one of your 70,000 thoughts, it is not hopeless. Maybe you’ve heard of mindfulness. Working with mindfulness helps with improved focus/concentration, emotional regulation and a slew of other scientifically proven benefits.

A friend recently went for some mindful meditation instruction, only to walk away fuming. The instructor told her to:

  1. Sit comfortable
  2. Relax
  3. Follow her breath

She did that. Now what? Nothing. They told her to keep sitting, relaxing and breathing. Furious she said, “So I’m just supposed to sit here and do NOTHING?!” You can probably relate. We get so use to being busy, mentally, visually, emotionally and physically busy that we feel completely LOST with nothing to entertain us.

Mindfulness is a practice, like any other habit or repetitive behavior. It’s a choice. We start by noticing that we are often mentally in a different space than our body. Does your mind wander when someone is talking to you or when you are driving? Do you look at your phone while driving or in a meeting? Do you work on your computer while you are on the phone? Is it possible to do one thing at a time and be fully present? Try it. See what you find.

Mindfulness begins with noticing. Observing. Slowing down. Breath is a necessity, which is why we so often use it as a tool to focus our attention. Start with the breath. Follow your breath – inhale/exhale cycle for 6 cycles. See how long it takes before your mind ditches you and goes off into the distraction fields of numbing excitement. Begin again. The challenge is to stick with it for 6 cycles before doing more. If we want others to notice and/or pay attention to what we have to say, we have to start by paying attention to ourselves for 6 breath cycles. How will you do?

Sharon Salzberg said, “Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.”

Schedule 1 minute of practice each day. See what happens. The next time you hunt for distractions to fill up the empty space, see what you find in that space. Breathe into it. Give your mind and heart some oxygen and breathe for 1 minute. Then go back to your busy. You may even feel better.

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash