MULTI-TASKING SEEMS TO BE A NECESSARY PART OF LIFE, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE INCREASED PEACE AND CLARITY THAT WILL COME INTO OUR LIVES IF WE PRACTICE THE SKILL OF CONCENTRATION FOR ONE HOUR PER DAY, PLUS MOMENTS THROUGHOUT THE DAY? HERE’S HOW:
THE PROBLEM WITH MULTITASKING AND DISTRACTION:
When people ask us how we are doing we often say, “I am busy”.
What does “busy” mean? If it means brains and bodies darting around it sounds stressful.
Darting around can give us a dopamine or adrenaline hit. Then, wanting to relax, we seek for a serotonin hit by overeating and overdoing screen time. That’s not necessarily a serotonin hit, but perhaps a sugar-alcohol hit or trance hit, which isn’t peaceful but sedating and dull-full.
Do we really want to feel sedated and dull?
Jim Kwik, brain expert and author of Limitless, says that being busy brings anxiety which causes overthinking, and that multitasking is grossly inefficient. He points out that when we practice distraction for 10 hours per day, we become experts at distracting ourselves through busy-ness and/or dull-ness.
When we practice distraction and multitasking, we reduce our ability to focus.
It’s been shown that the focus center of the brain, the anterior cingular cortex, of heavy media multitaskers is smaller. The good news is that it grows thicker with those who practice concentration skills.
Media isn’t the only distraction. Too long of a to-do list is distracting. Too many fun options in life are distracting. Clutter is distracting.
Jim Kwik says “clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, which results in decreased performance and increased anxiety and stress levels…You might not realize it, but all the input you’re getting on any given day is causing you a considerable amount of stress.”
ATTENTIVE IN RELATIONSHIPS INSTEAD OF BEING DISTRACTED:
Are we good at fully concentrating during conversations? Have you noticed how the face of a child will fall, almost imperceptibly, if you look at your phone in the middle of a conversation with him or her? This is significant.
The best secret I know for improving relationships is to give full attention, 1X1, 100% to individuals, as if nothing else exists at that moment. But it must be sincere, coming from a heart of respect, gratitude and maybe a little curiosity.
Isn’t it wonderful when someone simply wants to be with you?
WHY PRACTICE CONCENTRATING:
— -to feel more peaceful
— -to engage more fully
— -to help others feel more peaceful
— -to learn more efficiently
— -to get more clarity
— -to hear the messages from our Heavenly Father
Hindu priest, entrepreneur, and former monk Dandapani said, “Concentration is at the crux of all human success and endeavor.”
HOW TO PRACTICE CONCENTRATING:
Concentration means being aware and paying attention. That’s it. It’s actually a simple concept.
Jim Kwik recommends that we practice concentrating for an hour per day, either during a conversation or an activity. For example, when reading or writing, focus intently on the words as if nothing else exists.
I tried this, for actually two hours. I did gentle yoga while listening to coach training. I realize this is two activities at once, regardless, I still felt peaceful the rest of the day. This was significant for me. I didn’t need food to relax, which is temporary relaxation anyway.
Would overeating decrease if we relax before eating. What if we relax before getting on screens?
What if we break up the hour of concentration into a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon when we are beginning to feel a little weary?
In addition to that hour, how about practicing concentration for moments throughout the day, especially in our interactions with others. My husband, Rick, has developed a wonderful habit of pausing and looking at me and smiling.
Giving someone 100% of our attention for just a few moments is like giving a breath of fresh air. It’s like giving nourishment to a hungry soul.
Speaking of breath: We all realize the power of breathing a little more deeply. President Russell M. Nelson suggested that we change the way we breathe. Deep breathing facilitates concentration.
Thich Nhat Hanh, author of Peace is Every Step, says:
— -“Mindful breathing helps us to be calm, relaxed, and peaceful. It helps us stop thinking so much and stop being possessed by sorrows of the past and worries about the future.”
— -”Washing dishes…I enjoy taking my time with each dish, being fully aware of the dish, the water, and each movement of my hands…Each second of life is a miracle.”
— -“When a child presents himself to you with his smile, if you are not really there — -thinking about the future or the past, or preoccupied with other problems — -then the child is not really there for you.”
Does it seem ridiculously impossible to wash every dish mindfully? Maybe. But I have noticed that it is possible to do at least a few things mindfully throughout the day and I feel amazingly more peaceful when I do. When my mind wanders, I gently bring it back.
It takes effort.
MY FAVORITE TYPE OF CONCENTRATION:
Practicing concentration every day will eventually make it come more easily and naturally.
Focus, awareness and gentle concentration comes very naturally to Heavenly Father. His voice is quiet yet pierces to the center of our being. He listens with His whole being. He said “blessed are the peacemakers”.
Concentration feels like stillness. Peacemakers know how to be still. What happens when we open our ears and look steadfastly to heaven? The scriptures (3 Nephi 11) tell us the answer: when we open our ears and look steadfastly to heaven, we gain understanding. Understanding is clarity. Do we want more clarity?
My most valuable form of concentration is prayer. When I pray my mind wanders and I have to repeatedly bring my focus back to Heavenly Father, who is my source of love, power, safety and joy. The practice of gently focused prayer helps me be more mindful during the day.
Multitasking seems to be a necessary part of life, and sometimes it’s fun to multitask. But, if we practice a little concentration, mindfulness and stillness every day, our peace, clarity and compassion will increase.