When your mind is careening from one thought to the next, it can be difficult to meditate or even keep your mind on the road while driving. Try these strategies for preventing distractions or working with them so you can improve your concentration.
Minimizing Inner Distractions
1. Get more sleep. Eight hours of sleep is a good rule to follow for most, but there are individual differences. If your thinking gets dreamy and you fall asleep whenever you sit down, it’s a warning sign you need more slumber.
2. Exercise and eat well. Your mind works better when you keep your body fit. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily and eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and some healthy fats.
3. Sit up. Just sitting up straight can help keep your mind from sinking. Tighten those abdominal muscles to support a straight back. Relax your shoulders and draw them back so your neck and head fall into alignment.
4. Make yourself comfortable. Good posture feels good when you get used to it. Pay attention to your body. Shift positions if your foot is starting to fall asleep or if your legs need more room.
5. Take deep breaths. Breathing fully from your diaphragm helps carry more oxygen to your brain and makes it easier to manage your thoughts. It’s one reason why meditation sessions often start with breathing exercises.
Minimizing Outer Distractions
1. Limit your time online. Studies show that checking email is one of the biggest ways we waste time these days. Resolve to finish writing that report before you let yourself log onto Facebook or play another video game.
2. Watch less TV. If TV is consuming too much of your time, keep the set turned off unless there’s something special you want to watch. You’ll avoid the temptation to channel surf.
3. Turn off your phone. Try turning your phone off when urgent calls are unlikely. You can check your voice mail later for any calls you need to return.
4. Let people know when you need to avoid interruptions. Try to develop systems for letting kids and co-workers know when you need to avoid non-emergency interruptions. You might designate some regular hours if you work at home or let colleagues know you’ll be tied up until later in the morning.
5. Create a peaceful atmosphere. Clearing away clutter can help you settle down to work. Put next week’s agenda out of sight if it’s drawing your attention away from this morning’s projects.
Working With Distractions
1. Bring your mind back to your task. Distractions will still arise, but you can make them less lengthy. Monitor your thoughts so you can promptly return your focus to your work.
2. Remain neutral. Put aside judgmental thoughts. Instead of feeling guilty about getting off track sometimes, take notice of your progress and reward yourself.
3. Loosen up. Even Zen masters remain aware of their surroundings while meditating. If you’re contending with leaf blowers and car alarms, be patient and wait them out.
4. Examine recurring thoughts. A nagging thought could indicate an issue that’s important to address. Maybe you need to talk with your aging mother to ensure she’s getting proper medical care or maybe you just need to get your oil checked.
Daily life is full of distractions, but you can often prevent them or find ways to manage their impact on your ability to concentrate. By stilling your mind, you’ll feel more relaxed and adept at everything you need to do.