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How Can We Refocus Our Attention?

Attention Span

The time someone can concentrate on an activity, idea, or conversation without getting sidetracked is known as their attention span. Longer attention spans typically make it simpler for people to finish work and maintain organisation. The ability to focus during discussions without getting distracted or fidgeting has an impact on social interactions for some people.

The environment and the type of task have an impact on a person’s attention span. Games, reading, and conversations are just a few examples of activities where some people can focus for longer periods of time than others. Environments with lots of distractions can make it harder to pay focus. In noisy, chaotic settings or under stress, people’s attention spans tend to be shorter.

Why do we sometimes lose focus?

You may have noticed that sometimes, it takes a lot of work to focus all our attention on a particular task. We are switching between working on the job, jumping to our phones, daydreaming, taking a walk, watching a show, and then returning to the task at hand for barely about 5 minutes, yet again. And, it may sometimes frustrate you that you’re this person.

This can occur because the brain can lose focus because it is constantly bombarded with various sensory information and distractions, leading to overstimulation and a lack of concentration. Additionally, the brain is wired to seek out novelty and change, which can cause it to become easily bored with tasks that are repetitive or monotonous. As a result, our attention can wander and we may struggle to focus on a particular task or activity.

Types of Attention:

Divided Attention

A type of attention that also incorporates multitasking is limited attention, sometimes known as divided attention. But in this instance, there are several things competing for our attention. People pay attention to several cues simultaneously and may respond to several demands at once rather than moving their focus. For example, you may be working on an assignment, while being on call with a friend and suddenly you realize, you have to cook up something so now you may find yourself cutting vegetables too.

Sustained Attention

The capacity to maintain attention on a single object or task for a prolonged period of time is referred to as sustained attention. People maintain their attention on the work at hand and carry on with their behavior during this time until it is finished or until a certain amount of time has passed.

Alternating Attention

Multitasking or seamlessly switching between two or more tasks with distinct cognitive demands are examples of this style of attention. It’s not about focusing on multiple tasks at once, but rather about pausing to attend to one before moving on to the next. It i more mindful in that sense.

Selective Attention

The capacity to pick and pay attention just to some environmental stimuli while filtering out others is known as selective attention. You might, for instance, pay attention to a book you are reading while ignoring the conversation your parents are having in the next room. In order to maintain selective attention on a job, you must be able to block out not only external distractions like outside noise but also interior ones like thoughts and emotions.

What are some brain areas involved in attention?

Prefrontal Cortex: This region, located in the front part of the brain, is involved in executive functions such as decision-making, planning, and cognitive control, which are crucial for maintaining attention and inhibiting distractions. Ever noticed that while writing an exam, you are able to concentrate without getting distracted by so many invigilators walking in and out? Well, the prefrontal cortex is at work here!

Parietal Cortex: The parietal cortex, located towards the top and back of the brain, plays a role in spatial awareness and perception, and is involved in directing attention to relevant information in our environment. When we hear excess noise coming from a particular side of the road, our attention gets diverted towards that side and the parietal cortex becomes curious to know what’s happening.

Reticular Activating System (RAS): The RAS, located in the brainstem, acts as a filter for incoming sensory information, helping to determine what gets our attention and what gets filtered out. A parent who has taken their child to the park will know when their child is calling out to them, regardless of the many activities they maybe occupied with at that time.

Thalamus: The thalamus acts as a relay station for sensory information coming from our senses and helps direct relevant information to other brain areas for processing and attention. For example, music which serves as an auditory stimuli gets passed onto brain areas that comprehend the music.

How can I refocus my attention?

Recognise the importance of being attentive to what you focus on because it creates your personal reality. Many of us miss out on the full potential of life because we don’t pay enough attention.

Embrace living in the present moment, the here and now. Eckhart Tolle, an authority on this philosophy, believes that time is always “now.” Be fully engaged in the present as the future is unknown, and the past cannot be changed. You can learn from past mistakes and weaknesses, but you must do it in the present.

Increase your awareness by paying close attention to what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you feel. Emotions can impact your focus, so if they interfere, make a conscious choice to change them.

Identify what you want to pay attention by focusing on things that are interesting or have clear value. Choose targets that serve your best interests and push you to the edge of your abilities. Make deliberate choices about where to focus your attention.

Take notice of small things and develop an eye for detail. While it’s essential to see the bigger picture, focusing on smaller aspects like leaves, bark, insects, and birds can increase your ability to concentrate and make you happier. Seek out enjoyable experiences and positive feedback.

Set goals and monitor your progress, making adjustments as necessary.

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