Help! I can’t stop my mind from wandering
A wandering mind is a great tool for the imagination but it can also be a great impediment to your daily life and functionality. There are many causes of a wandering mind; from mental health issues such as ADHD, to simply having an over active mind. But just know, you’re not alone! Here are some tips and tricks you can use to focus your wandering mind.
1. Do something that doesn’t require your full attention before you turn to the task that needs your focus.
For me, that’s watching a guilty pleasure tv show that doesn’t have much substance to it.
I find that when I take my attention levels down to a minimum before I turn them all the way up, I give my mind a chance to warm up. It’s the same as stretching before a work out. Stretching doesn’t require too much energy, but it prepares your body for what’s to come.
So in the same way, doing a menial task like watching a tv show that you don’t follow religiously, or even doing a mundane chore like washing the dishes, allows your mind to wander — but not too much because you are still presently doing something — before you bring it back in to focus.
This is especially helpful when you have many things on your to-do list that require focus.
By breaking them up with “focus-less” tasks in between, you give your mind a break and a chance to wander, which it has probably been itching to do.
If you are someone that can just step away from your work, sit back, and do absolutely nothing, that works too! Personally, as much as my mind loves to wander, it always needs some sort of background engagement — even if it’s something that I’m not paying attention to. The only time my mind is completely blank, is when I sleep. If only we could get work done in our sleep….
2. Turn off social media alerts and/or keep your screens away from you.
In this digital age, our screens are probably the most distracting things around.
Not only do they steal our attention from the task at hand, they are the greatest enablers of a wandering mind.
I often find myself on Instagram scrolling through the explore page for hours without even looking at the pictures! It’s a serious addiction, and like most addictions, it’s got to be moderated.
I say moderated, and not completely eradicated because obviously, a lot of the work that requires our focus is done on these screens. And thankfully, there are several apps or plug-ins that you can download to manage, and in some cases, police your digital engagement.
Stayfocusd and Nanny for Google are just two examples of extensions that you can use to limit your use of social media and other websites that often distract your already wandering-prone mind. You can choose specific websites that you don’t want to be allowed access to and even set time limits on how long they should be disabled.
So if you can’t keep yourself away from the distracting interwebs and social media, let the digital world do it for you!
3. Practice mindfulness meditation or yoga.
The former is a great way to discipline your mind, while yoga links the focused mind with the body. Both methods involve completely focusing your mind on the present state.
A large part of yoga entails focusing on your breath while holding certain poses. Naturally, this helps your mind practice the incredibly difficult task of focusing on one thing.
With both mindfulness meditation and yoga, through training, you notice when your mind has wandered from the present thought, and consciously bring it back into focus.
For your sake, you can start with something as simple as: before you turn to a task that requires your full attention, spend five minutes watching and counting your inhales and exhales, making sure they are equal. Try to notice when your mind wanders from your breathing, and reel it back in.
If you want to take it to the next level, begin to practice meditation or yoga regularly — regardless if you have a task to focus on or not.
And if you still need some convincing, know that both practices are proven to be wonderful for your mental and physical health and wellbeing, so just do your body a favor and pamper it a bit!
Focusing your wandering mind definitely takes some work, but it is not impossible. Try out different techniques to see what works for you, and most importantly, don’t beat yourself up if you find your mind still wandering at first. Just like everything in life, practice makes perfect.