How many of you reading this get distracted?

Whether you are reading, talking or listening, many a time you will have experienced being distracted. It can be annoying, frustrating and takes you out of your stride until you can focus again.

What about when we are listening to someone speak. It can take a lot of concentration to hear their voice and what subject they are talking about. Listening takes a lot of effort, and sometimes it is hard to shut out other noises. Can you think of times this happens to you?

Sometimes it is not just noises that can distract us.

Think of any of our senses being affected through distraction.

With sight, your eyes automatically scan your surroundings and any movement outside your immediate focus, can be off putting too, for instance people going past, or objects in the sky, like a plane in the distance. Trees, birds, mechanical tools, traffic; the list is endless.

Perhaps there is a smell that distracts you, of someone’s perfume or a food smell? The texture of clothing on your skin; maybe itchy or frayed. A strange taste in your mouth and the wonderment of where this came from.

So, we have noises, movements, smell, touch, taste – all senses that come under ‘attack’ from external routes, all designed to test our ability to concentrate!!

It turns out that paying attention isn’t as straightforward as it appears.

Paying attention, in fact, entails two distinct functions: “enhancement” (our ability to focus on important things) and “suppression” (our ability to dismiss irrelevant information).

Surprisingly, enhancement and suppression are not opposites in the brain; they are two separate processes.

Learning how to focus even when there are other noises around is a new skill, and can take time to learn. Often we use the term, I cannot hear myself speak, because of the external noises in the room. What if you could learn to focus on one noise only? If you find yourself getting distracted while listening, try to re-focus on your breathing and gradually seek out the one thing that you were doing before the event.

When I was training to be a Counsellor, I remember vividly the training from our tutor in how to blank out distractions while concentrating on the client speaking. One such exercise was by using an imaginary speech bubble. I will try and explain how this works so that you may benefit, if you get distracted in the future.

The example:

If then you were talking to someone in the room, and the doorbell rings, you can learn to put your last thoughts of your conversation into a Bubble, which effectively hangs the bubble in suspended animation, while you deal with the person at the door. When you return, you seek out the Bubble, and close your eyes momentarily so that you can focus on where you ‘paused’ the conversation.

Sounds wild/crazy? Practice this next time. It is about stopping what you are doing and imagining a speech bubble in front of you. Put your last thought into the Bubble by saying it out loud a couple of times, and close the Bubble temporarily with your mind – zip it/glue it, whatever way you imagine! When you want to continue on that last thought, you open up the Bubble and think of that last thought that you said out loud. It should come back to you, so that you can continue where you were prior to the distraction. That’s the theory of it anyway.

Positive Thinking by ChangeTherapy.org.uk ©

3 thoughts on “Distractions

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