Using Mindfulness to Pay Attention


Nowadays, there are many things fighting for our attention at once. Our phones constantly go off with calls and texts, our children ask for us to “watch this!”, and our co-workers have plenty of questions via email to keep us busy.

We live in a world where everything is instantaneous—where there’s an excess of digital and interpersonal stimuli that pulls us from what we’re currently doing. With so many distractions, our attention is often split between multiple things at once. When our attention is divided, we’re not as focused in the moment.

How do we focus on what’s right in front of us and avoid distractions? We can use mindfulness to cultivate our attention and enhance our experiences. Let’s explore how to go about this…

Utilize your five senses –
Your senses can ground you in the present moment. They help you notice the details of your environment, bringing you into your current experience. Feel the ground beneath your feet. Smell the fragrance of a warm dinner meal or a freshly-baked batch of cookies. Listen to the wind blowing, or your favorite song playing on the radio. Taste a piece of chocolate in your mouth. Look around you at details that you may have otherwise overlooked. The more you pay attention to your surroundings with your senses alert, the better focused you can be in the moment.

Be aware of your thoughts –
Try taking a mental note of what goes through your head during the day. Naturally, your mind will wander from one thing to the next—from the present moment, to the weather outside, to the groceries you have to get, to the party that you can’t wait for this weekend. Notice how your mind jumps between what’s going on at the moment and thoughts external of what’s currently happening. Then, challenge yourself to focus your thoughts on the present. See if you can train you mind to avoid drifting, distracting thoughts. No one will ever be perfect at this. The goal is to be as engaged in the moment as possible.

Pay attention to your feelings –
We feel a variety of emotions and feelings every day, depending on what we do and our mindset at any given time. Don’t label your emotions or judge how you feel in the moment. Simply observe and experience your feelings. Don't try to get rid of them or stuff them away. Instead, notice where you feel your emotions in your body. You may feel anger in your hands, or guilt in your stomach. Remember: you are not your emotion! You do not need to act on your feeling. By being aware of how you feel, you can mindfully decide on a response to the current situation.

Mindfulness is a gradual practice, which starts with focusing your attention on the present. It can help you cultivate your attention abilities and stay focused when it’s needed most. Be mindful of your surroundings, your thoughts, and your feelings.

With daily mindfulness practice, you may feel more at ease in life and in greater control of your emotions. You can feel less distracted and more engaged, paying attention to and experiencing moments in a meaningful way.