Increase Focus With Meditation Part I
We live in a world filled with distractions. A study released by Deloitte found that on average people check their smartphones 46 times per day (1). By the way, this is just an average, the study found that some people check their phones 100 times per day! (1) Technology, especially social media, has slowly been morphing our brains into instant gratification seeking machines. We don't even realize it, but we are all addicted to our phones, it is a drug that is consuming our life and changing our behaviors. Our addiction is rewiring our brain for a shorter attention span. The brain is a muscle and will adapt to the stimulus you give it. By constantly checking the phone, the brain adapts to the shortened attention span. Over time this shortened attention span becomes the norm and wreaks havoc on our focus.
A lack of focus decreases productivity and increases anxiety. Imagine how much work you could have done if you could focus on one subject for an hour, instead of checking your phone every 10 minutes. Productivity would go through the roof! As a trainer, I hear the same excuses over and over again, “I am too busy” or “I don’t have enough time.” Maybe we don’t have enough time because we are too distracted. Focusing on one thing sounds so simple, but it is easier said than done.
Human beings are pleasure seeking machines. I know I would rather experience bliss over pain, wouldn't you? Unfortunately, this behavior has a dark side. When you experience pleasure from something (i.e. a smartphone) you expect to experience the same amount of pleasure each time, but the brain is wired for novelty. So every time you check your phone you desensitize your brain, which causes a greater stimulus to trigger the same amount of pleasure as before. The same thing occurs when you drink coffee. The first cup of coffee lights your brain up and makes you feel like the king or queen of your land. While the second and third cup does little compared to the first. This desensitization causes you to check your phone frequently. But we don’t have to be controlled by our phones, we can fix this addiction with meditation.
As I stated above, the brain is a muscle. Cell phones are training it to lack focus, but we can train it to have deep focus through meditation. Meditation dates back to the first century and has been practiced for thousands and thousands of years. I have always been stubborn and afraid of change, so I was very reluctant to give meditation a try. This all changed after I listened to a Tim Ferriss Podcast. Tim Ferris is a New York Times bestselling author and a role model of mine. He has spoken publicly about his issues with anxiety and depression.
In one of his podcasts, he talked at length about the benefits of meditation and how it helped him control his anxiety. He recommended to his audience to download Headspace, a guided meditation app, and perform the 10-day challenge. When you download the app you are challenged to meditate ten minutes a day for ten days in a row. In the past, I have struggled with anxiety and tried to do meditation, but I never stuck with it. I lacked the accountability needed to create a routine. I needed someone or something to hold me accountable and Headspace was the perfect fix. After the ten day challenge, I was hooked. I bought the year membership and haven’t looked back.
Over the last four years, I have completed 760 sessions totaling 200 hours of meditation. I haven’t been perfect with my morning meditation. I have missed some days due to a lack of discipline, but I don’t let that deter me from my practice nor do I let myself miss consecutive days in a row Remember, focus on progress, not perfection. You are going to make mistakes and miss days. At times meditation is going to be boring and you are going to hate every second of it. But if you can be courageous enough to stick with it, you will experience a sense of control like never before. Trust me, meditation is that powerful; I experienced it first hand. My morning practice gives me control over my anxiety and my thoughts. It has taught me how to control my emotions and be more empathetic towards others, including myself.
I understand that starting a new routine can be challenging, especially in the morning. But we are all capable of making a change, we just have to be willing to do it. The hardest part of any routine is getting started, and meditation is no different. Start with a small, attainable goal and work your way up slowly. If ten minutes seems too long then start out with five minutes or even two minutes. It may seem small, but every journey begins with one small step.
*You can get the headspace app and the 10-day challenge free at headspace.com, the Google Play Store, or the Apple App Store. (Seriously, give it a try.)