With many of us now re-entering stricter pandemic protocols we discuss why now is a good time to stop attending to those things that are draining you. We present why a re-focus of your attention is vital to your wellbeing and ways to do it.
With everything that’s going on in the world, being in the moment and embracing the things we love feels more important than ever. Fear, division, racism, environmental degradation, and divisive politics have been in constant supply on our screens. All this, on top of a resurgence of the global pandemic, have pushed rates of anxiety and depression to all-time highs. Here in the US, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, it seems like an opportune time to shift gears, turn off our devices and collectively reset our attention to the positive and on what matters most.
Globally, we’ve all been through the proverbial wringer. In truth, no matter where you live, putting down your screens and refocusing your attention on the ‘here and now’ may be just what you need to boost or recapture your battered sense of joy and wellbeing. Perhaps it’s time for us to all collectively engage in an attention reset to rediscover and re-engage with those things around us that restore and nourish us.
A Menacing Backdrop: The Attention Economy
We now live in what’s called the attention economy. Every time you pick up your phone, turn on your screen or open an app, you are for sale. It is now the most influential economic force on the planet, making up a large chunk of the 80 trillion dollars that constitute the global economy. All of this is driven by companies that need to capture your attention in order to sell you their products. Moreover, by design, the attention economy is a prime breeding ground for fraud, addiction and hate.
First and foremost, we’re using technology that’s designed to be addictive. The average person looks at their phone 150 times per day. Your phone has numerous features that are designed to keep your eyeballs glued to the screen. The attention economy is also making our emotions and behaviors more extreme. News headlines are designed not to inform but rather to get you to click, by triggering psychological reactions that imitate real-life threats – just to make a buck.
Most concerning is that the attention economy fuels hate and division. You can never be sure of what’s fake or real. Troll bots and deepfakes are driving a wedge between humanity by polarizing and bringing out the worst in us. Unfortunately, misinformation spreads 10x faster than truth on the internet, and this tactic effectively plays into our innate confirmation bias, which further entrenches us in our existing belief systems, and shuts down our desire to consider new and different views.
Against this menacing backdrop, it would seem the perfect time to break from the onslaught of digital doom in order to rediscover and re-engage with those things that restore and nourish us.
Re-focus: What to Stop, What to Start.
In order to reground yourself and create a renewed sense of energy and wellbeing, you must first turn off the noise.
- Go on a digital detox: no matter what the subject matter, spending as much time as many of us do, staring at a screen does us no favors. Again, for the reasons outlined above, taking time away from your screens can be the single most impactful thing you can do for your mental wellbeing.
- Go on a news diet: removing the negative headlines and events from your daily life can give you an immediate bump in your mood. I’m not saying to ignore the news completely, but instead to intentionally schedule specific times to scroll through the news. For me, this is once per week on Sunday mornings for one hour.
Here are some ideas to re-train your attention and get you feeling more positive and optimistic:
- Create a list of what matters most to you and/or things that bring you joy. Start this by thinking of favorite people, places or activities. Then make a point of inserting these into your daily or weekly schedule. Time spent with friends virtually or via social distancing, going to favorite places and doing enjoyable activities go a long way towards building and maintaining personal happiness.
- Practice gratitude. The science on this is strong. Feeling grateful can improve your health, mental function and relationships with others. Regular practice of gratitude has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve sleep and encourage higher levels of positive emotions. Here’s a quick, effective gratitude exercise you can start today that many of my clients have found transformative:
- Begin a gratitude/daily success journal – nourish yourself at the end of each day by listing 2-3 things that went well, that you accomplished or are proud of.
- Do not list anything negative. Just list the good stuff.
- First thing next morning, spend a few minutes contemplating these. Then get on with your day.
While we all continue to grapple with the pandemic and shifting political winds, perhaps the best thing that you can do for yourself, and for those you love, is to take stock and rekindle your connection to those things that will power you up and sustain you through troubled times.
If you’re looking for further ways to boost you or your team’s wellbeing, give us a shout. We’ll help you get on track quickly and powerfully.