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Attention! Yes you! Now, please start reading this...go!

Welcome! You noticed this blog! Please settle in - you'll be here for about 3 minutes.

If you're still reading, you are giving your attention to this article right now. Perhaps at the same time you're listening to music, or trying to ignore the sound of kids banging away in the background, or perhaps you're lying under a warm comfy blanket and doing some scrolling before bed (*no judgement*).

Hmm is your mind wondering yet... instead of tuning in to the words on this page... Have you started compiling a to-do list? Just realised you forgot to buy an essential ingredient for tomorrow night's dinner? Or your fingers are about to switch over to your Instagram or Facebook page or your email?

If you answered "yes" and noticed your mind wondering elsewhere, I need to reassure you that it's okay and I'm not offended. Minds do that. Mine does that too. Even as I write this, I'm noticing that I'm thirsty, my feet are cold, and I forgot to call back my mum.

So what was the point of all those observations?

In any given moment, you can step back and notice your mind. Has your mind stayed on track with the task that you set out to do? Has your mind wondered away from that task? Did you spot your mind wondering and so directed it back? And then a few moments later, did you spot your mind wondering again? Has your mind ever ended up somewhere and you're not sure how you got there!?

When you notice where your mind is at, you are noticing where your attention is it. And what's fascinating about attention is that you can direct your attention OR your attention can direct you (think: social media; headlines; bright colours; loud sounds etc). Either way, whatever has your attention, becomes your priority (whether intended or not).

Attention refers to our mind's ability:

  1. to "tune in" or focus on something specific that is happening either within us (e.g. our thoughts, body sensations) or outside of us (e.g. other people, or the environment), &

  2. to "tune out" or ignore all the other things going on within and outside of us.

This means that whatever our attention tunes in to, at the same time, it also tunes out other things. Some find it useful to think of attention like a spotlight - whatever is illuminated by the beam of light is what is attended to, and whatever isn't illuminated is unattended (not noticed).

I like to tweak this metaphor by referring to attention like a spotlight in an already illuminated room. Why? Because we should be noticing both (a) what the spotlight is shining on, and (b) what the spotlight isn't shining on.

For example, when I make a choice to focus my energy on writing this article, I need to know that my choice is moving me in the right direction AND at the right time. My choice is only going to be effective if I decided it was the priority over all the other things I could be doing.

What's the take home message? NOTICE!

You have a choice about what you tune in to and what you tune out from. And this is a skill! It's called mindfulness.

In any given moment, you can step back and notice where your attention is at:

  • Have you been proactive and directed your attention (i.e. you're focused on what's really important - like being the kind of person you want to be or doing the things you want to achieve)? or

  • Have you been reactive and your attention directed you (i.e. you've been captivated by distractors - which may be your own thoughts or emotions or things happening around you)?

Wherever you find your mind, aim to be proactive and bring it back to the 'here and now' and on to what is most important. You might find yourself catching your mind over and over and over and over again... and that's great.... because you are exercising your attention just like you would a muscle in your body.

For assistance with how to strengthen your attention and build the skill of mindfulness, contact Connectfully. We aim to connect you fully to strategies that work.

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