Shift Your Focus: How to Step Away from Distractions

By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.
~Christopher Columbus

Google researchers have shown that people today have an attention span shorter than a goldfish. This appears true in a society that encourages multi-tasking, even though studies have shown that virtually no one can multi-task well.

Distractions are everywhere, and many people are “on” 24/7, sleeping with their phones next to the bed. Not only does the blue light from electronic devices cause poor sleep, but it’s common for people to grab their phone as soon as they wake up.

You might also be perusing online news while you’re on a conference call at work, calling to make appointments while you zip across the highway on your Bluetooth, or have multiple TV screens throughout your house. Teens prefer to watch videos on laptops and mobile computers instead of televisions so they can have multiple tabs available at once and move from room to room with ease.

Why does anyone need to have this much to juggle? Why are we so accepting of distractions and even encourage them? While the popular rule of putting phones screen-down and stacked on each other during dinner is a good step in the right direction—why do we even need this rule?

Putting aside the technology that causes distractions from what’s important in life, like reaching goals, spending quality time with friends and family and concentrating on the task at hand, is one of the toughest asks for those addicted to technology. However, seeking out distractions doesn’t only involve tech (though it often does).

Seeking Healthy Distractions

Some parents, particularly those who don’t see their children regularly, think they have to entertain them every minute or risk them being bored. Boredom has long been the bane of a parent’s existence. Years ago, children were encouraged to “go outside” and seek their own adventures. That’s healthy, but once again it’s encouraging distractions. Even healthy distractions, such as outside play, is subtly telling children that quiet and stillness should be avoided when quiet and stillness are at the core of centuries-old practices such as meditation. If a person cannot be comfortably still, this will set them up for trouble in the future when they need to sit through a lecture, or wait without any means of entertainment such as at doctor’s office that may have a bad Wi-Fi connection. To sit in silence with your own thoughts is an important life skill. Meditation is a means of re-charging, looking inward, and honing the ability to not depend on stimulation to make it through an uncomfortable stretch of time.

Not all distractions are negative. We should practice everything in moderation. Determining if a distraction is healthy or not, and putting a time limit on it, should be a top consideration. Being still, quiet, and at peace is a healthy state to be in. This is especially true considering western culture thrives on non-stop stimulation. Re-learning quiet and stillness, perhaps through forest bathing or a meditation class, can do wonders for the inner self.

Stepping Away from Distractions

Here are a few steps to help you step away from distractions:

  1. Determine if you are in fact distracted. Ask yourself if it occurred organically or if you sought it out. If you sought it out, why? How can you avoid doing so in the future?
  2. Determine if the distraction is healthy. Is it self-destructive like shopping too much when you don’t have the money? Or is it self-supportive like going to the gym, taking a walk in nature, journaling or dancing?
  3. Limit TV time. Binge watching Netflix movies or shows comes with a limitless timeframe. It can be a good way to zone out after a tough day, but only with a self-imposed time limit.
  4. Seek out non-tech, “healthy distractions” to replace the more tech-heavy ones. For example, picking up a hobby like knitting, sketching or a sport is a healthy, tech-free way to de-stress.
  5. Understand that there will be some withdrawal symptoms from a tech addiction. It’s similar to any other type of addiction, and there will be slips. Forgive yourself.

Distractions and hobbies aren’t always the same thing. Everyone should have healthy hobbies they enjoy that doesn’t interfere with other aspects of their life. Unfortunately, in today’s world, many hobbies are somewhat anti-social and dependent on a screen such as TV and video-gaming.

When you want to walk away from unhealthy distractions, consider going outside first. Fresh air and movement are great healers as well as energizers. They can also be used to slow down after an over-stimulated day.

Also, think about the hobbies and activities you enjoyed as a child. Discover new ways to go back to these classics, while also challenging yourself to try new things. Otherwise, boredom is sure to creep in no matter how distracted you keep yourself. The body and brain require new kinds of stimulation.

About the Author

Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.