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How our focus is being stolen and where to find it

09 Jun. 2022
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If you’ve ever thought to yourself that your focus isn’t what it used to be, then you’re not alone. Across the world, our concentration levels are being slowly diminished to the point where many struggle to pay attention for more than a few minutes at a time.

There are several causes for this, many of which we are perfectly aware of but fail to address properly, but getting our focus back is far from easy. If you’re one of those people who sits fidgeting at your desk, unable to concentrate on your work for more than ten minutes before that overpowering urge to check your phone, then read on. We just might have the answer for you.  

Natural loss of focus

Before we go any further it’s important to mention that there are several reasons why people might naturally struggle with focus. Disorders such as ADHD, chronic fatigue syndrome, dementia, and insomnia are all known to cause problems when it comes to maintaining focus.

Then we have lifestyle changes that can also affect concentration, such as a bad night’s sleep, hunger, stress, and anxiety. If you believe that your problems with concentration stem from either these medical disorders or some lifestyle changes then it might be a good idea to speak with a medical practitioner before making any changes.

Stolen attention

However, to blame the worldwide concentration pandemic simply on medical issues or our lifestyle changes misses the point entirely, because, for most of us, there’s nothing medically wrong, it is simply a case of our attention being stolen.

Stolen may be a strong word, but the truth is that there are many companies out there that profit handsomely from your loss of focus and if we are to regain our concentration, we’ll need to make some significant changes.

Social Media

It’s fair to say that the social media bubble has burst but many of us remain hooked. The Social Dilemma lifted the lid on the murky world of Facebook, but in reality, other platforms are exactly the same.

The longer these companies can keep you looking at your screen, the more they profit and their algorithms have been designed specifically with that in mind. To make things worse, content that is deemed angry, outrageous, and divisive receives considerably more traction than happier content. So once you read a Facebook post that makes your blood boil, it can take you a considerable amount of time to return to your normal calm levels.

Solution - A social media holiday might fill many with a sense of dread, but it can also be an excellent way of truly understanding the issue. Also, go through your social media feed and ask yourself why you follow the accounts that anger you. If there’s no obvious reason, get rid of them.  

Smartphones

Technology has completely altered how we live and in many ways for the better, but it’s also responsible for our dwindling attention spans. Many of us would struggle to survive a single day without our smartphones, but it’s important to understand how they are contributing to our own downfall.

Every time that phone pings as it acknowledges a new WhatsApp, email, or notification, it drags your attention away from whatever you were doing. Even if you don’t immediately pick up the phone to check, the mere thought that something is waiting will hover in the back of your mind.

A study from 2018 found that 33% of respondents felt anxious if they hadn’t checked their phones for a certain period and it’s difficult not to believe that that figure will have risen over the last four years.  

Solution - Smartphone addiction is something we are not addressing properly but will almost certainly be a huge issue in the future. It’s easy to say just don’t use your smartphone, but the way the world has evolved makes this difficult. If you do need some help, there are many apps out there that limit screen time and even block certain websites.  

Shorter and shorter content

The content we consume has also shrunk dramatically. We may not think too much about it, but when we’re on Instagram or Tik Tok we typically scroll quickly through multiple pieces of content almost to the point of not entirely comprehending it. It’s only logical to assume that when our brain is constantly digesting content in such a way, it makes it much harder when we have to concentrate on something much longer.  

While reading habits have been going up and down over the last couple of years, generally speaking, it is far lower than say 50 years ago. Reading has been credited with numerous benefits that can help us a maintain healthy attention span,   

Solution - Actively try to consume longer content and do your best to remain focused while doing it. Reading is a form of this, but multi-episode TV shows can also have a similar, albeit lower, effect.

The Media

If it feels like there has been a steady stream of bad news for about six years, you’re not too wrong there. 24-hour news cycles, rolling internet coverage, and the Great and Powerful Twittersphere have created a blizzard of news that is impossible to keep up with.

There are certainly terrible things happening in the world, but attempting to keep up with every single one can cause our simple hunter-gatherer brains all sorts of problems.  

Like social media companies, news sources want you to stay on the sites as long as possible, so they are more likely to provide you with content that will make you want to scream with rage. It can be easy to think we’re powerless against such a colossus, but simply making the active decision not to consume it means the power remains within our control.

Solution - Choose specific times of the day to check the news and try to avoid the most hysterical and inflammatory sources. As a rule, the worse and angrier you feel, the more you should be wary about the source.

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