How to Regain Focus When Your Mind Wanders


With constant distractions like news notifications, social media, and never-ending to-do lists, it can be hard to focus on what’s important. Rich Fernandez offers a mindfulness practice for stability and concentration.

Q.

My attention span feels absolutely shattered by—well, everything. Stress, anxiety, social media, my to-do list. How can I rebuild it?

A.

Even without stress, anxiety, and more, the mind will wander. And in fact, research shows it wanders 50% of our waking moments. Mind-wandering is ubiquitous. And, contrary to popular belief, mindfulness doesn’t cause all thought to cease.

Mindfulness can help you practice stabilizing and directing your mind, which comes in handy especially in moments when we may feel stressed, distracted, or overwhelmed. This focused-attention practice can help you learn to direct your full, undivided attention to a single object of focus, in this case the experience of breathing. And when (not if) your mind wanders, you simply bring your attention back to the breath.

A Simple Breath Meditation to Regain Focus When Your Mind Wanders

  1. Sit in a way that is alert yet relaxed. Notice your body, your feet on the ground, your legs and torso as they make contact with your seat or the ground. Also notice your posture: See if you might sit in a way that’s upright but not rigid, relaxing into your body and breathing normally.
  2. Begin to notice your breath. Without changing your breathing, direct your attention to the experience of breathing, the sensations of the in-breath and the sensations of the out-breath. Noticing the air coming in and out of your body, firmly but gently direct your full, undivided attention to this experience of breathing, whatever that means to you.
  3. Notice when your mind wanders. Simply take note and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing. Come back to the experience of in-breaths and out-breaths, the full cycle of breath. This is the process of focusing attention on the breath.

Even with a very short practice, you can get a sense for how this exercise is useful for cultivating a calm and focused state of mind.

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