It’s crunch time and you’re facing down the barrel of yet another ominous deadline. On one hand, you know your goose is cooked if you don’t get this out to your teacher, boss, or whoever patiently awaits.
On the other hand, you’d rather be anywhere but here. And so your mind opts to do what your body can’t. It wanders off…
We’ve all been there before. Before I started writing these words, I was reading about Mars. And even now a part of my mind is far away from planet Earth…
It’s not just an ADHD problem
First of all it’s important to acknowledge that daydreaming is commonplace and totally normal. According to one study done by Harvard University, a full 46.9% of an average person’s waking hours is spent thinking about something other than what he’s doing. That’s HALF his whole life!
So this is where most of us start from. Plenty of room for improvement.
How can we get more out of life by spending less time in Lala land? I offer you three differing perspectives on the matter:
Science: Mind wandering actually helps you work
In a study published in Psychological Science, researchers tested groups of participants who were asked to perform a wide range of tasks. The results of the study suggested that tasks that allowed to the mind to wander enhanced creative problem-solving abilities.
Psychology Today also reports “Over the last 15 or 20 years, scientists have shown that – unlike the localized neural activity associated with specific tasks – mind wandering involves the activation of the gigantic default network involving many parts of the brain.”
In other words, wondering is our brain’s way of enhancing its own creative output and mood. So even if it doesn’t feel like it, your brain is building up its superpowers for you to be better and smarter as the days pass.
The action-taker approach
Huffington Post columnist and author of “Embrace the Chaos” Bob Miglani has a different take: if you want to get back on task, put actions into motion.
“The reason action is a great way to detox from overthinking is that it forces our mind to concentrate on the things that our physical body is working on, and has no choice but to assist the physical effort.”
On this point I wholeheartedly agree with him . There’s no time for the mind to wander when I have an important phone call to make — my brain needs to map out the call. Activities seem to work well for martialing the mind’s troops into action.
The long-term approach
If you want the ultimate solution to a higher level of concentration, you need to train yourself over time. We have such a word for such training: meditation.
A 2009 Duke University-Caltech study mentioned in EOC Institute analyzed research participants to determine the brain’s connection to willpower. Researchers found that participants displaying a high degree of willpower lit up in the same brain area that activates during intense meditation. These findings have been supported by numerous studies showing the powerful ability of meditation to control the mind.
Numerous Asian cultures have a low prevalence of ADHD for a reason – they incorporate meditation (or meditation-like rituals) into their daily lives. If long-term focus and impulse control is your goal, I encourage you to start doing the same. Even five minutes a day of mental exercise is 100 times better than nothing, and will set you on the path to combat inattention all on your own.