Having trouble paying attention? You’re not the only one! I have had some serious brain fog lately and now that I’m working part of my day from home and part at the radio studios, my thoughts feel pulled in many directions. According to a study from Harvard, our minds are wandering nearly half the time we’re awake, which can make it hard to get something done. We need to be paying attention to the present moment to be focused and productive and that’s where mindfulness comes in. The term includes a range of practices, like breathing exercises and guided meditations and it not only helps with focus, but can lessen pain, improve sleep and ease stress and anxiety as well.
“It’s the antidote to mind wandering,” explains Amishi Jha, professor of psychology at the University of Miami. “It’s paying attention to our present moment experience without editorializing or reacting to it.”
Here are some ways mindfulness can help:
- To fine-tune focus – Getting easily distracted isn’t just annoying, it can lead us to make mistakes and have lapses in judgement, according to Jha. She works with military personnel and first responders – whose job requires extreme focus in stressful situations and says her lab has found positive results from 12 minutes of daily mindfulness practice.
- For a great night of sleep – Tossing and turning all night? A meta-analysis of 18 studies finds a mindfulness practice may help. A popular sleep-specific technique is a “body scan” approach, which guides you through noticing sensations in each part of the body, from head to toe and the best part? It all happens in bed.
- To help with stress – Mindfulness practices, like shorter guided meditations from the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center can help ease stress, specifically physical conditions related to stress, like lowering blood pressure and boosting the immune system.
- For dealing with anxiety – Sitting down and taking some slow, deep breaths can be calming and research shows mindfulness practices that include guided breathing can help relieve anxiety and boost mood.