A wandering mind is a common and frustrating occurrence that leaves us unable to focus on the task or project at hand. Some different factors influence one’s cognitive functioning including the ability to concentrate. As a result, the overall productivity suffers, and stress levels increase. Although frustrating, the problem is entirely manageable. Simple lifestyle tweaks and other easy strategies help us refocus our wandering minds.
It happens with most of us when we are engaged in attention-seeking activity, our mind starts to think about task-irrelevant contemplating incidents of past or might occur in future or will never happen maybe. This condition is known as Mind-wandering or task-negative network or stimulus-independent thought or the brain’s default mode of operation.
The human brain is made up of billions of neurons that continuously communicate with each other. That’s why it is the habit of mind to think, worry, question & answer, reason and plan even if you sit in a chair to appease and relax your mind to get rid of mental fatigue, in the very next moment- a train of thoughts appear and your mind starts to wander like a butterfly and move from one idea to another. This happens when you are involved in activities demanding less vigilance and other activities e.g. reading, driving, and working. In such conditions, the preoccupied mind remains unaware of events happening in the surrounding environment.
Mind-wandering has become endemic: a study from Harvard, conducted by Mathew et al, has revealed that about 47% of adults of the study population were not concentrating on the task they were doing. In other words, half of the population suffers from a mind-wandering phenomenon. Other studies have reported that people suffering from this phenomenon, often:
• Face problems in daily life and lead to failure in execution of the task effectively
• Weaken the ability to focus on one task
• Waste time and energy
• Can’t sleep well
• Less caring
People with bored, stressed, unhappy or depressed moods and intoxicated with alcohol consumption mostly suffer from this phenomenon.
How can I Refocus My Wandering Mind?
Although a wandering mind has some benefits, it has become an epidemic on the job. The human mind remains malleable throughout his adulthood and it can be leveraged and shaped to refocus just like we do exercise to develop our body muscles.
Here are the simple six ways that will be helpful to refocus your distracted and wandering minds by reshaping the “muscles” of your mind.
1. Focus on One Task at a Time
Some people claim that performing more tasks at a time saves time with more output. This claim can be valid for only tasks being carried out automatically and an individual’s attention is not required. However, one can accomplish the task more efficiently, efficiently, and quickly by focusing on one event at a time.
Your attention is divided while performing several tasks at the same time which may lead to inaccuracy and low-quality output. And it will take more time to correct the mistakes and errors in such cases. On the other hand, focusing on a single task lets the mind work in an organized and obedient way which will prevent the incidence of mental wandering.
2. Diamond Cuts Diamond: Meditation
A wandering mind can be tamed to focus on meditation. Myriad studies provide evidence for the effectiveness of meditation practice to improve focus attention ability. In focus attention meditation, you concentrate on a thing that can be internal or external to your body. And you practice focusing on your center then let your mind wander and again bring it back to your focal point.
Repetition of this improves the ability to focus and refocus on your task even when you are not doing meditation. Moreover, daily practice of mindfulness enhances the “attentional monitoring systems” of the brain.
3. Kick Off the Stress
It is a known fact that a short episode of stress has some positive effects as it increases the adrenaline level in the blood. And adrenaline improves mental concentration. But this is not true for mind-wandering. Stress induces symptoms of depression in individuals and scientific research has proved that symptoms of depression are associated with the induction of task-unrelated thoughts in people with low mood. So try to keep yourself happy and away from stressful conditions.
4. Take Short Breaks and Daydream
Psychologists say that when you decide to think about something which is not relevant to your task, during your leisure time and you solve that problem. If you come back to tour work again after this activity, it will be beneficial to your mental focus. So, when you are on break from your job or after any lecture, don’t let your mind wander haphazardly, instead wander on a particular thing. This activity can invigorate focus.
5. Keep an Eye on Your Thoughts
It is impossible to stop your mind to think about something. If you have planned to do so, you will end up thinking that “How to stop thinking?” So, review your thoughts that distract your attention from the job at hand. Analyze which activity or time you are least focused.
Once you found it, move to the next step. Start to use your “least focused” time once or twice a day for attention-boosting activity e.g. meditation, planning, a new hobby, etc. Keep in mind, selected action should be compatible with the interest of your mind.
6. Improve Your Working Memory
Working memory is strongly associated with mind-wandering. In a study, it was found that people with higher working memory capacity achieve their goals early as compared to those having lower memory.
The reason behind this finding was that individuals with higher working capacity remained more focused and wasted less time in mind wandering comparatively. Therefore you should try to improve memory. Working memory can be improved by exercising outside.
All these given tips to refocus a wandering mind are referenced from peer-reviewed journals and have promising results. So make hurry to make these suggestions your habit and save your time and energy by completing your task with full concentration.