Help! How Do I Stop My Mind From Wandering

focus Oct 06, 2022

Can I have your attention?


It's a given that we ask for attention, but don’t give it away so easily. The purpose of today's post is to discuss why that is so critical. 


Mind wandering can be a good thing. It can inspire us to be creative. It is nice to get lost in thought when we are facing a difficult situation or want to relax on a Sunday afternoon. There are times, however, when you don't want your head in the clouds. 


The mind wanders a lot more than we would expect. A scientific study shows that 96% of Americans experience wandering minds. Our heads are off task up to 50% of the time during the day. 


Attention is what our brain focuses on, the boss of everything we focus on. Don’t you want a nice boss? We don't want to be led down rabbit holes we don't want to go down. 


Let's look at the definition of mind wandering. Mind wandering is you are not guiding your mind to remain on one topic. Your constraints are gone and the absence of those constraints generates a stream of thought. This definition comes from the University of Virginia. 


Why does it happen? Unintentional mind wandering is caused by the cognitive system. Your brain suppresses impulses and concentrates your attention precisely when and because the expected value of whatever you do is generally lower toward achievement. As a result, you search for a more exciting task if something is deemed to be low in boredom or boring by your judgment. 


So how do we stay focused on something that we might find boring? I talked about some of these in a prior video about ADHD. There are a couple of suggestions I'd like to share with you, and most of them revolve around practicing mindfulness. The opposite of mind wandering is being present in the present moment. 


  1. Meditation

Meditation is the practice of just focusing on your breath or a single affirmation, or maybe even a sound. Bringing your mind back, bringing your mind back, and bringing your mind back. Your mind is supposed to wander, and it's actually an exercise to continue to bring your mind back again and again and again. In the world of neuroscience, there’s a concept called neuroplasticity, and that's the ability of our brain to kind of shape and adjust. So if you notice that your mind is wandering, often you can actually build that muscle of attention by doing something such as meditation, because you're bringing your mind back to the task that you want to be focusing on again and again and again. 

 2. Pay attention to attention

If you notice that your mind is wandering when working, pay attention to the fact that it has gone off task. Oh my gosh, I have picked up my phone and I've been scrolling Instagram for the last… I don't even know how many minutes. By consciously noticing that you're doing it, you can bring your brain back to whatever you want it to focus on. Paying attention to your attention builds neuroplasticity in your brain, and creates more focus by flexing that muscle. 

3. Manage stress

Pay attention to stress. My dog was really sick last Friday and had surgery. The fact that my mind was on him made it hard for me to get work done here. That's an example of how our mind wanders when we're stressed because the brain is trying to work through whatever is stressing us out. Make sure you do everything you can to combat stress.

4. Breaks

The Pomodoro technique is a game changer here if you aren’t in practice with giving yourself breaks. You can read more about it here. When that timer goes off, get up and take a break that allows your brain to wander wherever it wants, perhaps take a walk and just observe nature. Your attention should be renewed when you return to your work. Make sure you don't work so much that you're burning out and your mind is actually looking for a break, but you're not allowing it to.


I hope that gave you some tips on how to focus. A great way to stay focused is to set your priorities each day through the reset routine. This 10-minute routine is very powerful. See ya next week. 

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