USING ATTENTION

ACTIVE ATTENTION
– involves focussing on specific tasks while limiting distractions
– focussed attention has limited capacity and is easily fatigued
– take breaks (eg 10-15 minutes per hour) to restore attention
– do a different activity during the break (eg walking or working with your hands)

PASSIVE ATTENTION
– attention is grabbed by whatever sticks out, especially novelty or danger
– occurs when active attention is fatigued or during activities such as watching TV or internet surfing

MIND-WANDERING
– involves self-focussed thinking when attention is not engaged with a specific task
– mind-wandering is the brain’s default mode and occurs about 50% of the time
– the stream of consciousness is a jumble of fantasies, memories, arguments and rehearsals
– some people find it hard to be alone with their thoughts because of worry and rumination

USING ATTENTION
– each form of attention has helpful uses and drawbacks
– allow time for passive attention and mind wandering
– to focus on a difficult task, limit background distractions and multi-tasking
– to cope with distracting thoughts, write them down and deal with them later
– to get a new perspective, return to a task after taking a break or a night’s sleep
– to refocus wandering attention, focus on immediate perceptions and sensations
– to restore fatigued attention, take regular breaks and vary activities
– use mindfulness techniques to counter worry and rumination

SEE ALSO
– How to Focus a Wandering Mind
– Soft Fascination
– Confronting the Negativity Bias
– How to Build a Happier Brain
Making It Up as You Go Along: How Your Brain Improvises
Against Flow