Today I want to let you in on a little secret. Even though I spend just about all day, every day, writing and talking about being less distracted and more present, I still distract myself all the time. I’ve got a few favorites.
I occasionally surf my Facebook newsfeed. I check out a bunch of articles on Google News everyday. But my real vice is the Denver Broncos news page. Every morning, I lose myself in the latest trade rumors, free agency acquisitions, and game predictions.
You probably don’t get sucked in by news about the Broncos. But my guess is that you have your own list of distractions.
My own experience with these distractions prompted me to ask myself: how can I manage distraction more skillfully? And I’ve experimented with two primary techniques. The first is restraint. This one is really powerful, but can be really hard to implement. The practice here is pretty simple: STOP. Don’t go on Facebook, don’t tweet, and for me it was to stop reading all those Broncos blogs.
I tried this but found that after a week or two, I slipped back into my old habits of distraction. That’s when I came up with an alternative practice. It’s something I like to call mindful distraction and it’s one of the more advanced mindfulness practices that we have here at Life Cross Training.
Here’s the basic practice. Catch yourself just before you indulge in some form of digital distraction: when you’re just about to reach for the phone or open your web browser. Before you proceed, take one conscious breath, inhaling for four counts and exhaling for four counts.
Now let yourself indulge in the distraction but here’s the twist: do it mindfully. See if you can become a kind of spectator in your own mind – a witness to the experience of distraction. Notice what sensations arise. Notice what happens to your breath. And, most importantly, notice how you feel afterwards.
That last tip was the real eye-opener for me. The more I practiced mindful distraction, the more I started to notice that I felt drawn to distraction because I thought it would make me happier.
But when I really paid attention to my state after indulging in these distractions, I noticed that I actually felt worse than I did before. And that had a far more powerful effect in changing my relationship to these distractions than trying to stop them cold turkey.
I hope you enjoy this one. And remember that when it comes to Life Cross Training, this practice is just the beginning. We have developed an entire inner technology for training these powerful habits of wellbeing. To learn more, go to StartHere.life where you can buy the book Start Here and sign up for our free 4-week e-course on mindfulness.