Mindful Monday #6

Why is it so difficult to concentrate? Why do we sometimes struggle to remember names or places? Do you also feel like your attention span is depreciating?

Mindful Monday is back! I really enjoy this series because it’s all about living in the present, focusing on your breath, being intentional and honouring gratitude.

I thought about how I know so many people who constantly tell themselves: “I’m terrible at remembering names”, “I really struggle to focus”, “I always misplace my things”. In today’s post, I’d like to share some techniques on how to concentrate, remember names better and discuss why love is about the quality of attention.

Meditate

The solution is to isolate yourself in the Himalayas, get rid of technology and meditate for 10 hours a day. I’m kidding (although it would probably seriously help). What you want to do is train your brain to focus. I’m bringing back the concept of neuroplasticity, whereby your brain physically changes with every experiences.

If you want to focus better, learn how to focus. It’s not something you have or don’t have, it’s a skill that you can develop. Meditation is the perfect tool to help you improve on that skill. Keep in mind that it’s much more meaningful and beneficial than just helping you focus, but that’s the advantage I’d like to emphasize here.

This is not the same thing as being mindful, because mindfulness is more of a lifestyle; embracing the present moment as often as possible. Meditation allows you to become more mindful.

Mindfulness meditation utilizes the breath and other physical cues in your immediate environment to help you acknowledge the present. By forming the habit of sitting down every morning or evening, for 5-10 minutes to focus on your breath, you train your mind to sit still. To not get distracted. To engage with your thoughts more consciously. To acknowledge the external world more clearly. To even help you remember better.

Sorry, what’s your name again?

I’ve mentioned Jim Kwik a number of times in previous posts, but it’s especially relevant to the topic of memory. In order to easily remember names, remember the acronym BE SUAVE.

BE SUAVE

  • Believe
  • Exercise
  • Say it
  • Use it
  • Ask
  • Visualize
  • End with it

Firstly, you have to actually Believe that you’re capable of this. There’s no use starting with limiting beliefs; you’re setting yourself up for defeat. No such thing as ‘I’m bad with names’, just put in effort. By Exercising, it implies repetition and continuous practice. Every skill requires practice to develop.

Saying it is about repeating the person’s name as they tell it to you, so you get to hear it twice. Using it is just regularly using their name throughout the conversation (in moderation). Asking relates to being curious about the origin of the name. Visualizing is about creatively thinking of their name in a memorable context (for example, if the person’s name is Matt, then you can imagine them on a flying mat). Ending it is just about repeating their name before you end the conversation.

It’s all about formulating a strategy. For more information, you can read the original article:

https://jimkwik.com/kwik-brain-006/

Attention!

I once read a quote that said:

“Love is the quality of attention we pay to things.”

Quite remarkable, don’t you think? I interpreted that to imply that we should starting paying a better quality of attention to our own lives. What does it really mean to love yourself?

If we have to think about the quality of our thoughts, habits and behaviours, we’d soon enough realize that there’s always work to do. But love is all about embracing the flaws, understanding that you will always have some form of imperfection, but striving for continuous improvement.

It all starts with attention. Pay better attention to life. Execute one task at a time. Remove distraction from your environment (especially digital). Find time to stare out of the window. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality.

To recap what we’ve discussed so far:

  1. Meditate to enhance your focus
  2. BE SUAVE to help you remember names
  3. Pay quality attention to your own life

We’ll end on another brilliant quote, one which I often repeat to myself:

“Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

Social media

Do you also feel like we’re all turning into cyber-zombies? Does it seem like everyone spends more time on their phones than with the people around them? Why do we find so much comfort in our devices?

This is one of the most important topics that I want to discuss, especially entering a new decade. How social media is absorbing us all, causing some form of digital dementia. You’ve heard the famous saying: We’re more connected than ever before, yet we all feel lonelier than ever before.

So what is it about social media that grabs our attention? And what can we do in light of this hyper-normalization?

I’m going to start by talking about my own experiences, the psychology behind social media and how to move forward.

My experiences

I spent 2018 on a social media sabbatical: deleting Instagram, Twitter, Snap Chat & Facebook. I returned in 2019, with a lot more awareness and discipline.

It’s often really hard to imagine giving social media up. Our first defensive instinct: It’s how I stay in touch with my friends/family! Can you imagine your life without all the cyber distractions?

You’d have way more free time than you’d be willing to believe. Not only that, you’ll be left with your thoughts for several moments at a time; how daunting. This is not me trying to convince you to get rid of all your social media, but just to share the lessons I’ve learnt on how we can use it more effectively.

The reason I decided to leave social media for a year was because of my break-up. In December 2017, I went through a very turbulent emotional phase. I was trying to deal with ‘heartbreak’.

I realized that what made it so difficult for me to get over my ex, was how easy it was to see her online presence. It left me in a strange mode. Constantly stalking, comparing, judging and feeling unworthy.

When I first got off social media, it felt alien. I had no idea what to do. No more worrying about my feed, posting on my story, tweeting random thoughts or taking unnecessary selfies on snap chat.

A few days in, I realized how much free time I had. This tempted me to re-download some of the apps out of boredom. Luckily, I came across this insightful quote that helped me: “Habits cannot be erased, they can only be replaced.” Understanding that led me to start reading & meditating.

A week into the sabbatical, I realized that my attention span started rapidly improving. My brain was getting out of the “swipe swipe swipe, like, comment, swipe swipe swipe” thought process. I began focusing a lot better.

One of the most important aspects that changed: My relationships started to flourish. I started being more present with people I cared about and spent time with. I spent less time showing off snippets of my life to impress people I barely know.

That fundamentally changed the wiring in my brain, because I was becoming less dependent on the dopamine rush from getting likes and comments. “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

A massive illusion of social media is that you’re staying in touch with people. But liking, commenting and occasionally reacting to a story is not staying in touch.

It’s an artificial connection. We keep faking the same idea to ourselves until we’re convinced it’s the only way to live. But it’s not.

The psychology behind it

To ease the tension a little bit, I want you to understand a fundamental aspect of social media; the current intention behind its creation. It’s designed by scientists/psychologists/programmers who have dedicated their lives to ensure you spend as much time on the app as possible. Why?

Your attention (or time) = profit.

If you pay attention to the amount of data that’s being sold from all your searches, likes, swipes and posts, you’d be rather frightened. I’m saying this because you need to understand that your addiction is not entirely your fault.

It was created to be as absorbing and as charming as possible. Much like this world in the eye of a believer. Temporary, deceptive and full of temptations.

When you understand the way ads affect your subconscious and the way it’s abusing your mental power, you’d be more inclined to make better decisions. Remember: Better awareness -> Better choices -> Better results.

How do we move forward? 

Learn more and stay conscious of the time you spend online. We’re entering an age where it’s more comfortable to stare at your screen when you’re bored than stare out of the window. (The latter provides the mind with impeccable subconscious insight).

We feel awkward, almost alien, when we’re waiting and not constantly checking our phones. Use the time limits on the apps and respect them. Encourage those around you to minimize their social media usage and try to have technology-free gatherings.

This will contribute to your mental health and hopefully improve the loneliness epidemic that we’re currently experiencing. You don’t necessarily realize it, but you’re always comparing yourself to other people online.

Whether you choose to accept that or not is up to you, your unconscious does 95% of the work for you anyway.

I know some of this may have been a little intense and that I could’ve covered a lot more ground. But this is as brief as I could make it.

I’m not trying to force anyone to change or to get you all to abandon social media and start living in a forest (although I wish I was). But for the sake of your happiness and mental clarity, spend a little more time being present with your weird thoughts and feelings, instead of scrolling aimlessly.

Let’s try to be a little less zombie-like, a little more present, and a lot more loving. Stop worrying about taking a picture of every moment, and start living in it.

Nothing contributes to a healthy relationship as much as active listening and honest communication. That just isn’t as effective when your phone is in your hand.

We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how well we do it.

Erik Qualman

(A little ironic how I took pics to post on my blog, then talking about living in the moment haha).