How to Pay More Attention, With Neuroscientist Dr. Amishi Jha
This week we are learning to focus and deal with distractions with the help of neuroscientist Dr.Amishi Jah. Hear Dr. Jha discuss the evolutionary reason why we are so distracted, the benefits of learning how to pay more attention, and what we can do to better focus our attention.
Dr. Jha is professor of psychology at the University of Miami and director of contemplative neuroscience at the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative. She is also the author of Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Show Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day .
Highlights from this week’s series
Dr. Jha on why we shouldn’t feel bad about being distracted or unable to pay attention for a long time:
From a brain science perspective, I think we should definitely all feel better … It may seem like we are in a moment of crisis, but our brains are actually functioning exactly the way they were created during human evolution. function. Everything works exactly as it should. So, in terms of how long we can stay on a task or how often we can wander, a derogatory number is about 50 percent of our waking moments.
Dr. Jha on why we should avoid multitasking whenever possible:
[E] Ven the term “multitasking” is a myth. In fact, we never do multiple tasks at the same time when we are trying to do several things that require attention at the same time. So if it doesn’t require attention, as if you are out for a walk, and you happen to be an expert in walking, you know that you are not a child who is just learning … Of course, you can walk and think at the same time. But as soon as this secondary task becomes more and more demanding, you literally find yourself in a minefield. Now suddenly no, you cannot think of other thoughts and walk at the same time. Both require attention. So what we are doing at this moment is not multitasking. This is task switching. So we pay attention to one task, disable it, move on to another task, go back, re-enable it. And that switching time is time consuming, but psychologically very, very expensive … Is it ever a good idea? It may never be a good idea, but we are human and we will have a lot of demands on us … And my guess is that my message is, in essence, that when you can, you should really try single task. This will help you. And when you cannot, be aware of the consequences. You will be slower to switch back and forth. You will be more tired, you will be in a sense depleted if you continue to do this, and you are more likely to make mistakes.
Dr. Jha on the countless benefits of learning how to pay more attention:
I describe it as fuel for our successful work, so it stimulates our ability to think the way we spoke, to follow the train of thought, to think about decisions, to learn new information, but not only in the cognitive realm. It is also necessary for our ability to regulate our emotions and openly experience our emotions. If you think about a joyful moment, if you are distracted [by something else], you are missing it. Right. So we need it for thinking, we need it for feelings, and, frankly, we need it to connect with other people. So in a sense, since this is the basis of everything we do, reducing or decreasing our focus will affect not only our ability to feel successful, but also our sense of satisfaction … And then I can go on and talk about the benefits because it’s really amazing how this area of mindfulness research has expanded to look at all sorts of things. So even quite recently, my colleagues have been studying things like the longevity of your body’s cells, something called telomerase, which is a reparative enzyme that builds the end of your chromosomes for cellular regeneration. The more telomerase, the more you practice mindfulness, so your lifespan is literally affected by how often you can practice these things.
Listen to the entire episode to learn more about the science behind attention and Dr. Jah’s advice on how to start improving your concentration.