As some of you know who read this blog, paying attention is an area I like to write about. I think it is more important than we may think it is and deeper than hearing what someone is saying when they're talking to you.
Our attention can be put on autopilot when we are in familiar places such as in our homes, near our homes or work, in the grocery store, etc. We could all probably think of many places in which we have drawn and fine tuned mental maps. When we are in those places, our minds can get lazy and sharpness dulls. Think of it as slurring our minds.
If you think about how you act when you are driving 2 minutes from home as opposed to being in a strange city - what are the differences? Near home you may allow yourself to be thinking about something that happened that day, your schedule for tomorrow or some other issue because you don't need to find your way. You know your way. In a strange place, you are alert, looking around, maybe even turning off the radio so you can concentrate better. Right? We've all been in both those places.
Did you know that most accidents happen within five miles of home? I don't know about you but I have a real good mental map of several routes to work which is about 22 miles away. Am I on autopilot the whole way? Or am I present the whole way? It depends on how focused I decide to be.
It's hard to be that focused 100% of the time, but if we focus more than we do and strain our brains a little more often - lots of positive things will happen.
- First of all, you are exercising your brain and many researchers believe that exercising the brain contributes to brain health.
- Second, you will avoid more accidents and near misses whether you are driving, walking, running, riding your bike or engaging in any other mode of physically moving forward.
- Third, you will be able to draw a more complete mental picture of whatever you are involved in whether you're looking at something or listening. The art of multi-tasking is often worn as a badge of honor these days, but frankly, when you are multi-tasking you are getting incomplete information about ALL tasks. How many times have you been on a phone call looking at email at the same time and missed something someone said? I know I've been guilty of that.
- Your creativity will ramp up because you have more input to work with
So what are some strategies we can use to sharpen our minds so we can pay better attention? Here are a few and I'm sure you can add to them:
- Make it a goal to notice something new every day on one of your well-traveled routes. Look for it.
- Change up the way you go to work or any other place that you go to routinely. Do that on a regular basis as long as it's safe. Find three or four different ways to go.
- When you go to the grocery store, start at the opposite end of the store you usually do.
- Put your shoes on beginning with the "other" foot. You'll be surprised at how you automatically start with the same foot. Change it up.
- If you wear makeup, shave or blow dry your hair, start with the opposite side you usually start with.
- Make mental notes about what you see as you go about your day like someone was going to quiz you about it later. As I've done that, I've discovered whole neighborhoods I didn't know were there and I drive by them EVERY DAY. Crazy.
- Find a way to remind yourself to do this regularly.
Paying attention by straining our brains a little bit can help us stay out of trouble, and can enrich our lives and the lives of those around us. Who knows how far that can go!
You're worth it!
Me, trying to walk too many dogs at once. "One walk and we're all done!"