EIA Group

EIA Group

Social science experts, committed to pushing new research in the field

To pay attention to a task at hand, we first must learn to become aware of and then quieten those swirling thoughts and/or emotions.

Here are some everyday activities, methods and practices that people around the world use to focus attention, clear their minds, or still an inner dialogue. 

1. Mental and Psychological Methods

Using psychological practices for harnessing attention and focusing our minds is a very common method. This can range from clearing the mind through cognitively challenging activities such as crosswords or sudoku, to taking our thoughts away from day to day stressors by focusing on the story of a good book. Those who enjoy learning new things may indulge in studying to focus their thoughts on a topic, whilst others find that this is a trigger for being distracted, looking for any opportunity to avoid it.

Another common psychological practice is visualisation, and this is a common practice amongst our EIA team. We use the visual image of our minds as jars of water that contain a few centimetres of sand. Sometimes that sand is swirling around, which makes it difficult to see through the water clearly. But, if we stop and remain still for a moment, the sand settles. This is a helpful metaphor for the swirling thoughts that rush around in our minds at times and a reminder that we need to take a moment to be still and allow those thoughts to settle. Then we can focus far more clearly on the task or person in front of us. This method is particularly useful when it comes to managing our emotional response to stressful situations. You can read more about strategies for emotion regulation here

2. Exercise or Sports

Exercise and Sports are often used as an outlet from the day-to-day tensions and stressors of our lives. In fact, on our courses, one of the most common methods that people report using to clear their minds of swirling thoughts is to go for a run or maybe a swim. This kind of activity can have a de-stressing effect and give us some psychological ‘distance’ from our day-to-day activity.

Many athletes and sportspeople also use psychological methods mentioned above, such as state-management through visualisations and/or affirmations to get them ‘in the zone’ to perform well.

Contemplation, Religion and Meditation

There is a great deal of cross-over with terms like these, and ‘mindfulness’ would also fall into this category of methods and practices.

These activities typically involve some way of taking the time to be ‘in the moment’, to be ‘present’. Some may use this time to think about things that are important to them and those around them. There may be a spiritual or religious element to the practice, as with many world religions. Or maybe it is simply the practice of being in the moment to become more self-aware and at the same time develop our external awareness.

Although some of these practices can be used to limit our attention to the external stimuli around us, some may be used to heighten our attention.

See ‘being attentive – as if your life depended on it’ for more information on how the military and security services draw on a four-level alert system. 

Which of these methods do you use… if any? Do you have other methods?

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EIA Group

EIA Group

Social science experts, committed to pushing new research in the field and developing powerful learning opportunities.