Feel distracted? Like you can’t focus? As if you just can’t get anything done?
You’re not alone.
Stacy Dockins — a yoga and mindfulness educator who has dedicated more than 25 years of her life to studying yoga and the human body, wrote Embodied Posture, and owns three Yoga Project studios in the Dallas/Fort Worth with her husband, Dave — says that your subconscious may be to blame.
In this guest post, Stacy shares four ways for all of us to get more in touch with what our subconscious has going on so that we can break through patterns of avoidance and distraction and actually do what it is that we want to do.
How to Stop Being So Distracted All the Time by Stacy Dockins
“Okay, let’s do this. Let me find that e-mail … oh, wait. Yoga Outlet is having a sale on summer tops? Let me take a quick look. I like that color! Oh, I don’t need that. Let me scroll through Instagram one more time … ”
*Scroll, refresh, like, repeat.*
“How did I get here?!”
Why is it that one moment we can be completely motivated to do one thing and the next moment we realize we’ve jumped ship and abandoned anything remotely connected to productivity?
Whether it has to do with work, school, or personal wellness, avoidance-distraction patterns can be a consuming problem for many of us. Many neuroscientists, psychologists, and behavioral researchers would say that avoidance-distraction and procrastination are normal human tendencies and have much to do with the threat detection mechanism of the amygdala, part of what is referred to as the prehistoric brain.
Although it is normal, our best intentions can get high-jacked if we leave the workings of our prehistoric brain unexamined.
Why is that? Because achieving goals and wiring in new habits go hand-in-hand with leaving our comfort zones — which can be perceived by our brains as a threat. This detection of impending threat and discomfort can catapult us into mindless activities that quickly take us off track. The good news is, once we have an awareness of the way we work, we can practice self-observation and redirection.
Here are four ways to break through subconscious patterns of avoidance and distraction:
1. Compassionate observation.
To change anything, we must notice it first. When it comes to patterns of avoidance and distraction, avoid beating yourself up about it. Instead, commit to compassionate self-observation. Take up the habit of daily journaling along with self-observation. Compassionate observation is key.
2. Remember your why.
Although they are malleable, subconscious mental patterns are hard-wired. It takes true diligence to change them. Why is it that this goal or action is important to you? Get clear and concise with your why. Write it down and keep it close by. If you don’t feel compelled by your why, your goals may be off-target with what you are aiming to achieve.
3. Support future you.
Ask yourself the question: “What am I doing today to support the wellbeing of my 10-year older self?” We are creatures addicted to immediate gratification. Instilling the habit of pausing and reflecting on how your actions today will affect your physical and mental well-being down the road can have a profound effect on your daily habits.
4. Set attainable and concrete steps.
Create attainable, concrete steps toward your goal. In the vortex of avoidance and distraction, feelings of hopelessness consume your mind when focused on the road ahead. Create concrete, actionable steps to move you closer to the goal or task at hand. What small action can you manage today? You don’t have to get there all at once.
Remember that what you are aiming to overcome is subconscious. It takes mindful awareness, patience, and time to reveal what is hidden and to create new habits. This awareness is at the heart of all transformation.
Remind yourself that every single day is new and that it’s never too late to begin again. –Stacy Dockins