You can stop your mind wandering while you're reading

It can be tricky to keep your focus on the thing in front of you when there are so many things around you serving as a distraction, and it has nothing to do with age.

In an age of electronics, sitting down and reading without getting distracted by the endless supply of internet, social media or smartphone distractions makes taking time out for a quiet read somewhat of a luxury.

Finding a way to settle the mind long enough to pay attention to what you are reading can be hard, but it’s not impossible.

Researchers at the University of California, Davis found that practising meditation could improve your focus while reading.

Meditation is commonly used as a way of improving self-awareness, relaxation and spirituality, and now you can use it to train your mind not to wander, especially during reading.

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“The wandering mind is a considerable obstacle when attention must be maintained over time,” the research says.

“Mental training through meditation has been proposed as an effective method of attenuating the ebb and flow of attention to thoughts and feelings that distract from one’s foremost present goals.”

Buddhists and some other religious groups have used meditation techniques to calm the mind and bring a singular focus for many years. A better singular focus has also been found to improve stress levels.

Basic guide to meditation

If you have never meditated before and would like to try it, find a place where you won’t be disturbed for 10 to 20 minutes. Set your phone to silent/do not disturb. A room with low light has been shown to yield better results.

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Here are five easy steps to get you started:

  1. Sit in a chair (lying down might see you fall asleep), place your hands in your lap. It’s important to maintain the natural curve of your back, so try not to slouch.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few slow and deep breaths. Inhale with your nose and exhale from your mouth. Try not to force your breathing. You should expect that the first few breath patterns will be shallow, but as you develop your technique more air will fill your lungs and your breathing will become deeper and fuller.
  3. When you are breathing you should notice a feeling of calm or relaxation come over you. When this happens focus your attention on your breathing. Be aware of the breaths coming in through your nose and be mindful of the breath as you exhale from your mouth.
  4. If you find your attention straying from your breathing, gently encourage yourself to bring it back. Don’t give up. It’s important to realise that this will happen, but as you develop greater focus you will find it easier to concentrate.
  5. When you are ready to end the session, open your eyes. Stand up slowly. Take time to stretch and extend this awareness to your next activity, which could be reading.

Do you struggle to maintain your focus? Would meditation help you in your everyday activities?