You’re excitedly dying to tell someone your news. You wait all day to share it with a loved one. You start to set the scene, are just getting to the important part and you notice their eyes have glazed over and they’re distracted.
They can’t wait to tell you what they think, before you’ve even finished what you were telling them.
It’s hard not to take it personally, but the way technology is training our brain response systems we are increasingly using transient attention, rather than fully connected engagement.
Transient attention is a short-term response to a stimulus that temporarily attracts or distracts attention.
It elevates our stress levels as well. A constant barrage of updating information vying for our attention keeps us in a state of alertness, updating as often as every eight seconds.
When scientists started discussing that this type of attention may be as short as eight seconds, shorter than the attention span of a goldfish, the number one question in response was ‘how long is the attention span of a goldfish?’ Kind of proving the point.
Marketers immediately started asking how would we market to goldfish? How can we capture attention and sell our message in eight seconds or less?
The three word slogans, pop up adverts and 10 second news grabs are all vying for this ‘short-term’ response.
The constant barrage of things vying for our attention increases our levels of transient stress and kills other positive part of the human experience, including connection and relaxation.
Medical Daily reported that researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison demonstrated that a short meditation exercise can help media multi-taskers to sharpen their senses, but that the effects were not long lasting, so they’d need to be repeated often.
In less hectic times we would have had time to ‘smell the roses’, but we maybe didn’t realise that it helped us to be more connected to other people as well as bringing our own stress levels down.
Shared or solo activities that help to slow the attention span down are often the things we know we enjoy, but maybe don’t do often enough.
Here are some things you can do that will help:
Consciously taking time out from electronic stimulation
Make a date with a sunrise or sunset, even if it’s in your garden or from a window
Turn off the bright lights and play gentle music over dinner
Take a small picnic to a quiet location
Lay on a blanket looking up at the sky, in daylight or dark
Walking or sitting on a beach, or in nature, even if it’s only in a neighbourhood park
Taking a walk around the block and if there are any roses, literally take the opportunity to smell them
Taking a bath with relaxation music and candlelight
Recreating a bed-time story atmosphere for conversations
The quality of the connection and the opportunity to really share thoughts and feelings are always best when we are relaxed and have limited distractions.
We can think of simple pleasures to enjoy with our children, grandchildren, partners and friends, and then the deep and meaningful will be in the relationships as well as our conversations.
What relaxing activities do you enjoy, and do you do them often enough?