Distractions are now a precondition for us. We are constantly being distracted by all kinds of technology and even other factors that aren’t on the surface. It’s crucial to be aware of distractions and regulate them so as to keep our mind healthy and improve focus.
Last week, we talked about how spending so much time on our phones, tablets, and laptops can distract us from the most important people in our lives. It sucks energy from our mind-body connections, and takes our focus away from the people we’re spending time with.
But are those distractions even good for us? Never mind the relationships, what are the distractions doing to our brain?
Entertainment has enabled our need for distractions. As the pace of the world gets faster and more frenetic, the entertainment is speeding up to keep up with us. Or maybe we’re changing to keep up with our entertainment.
Here’s an example: Back in the 1940s and 1950s, black-and-white movies used to have single scenes that could last up to 10 minutes. Now, movie scenes can only last for a few minutes before people start to get bored. The same is true for television. Rather than one TV show that has one storyline, every episode has two or three storylines that we can cut between in order to make the action feel more active.
There are more breaks for commercials, and run times have been shortened too. A 30 minute sitcom used to have 26 minutes of actual action, now we’re down to 22 minutes, just so we can have more commercials. And what do people do? They record the shows on their DVRs and speed through the commercials so we can get back to the show faster.
Being human means that life imitates art as much as art imitates life. As we see, so shall we do. As we watch TV, and get caught up in the jump cuts and fast edits of a TV show, our rapid fire attention span gets even shorter, and we get driven to distraction by real-life situations that take more than 10 – 12 minutes to resolve without a commercial break. It becomes reinforced and eventually second nature to always be distracted and not self-aware.
The key is to be aware of these distractions and then act to prevent them. Reduce the number of times you check your phone in an hour. Consider getting a flip phone that you can only call on. Cut the hours of TV you watch a week to fewer than 7 hours, or 1 hour a day. And spend more time reflecting inward, especially the next time you reach for your mobile device or TV remote.
Photo credit: Dani Ihtatho (Flickr, Creative Commons)