Scientific living engages our full capacities of body, mind, and soul as we focus on the task in hand. But often we find ourselves distracted, or the mind is thinking too much, and we are unable to stay focused. As the decades pass, the average attention span gets shorter, and there are many causes. To mention just two, multitasking and the overuse of social media by young people around the world hinder the brain’s development of the capacities to support empathy, rational thinking, emotional control, and thoughtful decision-making. The good news is that people are also learning to enhance our ability to focus. Let’s help one another on this.
Scientific living is healthy living; and health is enhanced by harmony of body, mind, and spirit. Much research shows physical and mental health benefits from diverse practices of breathing, mindfulness, and religion. The simplest of these practices is mindful breathing: we simply take time to allow the attention to rest easily on the breath. There is no effort to breathe deeply, regulate the rhythm of breathing, or suppress thoughts, just a gentle attention on the in and out of the breath. When we recognize that thoughts have carried the mind away, we simply return to focus on the breath; if the mind is racing, we gently add a focus on the breath on top of the stream of thoughts. Within a few minutes, this practice can refresh our attunement with beautiful and healing aspects of life. Mindful breathing allows persons who are stressed to relax, and relaxation allows wonderful experiences to arise. Such experiences are partly explained in biological and psychological terms, but there is another factor: peaceful contemplation in mind-body harmony opens the mind to the activity of the divine spirit within.
What practice helps you focus better? As we turn to a task, how can we focus our powers of body, mind, and soul more effectively?
References: For the effects of technology on brain development, see Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan, iBrain: Surviving the technological alteration of the human mind. For an introduction to conscious breathing, see Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step (Bantam, 1991), 12-19. For research on the health benefits of religion, see Harold Koenig, Michael E. McCullough, and David B. Larson, Handbook of Religion and Health (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). For research on mindfulness and breathing see http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mindfulness-meditation-improves-connections-in-the-brain-201104082253 (mentions benefits of mindfulness for high blood pressure, chronic pain, psoriasis, sleep trouble, anxiety, depression, binge eating, and immune function; http://www.mayo.edu/research/labs/mindful-breathing/overview ; http://hr.georgetown.edu/fsap/meditationandmindbodyskills.html. Photo credit: Mask by wax115 : http://mrg.bz/jwkCdC