It took me an embarrassingly long time to start this article. I’ve jumped from YouTube reels (god forbid I actually manage to sink into anything longer than a three minute video) to dawdling through Facebook stories (in my ‘becoming a mature adult arc’) and flicked a few tabs open whilst I’m at it. Put shortly, there is so much happening, all the time. The age of media has made us question the restlessness of our minds, but it’s also been something we have grappled with for centuries. So, is any solace to be found for our dwindling attention span?
Perhaps we can consider why our brains tend to flick from one thing to another so often. What am I looking for when I open Instagram for the fifth time in the morning? Usually, it’s that short spark of joy which you forget until you scroll onto the next meme. Thinking about things and the intentionality behind them often makes activities much more fulfilling in the long term. Instead of these short fixes of flippant funnies, it can be nice to take a step back. It’s so easy to forget what the dopamine feels like when actually finishing a task. Or even starting and staying in a state of deep focus.
The Buddha used the term ‘monkey mind,’ to capture the mind’s swinging from thought to thought. You may have also heard the phrase ‘memory like a goldfish,’ which implies a more forgetful nature. Either way, these terms to denote an ‘unfocused’ or restless brain with tendencies of wobbling and unfinished trains of thought aren’t new. What is new, I think, are the feelings of guilt which come with it. I think that the feeling of unhappiness after a moment of ‘procrastination’ or so-called distraction is much more destructive than the seemingly sinful screen scrolling. Sometimes we drift to these things because our head just needs to slow down for a bit. Looking for the easiest and fastest route to relax is completely normal and evidently enjoyable in the moment.
Having said that, I’m not wholly endorsing hours of TikTok. Having the intention to improve your attention span and setting aside the time and space is something that can reduce sidetracking. Going back to my first paragraph on intentionality, the act of me writing this blog on attention span is a way of self-acknowledgment. This obviously doesn’t mean that you need to write a blog on why you want to improve your focus – but, as with anything, thinking of the reason and motivation behind an action means you can really focus on what matters most for you in that moment. In planning to do something, you’re able to hold yourself accountable for it and feel somewhat prepared and ready to get started on the task.
A concept I’ve recently been introduced to is ‘attention budget’. This explains how our attention span is not just a thing of habit, to practise and improve through accumulating hours of meditation, but something flexible and even delicate. Depending on different personal circumstances and moods, it’s really important to remember that we don’t (and can’t) have the same energy to put into things each day. Learning your own individual patterns and habits will help you understand more about what you like to focus on, when and during what periods.
Hopefully this blog has inspired you to learn more about your attention span, notice the patterns and curate new ones.
Anisha Minocha is studying English and Spanish at the University of St Andrews. She is a passionate writer and poet whose work has been published in anthologies, magazines, blogs and won competitions. Contributing to Sink Magazine, she is keen to utilize the voice of young people and share work through her creative writing blog. As a climate activist, she has combined her love for words and the planet in a performance of spoken word at the Royal Exchange Theatre in 'Letters to the Earth'. She also co-runs Young Friends of the Earth: Manchester and has organised workshops, participated in panels and spoken at Manchester Cathedral.
This section will not be visible in live published website. Below are your current settings:
Current Number Of Columns are = 1
Expand Posts Area =
Gap/Space Between Posts = 15px
Blog Post Style = card
Use of custom card colors instead of default colors =
Blog Post Card Background Color = current color
Blog Post Card Shadow Color = current color
Blog Post Card Border Color = current color
Publish the website and visit your blog page to see the results
We're always interested to hear from talented young writers, so if you'd like to feature as a guest author then hit us up for more details.