3 simple strategies to help you focus and de-stress

Do daily distractions leave you feeling unfocused and stressed? Take a breath. Here are three great ways to start taking back control.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Does it seem like you can't complete even the simplest task without being distracted? Texts, emails, social media alerts, noisy colleagues, ringing phones… Friends, you are not alone.

Distracted thinking — aka daydreaming or mind wandering — affects everyone. In fact, researchers have found that people think about something other than what they're actually doing — or supposed to be doing — almost half of the time. Turns out that a wandering, easily distracted mind is actually the default mode for the human brain.

Succumbing to distraction over and over, though, can build stress, foster unhappiness and even lead to depression. So if you're one of the many looking to figure out how to handle distractions and improve your ability to focus, take comfort in the fact that research has shown a way forward.

One word: mindfulness.

Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-to-moment awareness of where you are and what you're doing. At work, for instance, it means you're focused on the project in front of you; walking with a friend, it gives you the ability to really focus on your surroundings and your conversation. Scientists have shown that you can actually train your brain to become more mindful. Like anything else, it just takes practice.

Ready to get started? These three practices have all proven useful in building mindfulness.

1. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)

MBSR training has become a recognized way to help people learn to avoid distractions and increase their attention on the task in front of them. It can also help improve memory, motivation and autonomy — all things likely to make you (and your boss) happier. MBSR programs typically include breathing, stretching and awareness exercises.

March 06, 2018 See more In-depth