De-Clutter Working memory
Everyone can agree that achieving your goals takes focus. How do you make something top of mind? The first and most important step to increase focus is to de-clutter your working memory. You have to make room in your mind in order to have the capacity to focus. The most effective strategy we have found to increase the space in your working memory is meditation . Meditation can be likened to defragmenting your computer. It clears away the inessentials of your mind, the details that aren’t necessary and brings your focus into the present. Numerous research studies have concluded that meditation decreases stress by quieting the mind and calming the body. Studies have further shown in four short sessions of meditation you increase focus and concentration. Specifically the prefrontal cortex of meditators demonstrates stronger response to new stimuli than that of non-meditators. This translates to mean that meditation increases your ability to focus on new things such as your desired goal.
In addition to decreasing stress and de-cluttering your working memory another reason meditation is the best strategy to increase focus is due to the fact that it brings your attention into the present moment. Presence is a key element to creating your goals. In order to willfully focus your attention on your desired goal you have to be in the present moment. Most people feel from the past and live from the future especially when it comes to changing a habit. In other words, the guilt and remorse of what hasn’t happened yet due to multiple failed attempts at making change leads to a perpetual cycle of letting the past color the present. As well, worry, what if’s and self-doubt of repeating the past in the future impacts the degree of focus and presence in the now. This is because current neural pathways around this habit are emotionally stronger and easily override being calm, clear and focused in the present. Are you recycling your past or borrowing on the future to determine your experiences in the present? Being present takes practice. Yet the practice is well worth every second because the present moment is the only place your focus has power. You can’t create anything from the past because it is no longer here. The future hasn’t happened yet so you have no power to create from there either. Your only power is in the now.
You are the master architect of your habits. You have the power to construct or deconstruct your neural architecture that constitutes your habits. You do this by being aware of where your attention is in any given moment. Then the next step is to choose to willfully focus your attention on thoughts, perceptions, images and actions that promote your desired change.
Solution: Spend time daily de-cluttering your mind and exercising your ability to focus on the present moment. Meditation is a powerful practice to decrease stress while strengthening neural circuitry for being present.
1. Find a comfortable position where you can be still for 5 – 10 minutes.
2. Breathe into your lower lungs by feeling your abdomen rise and fall as you inhale and exhale.
3. Bring your awareness to a centering word, a meaningful phrase or the sensation of your breath and focus intently on what you have chosen.
4. If outside thoughts arise consciously detach from distractions, past regrets and future worries by noticing the thought and bringing your attention immediately back to your chosen focus.
5. Notice remarkable results.
What is happening now?
From this more centered and present state of mind observe your thoughts and emotions regarding your goal. Explore the content and quality of your thoughts and emotions. Are they based in the present moment? Or are they based in the past or future? This might look like thinking about something that happened yesterday such as regretting a mistake or feeling worried about what if’s in the future. Consciously choose to bring your attention to the present and explore what is actually happening right now. Do this simple exercise multiple times per day to bring your awareness into the present and make choices from this place of power.
Hilary Stokes Ph.D. and Kim Ward Ph.D. have been a team for 20 years, specializing in mind, body, spirit psychology. They are the authors of the bestselling books The Happy Map: Your roadmap to the habit of happiness and Manifesting Mindset: The 6-step formula for attracting your goals and dreams and founders of Authenticity Associates Coaching and Counseling. They are passionate about combining the best of holistic and traditional approaches to health and happiness. If you are interested in learning the answers to the most frequently asked questions on how to decrease stress and increase happiness sign up for their free video series.