How to Stop Over Reacting and Being Distracted
I went to a talk by psychologist Dan Goleman the other day – author of the New York Times bestseller Emotional Intelligence and Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships; Together with ‘A Force for Good’ recently co-written with the Dalai Lama.
So this guy knows his stuff when it comes to psychology.
He reminded me of how we so often over react to things in our everyday lives and also get so easily distracted.
Following recent scientific research, he talked about how mindful behaviour can help steer us back on course, claim back control of our minds and so our lives.
Here are some key things he said about how to stop over reacting and being distracted
How to Stop Over Reacting…
When we have a sudden negative or defensive reaction to something or someone, it’s all due to a primitive response. Say when our partner says something that makes us react angrily, our brain’s pre-frontal cortex (the rational thinking part) becomes paralysed. The amygdala hijacks our rational thinking, creating a fast and strong emotional response. It loves us so much that it thinks of our safety first. However, it fixates on the threat, so clouding our clear thinking. At that moment we really dislike our partner and say things without thinking. When the feelings pass and we feel calmer we are able to think more logically and remember that we do actually love them!
Interestingly but not surprisingly, the news headlines are designed for our amygdala! Be warned…
This is where the practice of mindfulness comes in, as is reduces the reactiveness of the amygdala.
Mindfulness works by training the mind to notice negative thoughts and reactions; Stopping the amygdala in its tracks, and re engaging our pre frontal cortex. We then have the space to realise they’re not of benefit to us, and so we can release them.
How to Stop Being Distracted …
As Nobel laureate economist Herbert A. Simon said back in 1971, “What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…”
Oh, so, so true…
Today we have 5 x more information thrown at us than 20 years ago. A new expression ‘pizzled’ has arisen. A mix of ‘puzzled / pissed off’ is means how we feel with someone as they answer their phone and have a long conversation with another, whilst in your company. One of my pet hates!
Have you also noticed at restaurants how many couples just look down at their phones over dinner instead of talking to each other!? Just sayin’…
Mindfulness strengthens our cognitive control. It helps us pay attention to the task at hand and gets work done more efficiently. Oh yes I’m getting Whatsapp notifications and emails as I write this and I’m soooo tempted to take a peek but I’m resisting…I’m getting this post written and then I can respond to my messages with more awareness and more fully engaged.
I will be in control of my life – not my phone!
In addition, the ability to pay attention to something long enough creates permanent memories – fantastic news for learning new things and revising.
Being mindful of our behaviour and repeatedly bringing the mind back to the present moment strengthens our attention and our minds. It’s believed that the mind wanders 90% of the time in work situations…and 10 % in ‘romantic’ situations 🙂
A wandering mind is an unhappy mind as we tend to ruminate on the past or worry about the future and things troubling us. How lovely would it be to have the freedom of choice to think about certain things? To think about things that only make you happy?
It’s our choice to control our minds – to not be distracted is a cognitive choice and can make us happier. Just think how less stressful it would be having less stuff distracting you.
So can mindfulness be of benefit outside of our own minds and lives?
Yes! Of course… if we are happier then we interact with others in a happier fashion, triggering happier and more beneficial responses. It’s a win win!
Hope you enjoyed these tips on mindfulness and how to stop over reacting and being distracted! Let me know if you practice mindfulness and if it works for you…
Photo thanks to Seth Showalter