Attention skills are fundamental to functioning in all areas of our lives. As William James, the founder of modern psychology, said, “My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind.”
Difficulties paying attention underlie many of the problems that we face today. We have demands on our attention that were not present throughout most of our history as a species. The extended family no longer provides the supports that it once did, and we have to struggle to balance home, work and community obligations. We are bombarded by media and the distractions of smartphones, tablets and computers. We are overloaded with information from the internet without filters that could distinguish between the accurate and false, the helpful and the dangerous. Multitasking is seen as obligatory despite its known disadvantages.
Routine tasks often require only a modicum of attention, so we go on auto-pilot and seek out distractions to escape the boredom. Many of us spend long hours commuting and travelling for work or to see friends and relatives, so we entertain ourselves by listening to the radio or by day-dreaming and planning. Stimulus-seeking becomes an addiction. Rumination, overthinking, mind-wandering, impaired concentration and unremitting stress have become chronic conditions for many. Drugs and alcohol are consumed in attempts to intensify pleasure or dull the pain of an overactive mind. Prescriptions become commonplace for depression, anxiety, insomnia and a host of other psychological maladies, all of which involve dysfunctions of attention. Large numbers of children are diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder, and many adults question whether that has always been their problem.
As much as modern life has dwindled our capacity to pay attention, humans have always been subject to distraction and mind wandering. Meditation is an ancient technique for quieting and focusing the mind, for developing wise attention with a spiritual purpose. Today meditation has been re-purposed and its healing “side effects” are being pursued for their own sake. Mindfulness meditation, which aims at developing wise and purposeful attention, has been extensively researched and shown to have benefits for the body, mind and spirit.
The cultivation of wise and purposeful attention underlies the approach taken at Attentive Mind in helping you to achieve optimal functioning in all areas of your life. The practice of mindfulness meditation settles the mind and brings life into focus. Mindfulness therapy capitalizes on the attention-boosting and healing benefits of meditation. “Third wave” cognitive-behavioural therapies develop mindfulness and other skills to reduce negatively biased attention and thinking. Hypnosis adds the power of imagination and directed attention to create paths to relief from long-held painful mental and physical conditions. Mind-body technologies such as biofeedback and neurofeedback work with attention to bring about physiological change and improve mental and emotional functioning.
At Attentive Mind we are dedicated to heightening your capacity for focused, purposeful attention with cognitive-behavioural therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, meditation, hypnosis and biofeedback and neurofeedback. We offer our services in-person, by phone and online by video-conferencing.