Sunday, 3 March, 2024

Human Attention

Dixya Poudel

Young students are often chided for their lack of attention during a class or while doing their homework. As they grow, they learn to hold, shift and focus their attention which enables them to excel at education and career. Attention is requisite for sustaining relations as well since we are required to pay attention to what our partners are telling us.

Often it might be necessary to read between the lines when it comes to listening. People tend to complain that they aren’t listened to properly and the culprit is the lag of attention. And while we know that paying attention in class is essential, very few of us can focus our minds on the discourse one hundred per cent. From spacing out in conversations to being unable to formulate an answer in classrooms, our attention fails us when required.

Human mind tends to run in an autopilot i.e. in a habitual manner. Driving is an example of autopilot. As a part of routine, it comes quite naturally and we don’t have to overthink it. It would be a load to our mind if we had to re-learn everything that runs on autopilot. Nature has gifted us the ability to select the things that are important to us and relegate the rest in the background. And our ability of selection occurs with the help of attention.
Further, our attention tends to be alerted by cues such as sound, images, smell and touch. These are sensory signals which our mind deciphers so that important ones are selected. The intonation of a person speaking alerts us for social cues. Images that are bright and patterned tend to snag our focus. Thus the sensory signals are cues to our minds so that only the essential matters are focused on.

If we can focus our attention properly in class, we will excel in exams. If we pay attention to what our colleagues are talking about in an office meeting, we will be better prepared to contribute appropriately. And if we listen to what our family members, friends and relations are saying to us, we will respond suitably. Thus attention is important for a balanced life.

Yet, one can hear about attention problems such as ADD which stands for Attention Deficit Disorder in young children. With proper diagnosis, ADD can be treated but very often it goes undetected and children lag behind in their growth. While ADD in children is treatable, what can adults do to enhance their focus and succeed in their lives?

Psychologists advise firstly to find out where one falls on the attention-span continuum. There are quizzes available online that one can fill to find out the level of attention and what needs to be worked on.
Likewise, sleep hygiene is essential for the optimum level of concentration. When we get enough sleep, our minds can work better. Exercise, meditation and mindfulness are other requisite steps that work wonders to the agility of the mind. Meanwhile, we should let go of grievances every time that our attention fails us. We are humans, after all.

Balancing work and play goes a long way in sustaining our focus, attention and concentration. Our minds must be our ally to work not just on our attention but on all aspects of our lives.