Such a short sentence that packs such a big punch. Why? Because distractions are all around us, and truly, stepping away from distractions is much easier said than done for most of us.
The world we live in is full of constant stimuli. Some of this stimuli is good, and some of it is...well, not so good. What I’ve observed is that sometimes the very things we think are making our lives easier are actually costing us in terms of our mental health and focus.
An example: My smartphone is a wonderful little piece of glass. It contains more information at the press of a button than people living in the 1400s used to get every six months. However, this little piece of glass is something that my brain became addicted to over time, and as such, it became something that would harm me some days more than it would help me.
Over the last 18 months, I’ve been mindfully trying to cultivate a space in which I feel and function best. This has often meant that I deliberately step away from distractions (think: phone, email, instant messages, social media, TV, etc.). When I’m experiencing the world without distractions - with nothing in my ears and nothing in my hands - I am able to observe more about the world around me, process more of my own thoughts, and quiet my mind so I do not feel as overwhelmed when it is time for me to step back into this fast-paced world of many inputs.
So, I strongly suggest that you all try stepping away from distractions a couple times a day. Take a break from work or whatever it is that you’re doing. Take a walk, sit on a bench, etc., but don’t have anything in your ears or anything in your hands. Just exist with yourself. And then, at least once per week, take a more substantial break from inputs and distractions (at least an hour).
The first time you try this, your impulse is likely going to be to reach for your phone or to do something that distracts you from your own thoughts. (Just look at any office waiting room, any restaurant, or line at the grocery store, and you will see this impulse in action.) I strongly urge you to resist this impulse. Yes, it is scary and it can make you feel vulnerable to exist in a space all on your own with only your own self to “talk” to. But you can do this! And as you practice this more frequently, you do get better at it, and over time, carving this time for yourself can really help make a difference in how you feel and function in all aspects of your life.
So, take a deep breath, and step away from distractions, even if just for 3-5 minutes. Experience the world around you without any other inputs other than your own self, and see if you don’t feel calmer and more at peace than before you took that little break. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.