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Undivided Attention: 6 Ways to Focus That Will Make You ...


Undivided Attention: 6 Ways to Focus

That Will Make You Happier
Eric Barker June 23, 2014

Give me your undivided attention for a second. (Itll make you happier, I

You create your world with what you pay attention to.

There are a million things happening right now: some good, some bad.

Pay attention to the good, youll feel better. Pay attention to the bad, and, well you get

Via Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life:

the things that you dont attend to in a sense dont exist, at least for you. All
day long, you are selectively paying attention to something, and much more often than
you may suspect, you can take charge of this process to good effect. Indeed, your ability
to focus on this and suppress that is the key to controlling your experience
and, ultimately, your well-being

Research shows that paying attention to positive feelings literally expands your world.
Focusing on the negative makes it tiny.

Via Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life:

Based on objective lab tests that measure vision, Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, shows that paying attention to
positive emotions literally expands your world, while focusing on negative
feelings shrinks it a fact that has important implications for your daily

As Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman famously said, Nothing in life is as

important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.

As research has shown, lottery winners arent as happy as you might guess and
paraplegics arent as unhappy as you might think. Why?

For each, being rich or being paralyzed eventually becomes one small piece of
their very big life. In other words, they stop focusing on it.

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People think that if they win the lottery, theyll be happy forever. Of course, they will
not. For a while, they are happy because of the novelty, and because they think about
winning all the time. Then they adapt and stop paying attention to it. Similarly,
he says, Everyone is surprised by how happy paraplegics can be, but they are
not paraplegic full-time. They do other things. They enjoy their meals, their
friends, the newspaper. It has to do with the allocation of attention.

And controlling that attention can be the key to your happiness.

Via Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life:

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Undivided Attention: 6 Ways to Focus That Will Make You ...

Kahneman says that both the Dalai

Lama and the Penn positive
psychologist Martin Seligman would
agree about the importance of paying
attention: Being able to control
it gives you a lot of power,
because you know that you
dont have to focus on a
negative emotion that comes

So in a world of buzzing iPhones and

relentless emails and text messages,
how can you better control your
attention and make yourself

Here are six tips from research. !

(I still have your undivided attention,
right? Just checking.)

1) Reappraisal Jimmy Fallon's Story About Playing

Ping Pong With Prince Has the
How you react to things is more
important than what actually
Research pioneered by Arnold and
Lazarus shows reappraising
situations, focusing on the good Michael Strahan's Departure Has
elements of bad events, can be a Made Kelly Ripa's Live! the Next
huge step toward staying positive.

Via Rapt: Attention and the Focused


direct your attention to some

element of the situation that
Watch the New 'Peaky Blinders'
frames things in a more helpful
Trailer for Season 3
light. After a big blowup over an
equitable sharing of the
housework, rather than
continuing to concentrate on
your partners selfishness and
sloth, you might focus on the
fact that at least a festering Promoted
Dubai House Prices on Track for
conflict has been aired, which is
Another Double-Digit Drop
the first step toward a solution
to the problem, and to your Recommended by
improved mood.

Sound like denial? Self-deception?

It is. And it works like a charm.

Thats why people happier than you do it all the time.

Via Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life:

Directing your attention away from a negative experience not only is not as maladaptive
as many of his peers think but, according to the Columbia psychologist George Bonanno,
can be a superior coping strategy. Indeed, he finds that in the wake of an upsetting event,
self-deception and emotional avoidance are consistently and robustly
linked to a better outcome. Even when youre reeling from a severe blow, such as a
loved ones death, diverting your focus from your grief can boost your resilience.

As Ive posted before, more thinking can cure bad feelings. Meditation can increase your
attention span.

2) Focus On Those Who Believe In You

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Undivided Attention: 6 Ways to Focus That Will Make You ...

How do politicians and salesmen stay so positive?

Part of it may be acting but they also have a tendency to selectively pay attention to
positive reinforcers.

Via Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life:

Individuals of sanguine temperament, such as certain politicians, CEOs and salesmen,

seem naturally to excel at directing their focus away from negative targets. Research
shows that when they confront a potentially unpleasant situation, such as some
unfriendly faces at a gathering, these extraverts are apt to shift their attention
rapidly around the room and zero in on amiable or neutral visages, thus
short-circuiting the distressing images before they can get stored in

3) Seek Flow

You dont need more time doing nothing to recharge, you need more
challenges that you find engrossing.

Flow (being so wrapped up in what youre doing that the world falls away) is an active
state of attention that research shows we like more than endless hours in front of the TV.

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In a stunning example of the kind of mind-set that undermines good daily experience,
most people reflexively say that they prefer being at home to being at work.
However, flow research shows that on the job, theyre much likelier to focus
on activities that demand their attention, challenge their abilities, have a
clear objective and elicit timely feedback conditions that favor optimal

4) Make Boring Things Into A Game

Even dull jobs can be more compelling if you change the activity into a game
and make it a challenge.

This increases your engagement and makes you happier.

Via Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life:

With some thought, effort, and attention, says Cskszentmihlyi, you can make even an
apparently dreary job, such as assembling toasters or packaging tools, much more
satisfying. The trick, he says, is to turn the work into a kind of game, in which
you focus closely on each aspect screwing widget A to widget B or the
positions of your tools and materials and try to figure out how to make it
better. That way, you turn a rote activity into an engaging one.

5) Schedule Challenges For Your Leisure Time

Schedule things in advance that draw you in and youll find yourself
enjoying your free time more.

Most of us seek unscheduled free time for our leisure but given your brains lazy nature,
youre likely to waste that time doing whats easy vs. whats really fun.

Via Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life:

Summing up, Cskszentmihlyi says, If left to their own devices and genetic
programming, and without a salient external stimulus to attract them, most
people go into a mode of low-level information processing in which they
worry about things or watch television. The antidote to leisure-time ennui
is to pay as much attention to scheduling a productive evening or weekend
as you do to your workday.

6) Take Time To Savor

Take time to pay attention to and appreciate the good things in life.

Yes, take time to smell the roses is more than a cliche.

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Undivided Attention: 6 Ways to Focus That Will Make You ...

This is one of the secrets of the happiest people and its part of the basis for one of the
most effective happiness-boosting techniques.

Via Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life:

One group was told to focus on all the upbeat things they could find sunshine, flowers,
smiling pedestrians. Another was to look for negative stuff graffiti, litter, frowning
faces. The third group was instructed to walk just for the exercise. At the end of the week,
when the walkers well-being was tested again, those who had deliberately targeted
positive cues were happier than before the experiment. The negatively focused
subjects were less happy, and the just plain exercisers scored in between. The point, says
Bryant, is that you see what you look for. And you can train yourself to attend
to the joy out there waiting to be had, instead of passively waiting for it to
come to you.


And what are the results of more focus and undivided attention?

Focused work and focused leisure not only make you happier in the moment
but your selection of challenges to overcome are what forge you into the type
of person you want to be.

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Over time, a commitment to challenging, focused work and leisure produces not only
better daily experience, but also a more complex, interesting person: the long-range
benefit of the focused life. As Hobbs puts it, the secret of fulfillment is to choose
trouble for oneself in the direction of what one would like to become.

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This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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