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Why do I have the attention span of a goldfish at the moment? And how can I improve it?

By
Rose Johnstone
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Welcome to our series where, each week, we’ll get experts to find solutions to your lockdown problems. Send yours to kate.lloyd@timeout.com and we’ll try to get you an answer. In this instalment: concentration, or lack thereof.

Clare from Brockley says:

‘I’m working from home and trying to be as productive as possible, but I can’t seem to concentrate on one task for more than a couple of minutes at a time. I’m constantly zipping between work to the group WhatsApp to the Guardian live feed… it’s ridiculous! Why is my attention span so terrible during lockdown, and how can I fix it?’

Alexa Frey, co-founder and director of The Mindfulness Project, says:

 ‘Rest assured that you are not the only one feeling that your attention span has dwindled to that of a goldfish in this situation. The mounting stresses and uncertain future are causing our limbic systems to work harder than usual right now. This system is activated by real or imagined threats and tells our body to fight, flight or freeze to keep us safe. In this state, we also don’t have access to the prefrontal cortex part of our brain which helps us pay attention, rationalise, stay calm, plan and seek creative solutions.

 ‘So while the threat of the coronavirus and the impacts of lockdown are real, sometimes the most useful thing we can do is to take a few mindful breaths and acknowledge the difficult emotions that are here. Follow these three steps, from wherever you are:

a) Acknowledge what emotion is here and meet it with kindness (put hand on chest if it feels right).
b) Bring attention to breath for a few moments.
c) Then feel your whole body and feet on ground before opening eyes again.

 ‘Mindfulness practices like this can help us self-regulate our nervous systems and regain access to our prefrontal cortex, which we desperately need right now. Translated into goldfish language: mindfulness helps you to stay calm and strengthen your attention.’

The Mindfulness Project has plenty of online programmes to help us go inward during this time when we can’t go out. Including a free daily drop-in #antiviralmeditation at 6pm every evening via Zoom. 

Read more in this series:

Am I in a power struggle with my cat?

Why am I having such vivid dreams in lockdown?

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