How can I stop my mind from wandering?

Sheri Van Dijk

What a great question! Most of us don't ask this question because it's normal for our mind to wander and it never occurs to us that we can increase our control over this. Mindfulness is a way of exercising your brain so that you improve your ability to concentrate. It helps you gain control over your mind rather than just allowing your mind to take you wherever it wants to go; it helps put you back in the driver's seat of your mind.

The definition of mindfulness is doing one thing at a time, in the present moment, with your full attention, and with awareness. So try this: for a few moments, just sit and focus on your breath. You don't have to change your breathing, just notice how it feels to breathe. Feel the rise and fall of your chest and lungs as your diaphragm expands and you fill your lungs with air; then as you exhale and your lungs deflate. Notice the feel of the air as it enters your nostrils and fills your lungs; and as you exhale and the cool air flows out of your nose or mouth. When your attention wanders, just notice this - don't judge yourself for wandering, and as best as you can, don't judge anything about your experience; just notice it.

This is mindfulness. Through practicing mindfulness regularly, you can strengthen your mind's ability to remain in the present moment, and to come back when it has wandered from the present. Mindfulness is also helpful in all sorts of different ways, including reducing stress and helping with certain health conditions, as well as strengthening our immune system; it can help improve sleep; reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety; and provides the exercise that our brain needs in order to improve our concentration and memory.

While mindfulness isn't easy - and goes against how many of us have always lived our lives - it's helpful in too many ways to ignore. So start practicing, and exercise your mind!

Charles J. Sophy, MD
Adolescent Medicine

Try focusing on one thing at a time.

Write one email at a time.

Eat your lunch mindfully.

Drink your cup of coffee attentively.

Read your book with full attention.

Drive your car with full attention.

While conversing, keep your mind on the conversation and prevent it from drifting to the TV screen in front of you, to the noises around you, or to people coming and going.

If you meditate, focus on the subject of meditation, and when your mind wanders, bring it back.

Align your mind with what you are doing. Don’t do one thing, while thinking about something else.
When you catch your mind wandering, bring it back to what you are doing. This might not be easy, but if you keep trying you will gradually succeed.

Become aware of your thoughts, and always bring your mind back to what you are doing.

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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.