Interrupting the automatic pilot so you can creatively respond instead of impulsively react
With the pervasiveness of information, our attention is constantly being bombarded with stimuli which neurologically rewards us every time we distract ourselves. Referred to as "the attention economy", which treats human attention as a scarce resource, we are literally 'baited' into using our attention on things which may be less valuable to us, if we stopped to think about it.
This running on autopilot typically drains our attention daily.  The downside is that we can feel more anxious, less focused, feel less productive and it often leaves us with a sense of dissatisfaction with our day or with our lives in general.
As quoted in one research article published in the journal 
'Scientific American':
"A wandering mind is an unhappy mind"
Have you ever had the experience where you were having dinner with a loved one, but your mind was still caught up in something that had happened earlier in the day? Most people spend much of their time either ruminating on the past or thinking about the future. This absence from the present is the main cause of dissatisfaction and which drives a multi-billion $ industry searching for happiness.​

From recent advancements in neuroscience, we have increased knowledge of how the brain works and brain neuroplasticity tells us two things about how the neural pathways are constructed:

  1. What fires together, wires together
  2. If you don't use it, you lose it

The first of these implies that as we continue to jump to read every message we receive when we are notified, we are constructing neural pathways in our brain that will leave us to be easily distracted and unfocused.

The second of these implies, that if we stop doing this (for example by reducing or eliminating notifications on your devices), we will lose this brain pattern over time resulting in a less distracted and more focused brain.

Importantly, neuroplasticity informs us that we can take control (at least to some degree) of how we shape our brain through the activities and habits we practice every day. This is known as self-directed neuroplasticity and affirms that "You are what you practice"

Mindfulness, or more generally, awareness practices can help to arrest this natural process of the mind to perpetually wander. With a bit of regular practice, we can train our minds to be focused, steady and calm. With some mindfulness practices, we can train our attention to stay focused on our object of attention, despite the presence of potential distractions
If we practice for approx. 8-10 mins every day to drop all distractions and continually return our attention to our object of attention, over time our attentional ability increases. We will accumulate the following benefits from this practice:
  • Better able to stay focused on one task
  • Make better decisions because of our increased focus
  • Stay calmer under pressure (becoming less reactive)
  • Have increased clarity on what is important to give our attention to. 

If you want to acquire the above benefits, read on and try some of the following simple but powerful mindfulness practices.

Here are 3 simple yet powerful mindfulness practices, that if practiced daily for 8-10 minutes will guarantee to help increase your ability to stay focused on a chosen task and incease your ability to respond creatively to changing circumstances and make more strategic decisions.
1. Mindfulness of Breathing

Bring your attention to some place in your body where you can observe the breath as you breath in and out. For example, as you breath in, your abdomen expands, and contracts as you breath out. Place and hold your attention on observing these sensations of expansion and contraction as you breath in and out.  Adopt a relaxed mental effort, just enough effort to keep doing the practice. Your mind will wander into some thoughts, this is natural. When you notice yourself distracted, take a moment to recognise and acknowledge the distraction (e.g., "thinking") and gently return your attention to observing the sensations of breathing. If your mind is particularly distracted with thoughts and continually wandering away from the present, it can be useful to give it a word or phrase to repeat to ground it more into the present. Words like "Now" or "Presence", or phrases such as "This is it" or "Just this" can help.​ Continue to return your attention repeatedly (in a relaxed and gentle way) to the sensation of breathing for 8-10 mins. 

​​2. STOP the wandering mind
Wandering Mind abstract art
Another nice and simple practice to interrupt the tendency of the mind to wander, is to periodically interrupt your day with the STOP method. This is an acronym that you can use to switch your conceptual mind into perceptual processing for a short period of time. By doing this switch, you are re-training your brain to be more aware of the present moment (as experienced through your senses) as opposed to being lost in thought.
It is useful to sprinkle some STOP practices throughout your day as it's a very simple non-invasive but useful practice that builds mindfulness in a natural way.​


  1. Stop (S):

    • What: Interrupt your thoughts with the command “stop!” and pause whatever you’re doing.
    • How: Take a brief pause, bringing your attention to the present moment.

  2. Take a Breath (T):

    • What: Breathe in gently and slowly through your nose, expanding your belly as you do.
    • How: Exhale slowly through pursed lips. Focus on the sensation of your breath.

  3. Observe (O):

    • What: Become the observer of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations.
    • How: Notice what thoughts arise, what emotions you’re feeling, and how your body responds.

  4. Proceed Mindfully (P):

    • What: Consider how you’d like to respond to the situation.
    • How: Choose a small, helpful action. Narrow your focus and take it one step at a time.
3. Let It RAIN
RAIN is a self-compassion focused mindfulness practice that allows us to better recognise, accept and nurture those difficult internal states that can cause us stress and drive poorer behaviours which we might later regret. Popularised by Tara Brach in both of her best-selling books "Radical Acceptance" and "Radical Compassion", RAIN is an easy and simple practice to learn.


  1. Recognise (R):

    • What: Become aware of what is happening within you. Notice any thoughts, emotions, or sensations.
    • How: Pause and acknowledge the present experience without judgment. Label it (e.g., “This is fear,” “This is sadness”).

  2. Allow (A):

    • What: Allow the experience to be there without resistance. Let go of any struggle against it.
    • How: Breathe and create space around the feeling. Accept it as a natural part of being human.

  3. Investigate (I):

    • What: Curiously explore the experience. Investigate its nuances and underlying causes.
    • How: Ask questions like, “What does this feel like in my body?” or “What is this experience trying to tell me?”

  4. Nurture (N):

    • What: Offer self-compassion and care. Be kind to yourself in the midst of difficulty.
    • How: Imagine comforting words you would say to a friend. Embrace your experience with warmth and understanding.