Did you know that a goldfish can maintain focus and attention more than us humans? I'm not joking. There was a recent study which found that in the last 20 years, the human attention span deteriorated from 12 seconds back in 2000 to just 8 seconds today. That's 1 second less than that of said goldfish. To be honest, I'm not surprised. I do often find my mind jumping from one thought, one thing to another. And these days my focus has been obliterated by the multitude of things that are going on externally from events around the world (while some may not affect me directly, the heightened emotions we see are transmitted and felt) to those closer to home.
For me, there are two ways to understand, or explain, distraction: not having control over a situation or not wanting to deal with avalanche of emotions that come along with it. Distraction is "anything you do to temporarily take your attention away from strong emotion. Sometimes focusing on a strong emotion can make it feel even stronger and more out of control. Therefore, by temporarily distracting yourself, you may give the emotion some time to decrease in intensity, making it easier to manage." But like most things, if we do it often enough it could become habitual. So, from what was once a casual break from our work day where we would go online and scroll through social media feeds has now become almost an addiction taking time and attention away from our daily lives. The more we consume the digital universe, the more we are escaping our real world living.
And I feel it. Physically feel it. Whether it is that strain in my head between my eyes to just constantly feeling irritable, I am feeling this era of digital distraction. I find myself taking "breaks" from my work and homeschooling to disappear for a while. And while I am perfectly forgiven for feeling the need to disappear right now with the state of the world being what it is, with a global pandemic having a direct affect on those I know and love (as it is for pretty much everyone out there), I also know I need to find another outlet because feeding my troubled nerves with an addiction isn't helping me. I'm not sleeping well, I wake up feeling exhausted, and my family doesn't get the better version of me. My son gets the shouty mum (although to be fair, lockdown learning has been taking its toll on all of us).
I have my yoga, yes. But the weight of what I have been feeling lately can't be solved by yoga alone. I have been needing something else. And it has come in the form of going back to my first love- reading. A book. Actual pages. No blue screen. No digital connection. Just words printed on a page, weight in my hands and the smell of paper wafting upwards when I turn each page. It sounds almost too simplistic. I know it does. But the act of not picking up my phone or iPad and picking up a book instead brings me to a different space, one where I am transported to a world through the words of others but the images are my own from my own imagination. I guess I needed to heed what I often tell my five year old about imagination, that in order for your mind to be open to the magic of imagination, you need to have time to yourself without other voices or screens. Imagination only works when you are present within yourself. I need to be present, I need to focus and maintain my attention when reading. Yet funnily enough, when reading a good book, those things become easy to do.
I often wonder how much of my day is given away to digital obligations? I call them obligations because we often feel as though we have to check in on our feeds, share our own thoughts and images so as not to feel left out, and check out what everyone else is up to. For some of us, that's how we earn a living and while there is the element of connection that those feeds bring us, what can be lost in the process is the very important connection to ourselves, our own thoughts, our own imagination. That disconnection leads to feeling untethered, kind of like how distractions and inattention make us feel.
What brought me back to the present this week was a beautiful, yet sad, article I read in The Economist. It is about Agitu Gudeta. The loves of her life were goats. Living in the northern Italian region of Trento where was a goat herder (and maker of award winning cheese), she found peace and solitude despite having been seen as an outsider at first. But her love for her herd transcended all suspicion and she thrived with plans to help other outsiders feel wanted. Sadly, Gudeta was killed in December but her story of sheer kindness and pure love for her home is what struck me the most. You should read her story which is part of this week's #Repost selection. Other articles in #Repost include:
Kata Wéber's film which she wrote and which was directed by her husband Kornél Mundruczó called Pieces of a Woman (on Netflix). It is the story of one woman's turmoil after losing her baby shortly after birth. For Wéber, the story was partly autobiographical and her emotional release. It is the exploration of the raw truth behind "a distressed woman's psyche."
Exploring our psyche, or more specifically our memories is what an article in The Cut is all about. When a victim of sexual assault is interrogated, a tactic often used to discredit their accusation is to question the accuracy of their memories. "False Memory" is a term made popular by a couple where were accused by their daughter of abuse. The question is though, how true is this syndrome and how reliable are our memories?
Figuring out what's true or false seems to be an everyday occurrence these days, especially when it comes to news. But did you know there is a psychology behind the spread of misinformation? And there is a real part that we're playing in it even if we're doing so passively? Read this fascinating article penned by the American Psychological Association.
Speaking of psychology, I was fascinated to learn that the woman who created the recipe for the World's Best Chocolate Cake is also a practicing psychotherapist and pastry chef. Helen Goh co-authored the book Sweet (published in 2017) with Yotam Ottolenghi. Read about her journey from working for a pharmaceuticals firm to finding herself in London and baking for one of the country's most esteemed chefs.
And finally, being surrounded by legends throughout one's life would mean you would have some fascinating stories to tell, especially if you're a legend too. Such is the case with Quincy Jones who, at 86, shows no signs of falling down. Here is a brilliant profile/interview with the award-winning producer and find what is essentially is favourite word (I have to say, I do love it to...on necessary occasions).
There is a Chinese proverb that says "a book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." I have often said this and I will say it again: all I know is how I feel. And I feel restless and edgy. In order to deal with that I need to come back to basics, come back to who I was before the digital era, come back to what has always brought me joy, comfort, release, and connection--and that is reading especially if it is in an actual book. Like being in that proverbial garden, I feel rested and whole.
I hope you find your outlet that helps you cope when you're feeling like you're constantly unmotivated and unfocused. Don't underestimate simplicity. Failing that, maybe a goldfish will help?