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5 Simple Ways to Get Your Attention Span Back

James, a professional graphic designer, recently faced a peculiar challenge: his attention span seemed to dwindle by the day. Buried under deadlines and swamped with digital notifications, he found concentrating increasingly complex.

One afternoon, amidst the chaos of his cluttered workspace, James stumbled upon an old photograph of himself hiking in the mountains, which got him thinking.

In a world of frequent and often unending distractions, our attention spans have become fragmented, often leaving us feeling disconnected from our work, loved ones, and ourselves.

Stress and worry can lead to a wide range of physical and mental illnesses, as well as problems with thinking and memory. Attention is one of the primary mental processes that is harmed by long-term worry and anxiety.

Attention is the brain's ability to focus selectively on specific information while ignoring other distractions. To get our attention span back, we need to be brave, look inward, and make changes that aren't always comfortable but can be incredibly rewarding.

Here, we explore five tactics to help you reclaim your attention span, not just as a tool for productivity but as a path back to a more connected and wholehearted life.

1. Harmonic Resonance: Listen to Music

The scientific exploration of how music influences our mental health and emotional states is both fascinating and extensive.

Research in the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science supports the concept of Harmonic Resonance, particularly the effects of music set at 60 beats per minute, which is shown to cause a “decrease in distress, leading to lower negative stress levels and higher productivity and focus.”

In fact, we’ve known for over fifteen years that music moves the brain to pay attention. Back in 2007, the research team at Standford University showed that music activates the brain areas responsible for paying attention, formulating predictions, and updating memories.

Additionally, researchers from the University of Zürich, the University of Marburg and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in the United States of America have found that listening to music before facing a stressful situation might help the body's stress response system recover more quickly. This suggests that music can benefit our bodies when we're stressed.

More evidence of the power of music for mental health and healing has emerged through an unexpected doorway: surgery. A research study looked at the impact of music on those attending day surgery at a hospital. The study found that listening to music during surgery lowered stress hormones and helped maintain immune function compared to those who didn't listen to music. Patients choosing their own music showed the best outcomes, suggesting personalised music can beneficially impact surgical stress and recovery.

These studies show music's profound impact on our mental and emotional health, offering a scientifically backed reason to pop on the headphones when looking for stress relief, emotional regulation, and even extra focus.

2. Neuroplasticity + Mindful Consumption

Neuroplasticity is a young science.

It was officially discovered in 1948 but wasn’t widely recognised until the 1960s and has only risen to popularity in the last decade or so.

Neuroplasticity is like your brain's superpower to rewire itself, learning and adapting to new things throughout your life, just like how clay can be moulded into different shapes.

In the early-to-mid-1900s, scientists thought our brain's structure was fixed early in life, meaning once you reached adulthood, your brain couldn't change or heal.

A modern example of how our brains can change is learning a new language or playing a musical instrument; these activities can strengthen connections between neurons and even increase the size of specific brain areas, showing our brains are far from static and can grow even in adulthood.

How does this link to getting your attention span back?

By practising mindfulness, you can harness neuroplasticity to improve your attention span.

A study found that mindfulness training improves mental health and attention, with changes in brain function and structure supporting these improvements. This suggests mindfulness could boost productivity and wellbeing, especially in stressful environments.

Mindfulness exercises, like focusing on your breath or engaging in a body scan, train your brain to concentrate on the present moment. This consistent practice gradually strengthens and creates new neural pathways dedicated to attention and focus. Just as exercise builds muscle, regularly practising mindfulness builds up the brain's ability to stay attentive, making it easier to focus on tasks and reduce distractions over time.

3. Cognitive Restoration Via Boredom

Boredom is the uncomfortable feeling we get when we can't find anything interesting to focus on, either around us or in our thoughts, and we blame our surroundings for this lack of engagement.

However, cognitive restoration is rooted in the theory that boredom can rejuvenate the mind.

By pushing us towards new experiences and goals, boredom can inadvertently serve as a catalyst for cognitive restoration. When we feel bored and seek change, we're not just looking for something different; we're also giving our minds a chance to reset and refresh. This shift away from unsatisfying activities allows our cognitive resources to replenish.

Essentially, boredom's push for new pursuits can help restore our mental energy and focus, enhancing cognitive function and creativity. This link between boredom and cognitive restoration highlights the importance of stepping away from monotonous tasks and engaging with new and diverse experiences to rejuvenate our minds.

If your attention and focus are waning, let boredom be your guide to new insights and endeavours.

4. The Unitasking Principle: Cultivating Single-Tasking

Has anyone else tried to simultaneously listen to a watch a lunchtime webinar for work, clear your inbox, and eat lunch at your desk at the same time?

Multitasking is really rapid task-switching, according to Dr Adam Gazzaley.

So what’s the antidote?

Simple: Unitasking.

Unitasking emphasises the benefits of focusing on one task at a time over trying to juggle multiple tasks simultaneously.

Research and expert insights highlight how multitasking, while seemingly efficient, can actually diminish productivity, increase stress, and negatively impact the quality of our work and mental health.

Despite our belief in our multitasking efficiency, this juggling act often leads to mistakes and missed moments. This is usually called switching cost.

Switching cost is a drop in performance accuracy or speed that happens when you switch between jobs. Many studies in psychology show that people can't help but experience the negative costs of switching between tasks. It takes them longer to finish a task, and they make more mistakes when they do it while staying on one task.

Furthermore, single-tasking not only boosts productivity but also creativity.

Cofounder and CEO of The Creative Dose and presenter of the highly rated LinkedIn Learning Course Productive Creativity shares: “Single-tasking increases creativity by encouraging us to dig deeper, make more connections, and to better understand what we're focused on”. 

By dedicating undivided attention to one task, individuals may find that they can explore more creative solutions and ideas than when their focus is divided. The monotony associated with focusing on a single task can paradoxically provide the mental space for creative thought to flourish. This focused approach can lead to a deeper state of flow, where work feels more effortless and engaging​.

5. Biophilic Engagement: Connect with Nature

Ever wonder why a walk in the woods feels so good or why you feel happier around plants?

It's because humans have an instinctive love for nature, a connection that's essential for our wellbeing and happiness. This natural attraction, known as biophilia, hints that embracing elements of the outdoors in our daily lives could be a key to feeling more joyful and healthy.

Biophilic engagement is about connecting more with nature in our everyday life. It helps us feel better mentally and physically by bringing natural elements into our surroundings, like plants and natural light, or spending time outdoors.

The American Psychological Association discusses how exposure to nature, from city parks to wilderness, has been linked to numerous benefits, including improved attention, lower stress, and enhanced mood.

For over 10 years we’ve known about the power of nature. In one study, Japanese researchers had people walk in either a forest or an urban centre. The walks were the same length and level of difficulty, and the subjects' heart rates, blood pressure, and heart rate variability were all recorded. The people who took part also filled out surveys about their stress levels, moods, and other mental health issues.

People who walked in woods had significantly lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability than people who walked in cities. This meant that they were more relaxed and less stressed, and they also said they felt better and had less worry. Based on their findings, the experts believe that being in nature had a stress-relieving benefit that went beyond what exercise might have done.

Immersing in nature refreshes the mind, enhancing our ability to focus and boosting attention spans by offering a calming break from daily overstimulation.


Our attention can often feel scattered, leaving us disconnected from our tasks and surroundings. To combat this, we’ve explored strategies all aimed at reclaiming our attention so we can live a more engaged and balanced life.

  • Harmonic Resonance - Listen to Music: Engaging with music, particularly those at 60 beats per minute, can synchronise our brain activity to produce alpha brainwaves, which are associated with relaxation and improved mood. Such an auditory experience can be a therapeutic tool, enhancing our focus and emotional wellbeing.
  • Neuroplasticity + Mindful Consumption: By leveraging our brain's ability to adapt and form new connections, mindful practices can significantly enhance our emotional regulation and reduce stress. This approach underscores the transformative impact of mindfulness on our cognitive functions.
  • Cognitive Restoration via Boredom: Embracing moments of low stimulation or boredom can refresh our mind's capacity for creativity and attention. This principle aligns with the Attention Restoration Theory, highlighting the restorative power of engaging with natural settings or simply allowing our minds to wander.
  • The Unitasking Principle - Cultivating Single-Tasking: Focusing on a single task at a time, rather than multitasking, can dramatically improve our productivity and creative output. This approach encourages a deeper, more meaningful engagement with our work, leading to higher-quality outcomes and a sense of fulfilment.
  • Biophilic Engagement - Connect with Nature: Integrating natural elements into our daily environments can enhance our wellbeing and mental health. This connection with nature reduces stress and promotes a more profound sense of place and environmental awareness, contributing to a more sustainable and enriched life.

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Mental health concerns are now said to affect every Australian. Whether it’s through personal experience, friends, family or colleagues, we all know someone who is dealing with a mental illness.

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