Everyday Mindfulness - Attention Training With A Spinning Top
A lot of people think that mindfulness means having to sit cross-legged and meditate. But the truth is that mindfulness can be as accessible and creative as you make it. Here we’re going to look at how you can use something as simple as a spinning top for just 90 seconds to start improving your attention training capacity.
Feel free to either just jump in to the video below or read on for a bit for more information.
What Is Attention Training?
Whereas many mindfulness apps online will have you diving headfirst into 30 minute plus meditations, this isn’t actually necessary (or even helpful). Before you can be expected to focus your attention on your internal states (i.e. your thoughts and feelings), you can benefit immensely from developing your attentional capacity.
You can think of attention training in the same way as someone who does exercise to build up their muscles. In this instance though you’re building up your attentional muscle!
By strengthening your attentional muscle you’ll be better able to stop your mind drifting off on autopilot to wherever it wants to go without you even noticing. And really, this is the whole aim of mindfulness; to get better at observing and accepting what’s going on in your mind and body.
How Do You Build Attention?
To start building your attention using the video above try slowly moving through the following steps:
- Once the video starts aim to keep all of your attention on the spinning top. A common misconception of mindfulness is that you need to be perfectly relaxed and in a calm space to practice. But nothing could be further from the truth. After all, how often is real life relaxed and calm. You can practice keeping your attention on the top wherever you are, no matter how much disturbance is around you.
- You can choose to notice different aspects of the top. You might notice the movement, the colours, or the reflection. Just make sure you’re being curious rather than trying to be perfect.
- As you practice you’ll probably notice your brain wandering. This is completely okay and perfectly natural. The aim here isn’t to stop your brain (that wouldn’t be a great outcome for anyone!), instead we’re just learning to direct our attention. So if you notice your brain wandering just note it (you can even get playful and thank if for trying to show you something so interesting) and then bring your attention back to the top.
- At the end of the exercise take a few seconds to reflect on your experience and what you learnt from the practice.
- Repeat this quick exercise whenever you can to build your attentional muscle.
Attention Training Vs Distraction - A Quick Note
A common mistake that beginners make in mindfulness is using exercises like this to distract themselves from unpleasant emotions. Remember that the aim here is not to avoid thoughts and feelings, but to get better at directing your attention so that eventually you can comfortably observe them.
So as a rule, don’t pull out this video to try and get rid of bad feelings or scary thoughts. Instead try to practice at a regular time each day so that it’s just about developing the broader skills to carry you forward in mindfulness.
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