Distractions — can’t live with them, can’t live without them. As the human race advances towards the future, our access to a plethora of content and information has never been this massive. Whether we spend our time scrolling Instagram or streaming Amazon Prime, we have more and more reasons to stay distracted and divert our attention from things that matter and are important to us.
Technology has simplified our lives in more ways than one, but it’s also important to counter its downside. Some tools and practices can help us in overcoming this menace of distractions, finding intent and focus, and decluttering our minds. The first step is to realize that you are distracted and make a conscious decision to direct your efforts toward coming out of this bubble.
For the remaining steps and tools, I have just the right person with me today at The School of Greatness — Dr. Amishi Jha. Dr. Amishi is a psychology professor and a mindfulness research expert who is convinced that distractions are causing us to miss out on 50% of our life experiences! An advocate for the science of mindfulness, Dr. Amishi aims to help people live a more meaningful and healthier life.
“Dedicate some time [in a day to just focus on your breath]; it can be as short as a minute.” – Dr. Amishi Jha
If you are willing to dedicate time to your physical and mental well-being, you will find this episode quite helpful in learning how to enjoy life’s precious moments. Before that, let’s get to know our inspiring guest a little more.
Dr. Amishi Jha is a professor of psychology at the University of Miami and serves as the Director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, or UMindfulness, which she co-founded in 2010. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California Davis and post-doctoral training at the brain imaging and analysis center at Duke University.
Author of the book Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention, Invest 12 Minutes a Day, Dr. Amishi’s work has also been featured at NATO, the World Economic Forum, and The Pentagon. She has also received coverage in The New York Times, NPR, TIME, Forbes, and more.
“If we’re not paying attention to the present moment when we’re trying to get something done, that’s a problem. Whether the goal is to read a book or talk to a partner, whatever it is, it’s going to require you actually to be in the moment to do it.” – Dr. Amishi Jha
Mindfulness has become a massive buzzword in the last decade. Still, Dr. Amishi has spent the last 25 years researching the science of attention through extensive work with elite sports teams, US military medical professionals, and more. Through her work, she aims to answer the pressing question — “Does mindfulness really work?”
If you are excited to know the answer, then keep reading this post. Dr. Amishi and I talk about distractions and how to help you calm down and retrain your mind to master a peak mindset, find your focus, and own your attention.
For most of her career, Dr. Amishi has been on a quest to understand how the brain works and how we can train it to focus better. Through her research, she learned that the top three things that our brains are vulnerable to are stress, threats, and mood, and she wanted to find out if there was a way to overcome these feelings.
“I became extremely interested in figuring out how to train our brains. … We had known about neuroplasticity, [the ability of the brain to change and react based on experience], for long, but the notion that we could train our brains was new. … We tried positive psychology, high-tech lighted sound devices, … but none of it was reliably working. … Then we did something unthinkable. … We tried mindfulness meditation, … even though I was probably the biggest skeptic of this [practice].” – Dr. Amishi Jha
It was with the help of her senior colleague, Richard Davidson, that she was introduced to meditation and mindfulness as a window to peek into the depths of our minds. Being Indian, meditation was not something alien to her, but being a scientist at the same time, she had not yet seen enough proof of its relevancy. But this was also a time in Dr. Amishi’s life when she was feeling stressed and overwhelmed — she had plenty of reason to give mindfulness a fair chance.
“I was feeling as if I wasn’t paying enough attention in life. My [colleagues] in the lab were all devoted to attention, but I couldn’t keep my head in the game. [That’s when I decided to] check mindfulness out. … I went to the bookstore and purchased a book and CD called Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield, … and I started meditating. … I realized that it was all about attention, [focusing on] your breath, noticing your mind wander[ing], and bringing it back, and it was such a simple yet elegant instruction. … After about a month of doing this, I was feeling completely transformed. … The pressure and the strain hadn’t changed at all externally, but I was a different person, [and my response to the pressure had shifted].” – Dr. Amishi Jha
Dr. Amishi’s personal experiment led her to start giving some serious thought to meditation as a way of transforming our perception. She found that this simple practice allowed her to reach a state where she was just showing up differently to the stress, emotional or psychological threats, and poor moods. It tends to become fuel for our success and for our ability to think, feel, focus, and connect.
Dr. Amishi points out that most people who have suffered know the consequences of what an untrained mind or a distracted mind can do. We feel fractured and fragmented and are barely able to hang on. Furthermore, Dr. Amishi stresses that we are in the most information-rich environment that humanity has probably ever experienced, so distractions are plenty with mobile phones and social media leading the frenzy. What matters is how you perceive those distractions.
“Most people, when they realize that they are not paying as much attention as they need to, start feeling that there is something wrong with them. To all those people I would like to say that there is nothing wrong with your brain. In fact, the reason why computer algorithms can predict what you are going to click on is that your brain is working reliably. … Our attention spans have not been shrinking because evolution doesn’t work on that timescale, but now we know how attention functions, what attracts it, what distracts it, and what causes preoccupation, which means that we go to work [on ourselves] for our own benefit. For me, it’s counterintuitive; it’s not about being able to focus better, it’s about noticing when you are not focused.” – Dr. Amishi Jha
That’s the takeaway; it’s about noticing when you are not focused and then redirecting your attention to being present for the job at hand, or as Dr. Amishi says, “Pay attention to your attention.” What you put your attention to is equally important as that puts you in a place to manifest what you truly seek and desire.
“What you pay attention to is your life. … Whatever you want to do, just go for it, but be aware of it [at the same time]. … If your mind is occupied with certain content, then that is your reality, which may be beneficial if done the right way. But many of us, under normal, real-life, and stressful circumstances … can’t cultivate the content that way. … Paying attention to your attention will help you because then you’ve got a lot more options, and you are not at the mercy of wherever your mind decides to go.” – Dr. Amishi Jha
Dr. Amishi finds it in her purpose to make people open up to this idea that our minds can be trained and that this training is quite basic, just like physical activity. All she asks is that one does it regularly and with patience and commitment. She doesn’t ask for much — just take 12 minutes of your time daily to find your focus and to own your attention. This small commitment will help you in a way that will not just be better for you but also for those around you.
Guys, thank you so much for reading this post. Dr. Amishi has dedicated her life to finding the link between mindfulness and how it can help you master a peak mindset. I hope that this episode inspired you on your journey to greatness. If you are curious to know what else we discussed, I would highly recommend that you watch the entire episode here.
To find out more about Dr. Amishi Jha and the incredible work she is doing in the field of neuroscience, you can check out her website here. You can also find her and choose to follow her social profiles on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
I really love hearing feedback from you guys, so please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts and let me know what part of this episode resonated the most with you. It would be great if you could also tag Dr. Amishi, @amishipjha, and me, @lewishowes, on Instagram with your greatest takeaways from this episode.
Folks, thanks for spending time with me today. I hope that the work I do adds value to your life and those around you, and I want to remind you that you are worthy and that you matter. Go and let your potential empower and catapult you toward success and fulfillment.