“My attention span is so bad!”
Many people say this phrase, especially after quarantine, including myself. Some people think they were born this way and many people think it’s from staring at screens for too long or not going outside. I was really curious as to what was really going on and how we can increase our attention span.
After lots of research, it turns out that all of those things are right!
Most people know the mental illness, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) also known as attention-deficit disorder (ADD). ADHD is a mental disorder that occurs when the brain lacks the neurotransmitter norepinephrine.
With adrenaline, Norepinephrine is responsible for increasing blood pressure, breaks down fat and increases blood sugar levels which provide more energy to the body. Specifically in the brain, it helps with the sleep cycle, increases your attention and helps with memory storage. In short, Norepinephrine is a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps mobilize the brain for action and can improve energy and attentiveness.
As an ADHD brain lacks this hormone, so they lack attention, have trouble controlling energy levels and have trouble remembering things. A common medication for ADHD is Adderall which increases the amount of norepinephrine and dopamine in the brain which increases focus and motivation.
After reading that and thinking about your attention span, you might be thinking, do I have ADHD? Statistically speaking, probably not because around 8.4% of children and 2.5% of adults have ADHD but check with your doctor to be sure. The reason why most people have a low attention span is that they’re getting too much stimulation.
Here was my old morning routine(weekdays):
- Wake up
- Look at my phone
- Brush my teeth
- Run downstairs to get to online school on my laptop
- Listen to music while cooking
- Go back to class on my laptop
Out of the 4 hrs, I would be awake for in the morning, my brain was being stimulated for 3 hrs and 45 mins of it(4/6 of the steps in my routine).
A Low Attention Span
This constant stimulation once in a while is not bad because your brain doesn't get used to it but when it does, it becomes a problem. After you start doing these things every day, your brain starts to crave this stimulation and another neurotransmitter comes into play, dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy or motivated.
So now, when you get a text or if you're looking at a YouTube video, dopamine is produced and your body rewards you. The more dopamine you give it a day, the more and more your brain will crave it until what you provide just isn’t enough.
Now when you’re in class or just slightly bored, you lose focus or become a lot more fidgety. All the symptoms of a low attention span start creeping in, and suddenly you have the attention span of a goldfish.
What Can We Do?
During quarantine, most of our lifestyles changed a lot to be technology-based. Before it, we were forced to physically go to school and work and give ourselves a break from the stimulation.
As you can guess from the title of this article, you can go stare at a wall for 5 minutes a day. As you can guess, this gives you a silent break from the stimulation, and you can slowly increase it as your attention span increases.
You can definitely do that, but realistically I don’t think many people would like to. Some other alternatives include:
- meditation(try to clear your mind)
- going on a walk
- listen to binaural beats
- try to do tasks without music
- take breaks that require physical work(cooking, puzzles, board games)
- make some hobbies that require concentration(drawing, painting)
- while eating think about the different things you’re tasting
Here is my updated morning routine that I’m trying to follow:
- Wake up
- Brush my teeth
- Make breakfast
- Talk to my mom
- Watch a quick YouTube video on my TV
- Plan out my day
- Online school
I also started to listen more to lofi or focus music while studying. I also started doing other tasks and breaks away from the screen.
Hopefully, you try to implement some of these things into your lives. More and more technology is coming along, so it’s becoming a lot more important to be mindful of what’s happening to our brains.