Friday, September 7, 2012

Concentration Update: A Vital Skill

Yep, to and fro from that ditch, again. Oh well.

Anyhow, I wanted to take a moment to update how I've been doing on my concentration. I mentioned a few months ago that I found out that concentration is actually a fundamental ability needed for mental health, rather than just some skill one keeps on the side for brief homework and work assignments. By spending more time honing this ability I've noticed a substantial increase in my well-being and thinking.

In pursuing mental health, this is an amazing discovery. Beyond merely just being able to keep my mind on productive things, it does supremely well at helping me keep my mind off negative thoughts that are deleterious to my mood and overall functionality. I've been treating people better, acting more productively, experiencing less anxiety, doing more constructive thinking, and just all-around am more fit.

What I do to cultivate this ability is so simple too. What I do mainly is select a spot to focus my eyes on, like a unique mark on the wall or something, and then stare at it intensely for a defined period of time, usually twenty minutes, while doing as little blinking and thinking as possible. I permit vocal counting in my head, but beyond that I shut everything out: Visualizations, other vocalizations, and so on. It's a tough process, as I'll have to shut off rogue thoughts all throughout the exercise.

Regardless of the struggle it seems to work well. Upon ending a session I am relaxed, collected, and, most importantly, steady in mind. My thoughts go where I want them to go, and it's much easier to avoid those obsessive patterns which have given me so much grief over these past years.

However, it remains only one part of the mental health puzzle. While vital it is not primary. You also need to know what ideas give rise to your emotions and how your brain physiologically works so that you can engage in practices that make meaningful changes.

For now, I wholly endorse making a conscious effort to cultivate strong concentration skills. It may seem like a waste of time to sit or stand still for twenty minutes a day -- I recommend against laying down, as it's too easy to go to sleep -- but with your health, comfort, and very happiness at stake I urge you to reconsider.

For a list of a variety of ways to improve your concentration, consider this article on The Art of Manliness on multiple ways to do so, to keep yourself interested in the practice.

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