Tough decisions can help society regain ability to focus

We hear a lot about Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) in children. Now it seems that adult ADD is on the rise, and this is becoming a health concern. But I’ve read some interesting books lately that seem to indicate that it might not be true ADD but rather that our current culture has made many of us manifest the symptoms of ADD.

We are forgetful, impatient, distracted, irritable and chronically late because we are completely overwhelmed. The deluge of information we encounter each day is more than we can process. We somehow think we have to be doing things all the time, but we work in ways that actually impede efficiency. We are on a giant hamster wheel.

We absolutely must make changes to our lifestyles, even if that means going against the tide. We are responsible for our own mental health and well-being and must protect it, even if that puts us on the fringes. We need to take conscious control of how we spend our time and what stimuli we allow into our lives.

First off, get rid of as many screens in your life as you can. Wean yourself from TV, internet and video game dependence. When you go out, ask that the TV be turned off or at least muted. Sit where you can’t see it. If your workplace wants to add screens, respectfully protest. These screens really do decrease your attention span, and you indulge at your own risk.

Next, let’s talk about phones. They can be useful tools if used in moderation. But you really do not need to have your phone within reach at all times. You can turn it off, leave it in the other room and be unavailable for a while. If you can’t do this, then that just proves you are truly addicted to your phone.

Checking constantly is a distraction that keeps you from giving your attention fully to whatever you’re doing. It is unequivocally rude to check your phone when you are with another person. You are telling the person that he or she is boring and that an inanimate object is more worthy of your attention than a real human being with intelligence and feelings sitting in front of you.

Don’t even think about texting and driving (or eating or any other activity while you are behind the wheel of two tons of steel). Additionally, merely talking on a phone when driving is equal to the same impairment as driving while over the legal blood alcohol limit. Hands-free phones can be worse because they give a false sense of safety; you convince yourself that you are not as distracted because you are not holding a phone.

Finally, let’s attack the myth of multitasking. It doesn’t really exist. Whatever you’re doing, you’re not doing it as efficiently as if you did each task separately, focusing on each one individually until it is complete. Completely giving your attention to a single activity at a time will go a long way to curb those symptoms of ADD.

When you think you are multitasking, what you are actually doing is switching between the two activities very rapidly. Each time you switch you need to reorient yourself to the new one, which is what makes it a big time waster. This multitasking reduces the brain’s ability to discern the relevant from the irrelevant. You will make mistakes that will then take more time to clean up later.

We can bring our society back to sanity. But we must start with a conscious, determined effort to protect ourselves and reject the ADD culture.

Stephanie Haines is a writer from Greenfield who now lives in Bloomington. She can be contacted through her website, stephaniehaines.com.