How to Increase Your Attention Span

How to Increase Your Attention Span

Does anyone else feel like their attention span has shrunk over the last few years?

If so, you’re not alone. 

You may have heard of the infamous ‘goldfish myth.’ 

This popular “study” states that humans average an 8-second attention span; 1 second less than that of a goldfish.

But, if you put your attention to work and actually look into this claim, you will find it is completely made up

Think of it this way: How would you explain the popularity of Netflix binge-watching if we could only tune in for 8 seconds? 

If you do dig a little deeper, however, you will find that several scientific studies have indeed found that the worldwide attention span of humans is shrinking. 

So, what’s the deal? 

First off, it’s extremely difficult to quantify and measure an attention span. And coming up with an average is even more difficult. 

Here’s what we do know; collectively, it appears that our attention span is shrinking

The main issue seems to be the immense amount of information we are subjected to on a daily basis. 

We can all relate to that. The text messages, emails, DMs, newsfeeds; it almost never ends. 

The good news is that there are proven practices that we can do to retrain our attention.

We are going to introduce several of those practices below. 

But first, let’s talk about your mindset and attitude heading into them. 

These practices will be new to most of you and new exercises can often be frustrating. By adopting the following attitudes, you will allow yourself to benefit fully from the attention training exercises.

  1. Non-Judgemental: Throughout the exercises, notice when you are judging yourself, or others, and gently shift your attention back to the exercise.
  1. Patient: Make sure you give yourself enough time to practice these exercises. Don’t rush through them.
  2. Non-Striving: Head into the exercises with no expectations. Let things happen 
  1. Adopt a Beginners Mind: Be as receptive to new possibilities as you can. Accept that you don’t have all the answers, that’s why you’re practicing. 

Now, with the above attitudes in mind, here are three exercises to increase your attention span.

Focused Attention 

This technique is designed to fixate your attention on one thing for an extended period of time. 

To begin, sit comfortably with a straight back and close your eyes. 

Now, focus intently on your breath — specifically the rising and falling of your abdomen. 

See if you can cover the entire breathing process with your attention, from the beginning of your inhale to the end of your exhale.

In this exercise, the breath is sort of like an anchor. Every time your attention shifts to something else, gently shift it back to your anchor.  

We recommend starting at 5 minutes for this exercise and gradually working your way up from there. 

Remember to remain non-judgmental; your mind will wander and that’s ok. The important part of the technique is noticing that and shifting back to your breathing. 

Body Scanning

The body scan technique is a great way to increase your attention span while training yourself to shift your focus in a meaningful way.

To begin, sit comfortably with a straight back and close your eyes.  

Now, focus intently on your head. Notice every sensation that is present. Feel the air going in your nostrils, the feeling of your eyes behind your eyelids, the air moving around your hair. 

Whenever your attention is brought to something else, gently but deliberately bring it back to the sensations of your face. 

After a time, slowly move your attention down to your torso and repeat the process. 


Be aware of any discomfort, sensations, aches, or energy you feel moving through your torso. 

As your attention wanders, gently but deliberately move it back to your body. 

Continue on to the rest of your body. 

We recommend setting 5 ‘zones’ of the body to focus on: Head, torso, arms, legs, and feet. 

The entire practice should take about 10 minutes, so around 2 minutes per zone. If you feel the need to set a 2-minute timer per zone, you may do that as well.

 You can always gradually increase your time as you see fit. 

Remember to go into this exercise with a ‘non-striving’ attitude. You are not looking for anything in particular, merely attempting to increase your attention span. 

Noting

Noting is a technique designed for you to get to know more about the habits and tendencies surrounding your attention.

To begin, sit comfortably with a straight back and close your eyes.

Focus your attention on the darkness you can observe with your eyes closed.

As soon as a thought or feeling arises, take note of it. What exactly was the thought or feeling that came up? You can even say this out loud.

Once you have acknowledged it, bring your attention back to your visual field. 

Repeat the process for every thought or feeling that arises. 

We recommend starting with 5 minutes and gradually increasing your time as you see fit. 

Remember the beginner’s mind for this technique. The exercise may seem silly at first and it’s ok to have thoughts like “this is stupid” or “why am I doing this.” 

Just remember the reason you are doing this exercise in the first place.

For a complete course on mindfulness, access our skillshare course.

Want to get started in an exercise right now? You may want to check out our loving-kindness meditation