Are You Paying Attention?

Last week a client told me about screen apnoea — “temporary cessation of breath or shallow breathing while working (or playing) in front of screens.”
As soon as he said it, I knew what he was talking about 😭

I’ve noticed myself barely breathing many times when working, and this is BAD NEWS BEARS because restricted breathing can lead to an increase in stress-related illnesses, immune compromise, and increased anxiety.

Fortunately, unlike its more famous sibling (sleep apnoea), the cure for screen apnoea is awareness, and consciously training yourself to breathe more deeply while using devices.

I’ve been thinking a lot about awareness today.

Obviously I’m now obsessed with my breathing habits (honestly, how is it possible to do breathing wrong), but on a grander scale, I’ve been thinking about the whole phenomenon of awareness.

Have you ever thought about how crazy it is that your brain can be thinking something, while simultaneously observing itself thinking that thing?

It’s like your brain has a brain. Or… something like that. Consciousness is weird.

Anyway, my point is that awareness — the ability to observe ourselves — is basically a superpower, and most of the time, we’re not taking advantage of it.

I notice this most often when emotions are high. Whether the feeling is positive or negative, we’re so swept up in it that we forget to observe it, but the observation can add a powerful component to what the emotion means.

I’m not suggesting you become some kind of emotional boffin who uses ‘observation’ as a way to distance yourself from too-big feelings, merely that noticing the intensity of a feeling can generate useful data to dig into later, once the actual experience has passed.

Learning to activate ‘observer mode’ — much like activating ‘proper breathing mode’ — is a process, and it takes regular reminders to make it habitual.

But activating observer mode gives you a moment to really understand what’s happening in each situation.

If you’re furious, say, it gives you a second to 1) identify what really set you off, rather than jumping to a surface-level conclusion, and 2) decide how to effectively deal with the root cause.

Or if you’re absolutely bursting with joy, observing it gives you a chance to 1) deeply appreciate how good that feels, and 2) what about this moment made you so happy, so that you can create more of that for yourself.

Observation also gives you bonza ammunition for your writing practice. Observation is what makes your writing feel alive, because you’ve taken the time to notice where you are and how you feel.

It’s how you record what really matters to you — the things you think and feel over the days that are given to you — rather than just skimming over the surface of your life.

Observer mode is how all the good stuff happens.

Give it a whirl, , when you sit down to write next. Start with where you are, physically. Put down how you’re feeling, and dig into why that is. Add anything you’ve observed about yourself or your world recently.

Do it as often as you can, and soon you’ll have a body of work that adds up to a deep and interesting life.