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Distracting Yourself From the Problem

By Dr. Les Wright Jr.

Wright, Jr., L. (2023, September). Distracting Yourself From the Problem. The Chronicle, vol. 150, p. 3.

There are a million and one ways to distract yourself. We stare at our phones, we obsess about our past or potential future, we make plans we will never keep, and we try to forget all the little challenges in our path. We avoid acknowledging our problems by engaging in distractions, transporting our minds to some other time, place, or world where we can avoid the problems we may face daily. Many people consider distractions as a negative approach to dealing with problems or challenges, but there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be distracted if you do it right! Oddly enough, distractions allow us to step away temporarily from a stressful situation as long as we eventually return to the situation and deal with it.

Ask yourself what you distract yourself from. What’s your go-to distraction? Do you dwell on negative emotions despite distractions? I get most distracted when I don’t know the answer to something. In some ways, distractions allow you to be mindful of your environment and intentionally get your mind off the situation to give yourself a break. This gives you the ability to reach a calmer place, and you will then be better able to figure out a way to deal with the issue at hand.

Allowing yourself to be distracted can take you down interesting pathways you hadn’t expected. Here are three benefits positive distractions can bring:

#1 - Distractions Foster Creativity

Distractions allow you to pay attention to the things around you and see what kind of creative inspiration they might lead to, allowing you to generate more new ideas. It doesn’t matter where you are; we all could be more creative.

#2 - Distractions Deliver Solutions

Another benefit to being distracted is that it often leads to solutions. It’s the aha moments you put together when you realize something you just came across would be useful for something else, you’re doing. The most interesting thing is that people are not aware that when they distract themselves, their brains are actually still working on the problem, even when they are engaged in an unrelated task.

#3 - Distractions Improve Your Mood

Being more distracted can also make you feel better. When someone is distracted, their mood can move from depressed to normal and continue in an upward direction. Many negative moods contain an element of contemplation; when you contemplate, you go over your problem or worry in your mind again and again. Each time you go over your problem or worry, you reinforce its grip. Distraction breaks this grip by forcing you to think about other things. If your distraction is sufficiently compelling or demanding, you will eventually stop ruminating and start to feel better.

Final Thoughts

There are so many healthy distractions; it’s a matter of finding one that suits you. Distractions may not work for every situation. If you find you are unable to get your mind off the situation, you may need to try other options like making a different choice, asking for help, or addressing an interpersonal issue. We all need some diversion every now and then to keep us sane and happy. Sometimes, we have to be aware of our distractions and allow ourselves the space and time to address them in a productive way.


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