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Yukar'u & Hacking Attentional Bias by Mark Hatmaker

“Nuusukat’u tenap’i yukar’u.” [“The Happy Man Moves About.”]

  • Humans can focus on only one object at a time—this is attentional bias.

  • What feels like multi-tasking is actually a series of attentional shifts.

  • We have a blindness to the duration of attentional shifts hence the perniciousness of distraction technology. We witness this when we see someone stare at their phone far longer than they realize, all the while forgetting that our own peer at the screen is likely equally misjudged in duration. Consider post-accident reports of “I only looked away for a second.” Not likely true, but the blindness has us assume it as true.

  • We have less control over attention than we would like to presume. This is one reason why mulling and stewing in negative/peevish thoughts manifest more often while alone—few human “distractions” to veer our thoughts. Alone time can lead to cycles of repetitive thoughts, if they are not set on a base-rate of positive or productive tasks, this can be a hamster-wheel problem.

  • We pattern-interrupt and hack attention by action/focus on a doing.

  • If we choose a doing that calls for little cognitive load, we will keep attentional shifting. Watching television or looking at screens in general is too passive to truly hack attentional bias.

  • If we choose novel tasks, immersive tasks, or tasks that involve more than one sense to engage [cold water plunge, running into a windstorm] we hack attentional bias and re-set the stream of thought. 

  • Often this is the therapeutic nature of immersive activities, the new sensory input provides novel memories & experiences that alter attentional streams not just in the moment but down the road.

  • To be happy, anchor on happy. To hack away from unhappy, do something that challenges you and requires full use of executive function.

  • An indigenous dance of exultation or thanksgiving around a campfire might prove to be the superior path to engagement than sitting in a pew listening to someone else explain appreciation.


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