In fact, playing the virtual reality game was more effective at reducing pain than using medication. The researchers concluded that the more immersive and engaging the game was, the more it helped direct attention away from the pain of the procedure. The ability to shift our attention away from negative experiences is also helpful outside of a hospital setting.
Distractions can help us cope with the pains of everyday life. Research on how distractions can be used to control our urges and impulses show that certain games, like Tetris for example, can help reduce cravings for fatty foods and even addictive drugs. Researchers suspect the cognitive demands of these games redirect our attention away from craving triggers, reducing the painful urge to indulge. Playing matching puzzle games like C andy Crush , P uzzle Blocks , or I nterlocked might actually help us distract ourselves away from digging into that pint of ice cream in the fridge.
7 Proven Strategies for Overcoming Distractions
Distractions can also help us stay fit. Research suggests taking our minds off the pain of physical exercise, with music or television, can improve performance and endurance. Digital distractions and personal technology can help us be stronger in the moment, but McGonigal thinks they can also help us develop our ability to take on challenges in the future.
Certain personal technologies can help us build up our courage, McGonigal says, and games are a particularly good way to boost our self-efficacy — our confidence in our ability to overcome problems. Patients who played the game were more likely to take their medications, increase their sense of self-efficacy, and show more knowledge regarding how to fight their cancer. It instills a belief that if they keep practicing and learning, if they put in the hard work, they will eventually be able to achieve more difficult goals.
Other digital games have been used to help patients with asthma , diabetes , anxiety , and ADHD ; all showing increases in self-efficacy and self-care behavior after playing. More evidence that games can heal is emerging from new digital health platforms which use game-based elements to increase patient participation. For example, taking prescribed medications and adopting a healthy lifestyle can greatly improve patient outcomes but only if people actually change their behavior.
The Empower digital health platform helps patients manage their chronic diseases through playful design elements traditionally used in games, like levels, point systems, unlocking content, variable rewards, and competition. Combining the engaging nature of games with the accessibility of personal technology creates a healthy distraction that can build patient confidence to combat disease.
Clearly, distractions can help us deal with pain and build our courage to tackle future challenges.
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What about the many products and services, like video games and social media sites, designed to be so good we want to use them all the time? Sometimes we have trouble limiting their use and find ourselves sucked into distractions. Whether personal technology distractions are a force for good, McGonigal explains, depends on why and how we use them. McGonigal describes two modes for how we engage with distracting activities: self-suppression and self-expansion.
Self-suppression is using distractions to avoid negative experiences; while self-expansion is using distractions to promote positive ones. Sounds simple enough, but McGonigal warns that at times, it is hard to tell the difference between the two. The same activity could be expansive for one person and suppressive for another.
It all depends on why the person is engaging in the distraction and for how long. How can you tell if a distraction is good or bad for you? Of course in some instances, such as burn victims or children about to go into surgery, distractions can be an effective coping strategy. However, these are justified in that the distractions are used as a temporary solution. Once the patient is healed physically, they no longer require the escape from pain.
However, problems can arise when distractions become a permanent escape from an uncomfortable reality. In contrast, self-expansive distractions involve achieving goals, building skills, or attaining new knowledge that can be used over the long-term. These distractions help us improve ourselves and can build self-efficacy.
Using distractions with an expansive mindset builds strength, while using them with a suppressive one simply shields us from the pain we are avoiding. Identifying why and how you engage with personal technology may be the difference between healthy and destructive behavior. Take a look at your favorite digital distractions — social media, video games, puzzles, television shows, podcasts, news, and spectator sports — and ask yourself whether you are using them as tools to build strength, skills, knowledge, and self-efficacy for the future or for temporary escape from an uncomfortable reality.
Pick three to four of the most important things in your life. How much of your time is devoted to these things? Can you cut out other things to focus on them?
Can you give your most important things your full attention? In my life, my writing, my family, my health, and my learning are my four most important things. Notice the quality of the light.
Appreciate any people who might be nearby. Notice the quality of your thoughts, the sensations of various parts of your body, the loveliness of your breath as it comes in and out. Meditation is perhaps the most important habit to maintain if you want to change other habits. Commit to just two minutes a day. If you want the habit to stick, start simply. Pick a time and trigger. Not an exact time of day, but a general time, like right after you wake up or during your lunch hour.
The trigger should be something you already do regularly, like drink your first cup of coffee, brush your teeth, have lunch, or arrive home from work. Find a quiet spot. Sometimes early morning at home is best, before others in your house are awake and making noise. Or it could be a spot in a park or on the beach or some other soothing setting. Sit comfortably.
Others use a meditation cushion or bench, but my opinion is that any cushion or pillow will do, and some people can sit on a bare floor comfortably. Focus on your breath. As you breathe in, follow your breath in through your nostrils, then into your throat, then into your lungs and belly. As you breathe out, follow your breath out back into the world.
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If it helps, count: one breath in, two breath out, three breath in, four breath out. When you get to ten, start over. If you lose track, start over. If you find your mind wandering and you will , bring it gently back to your breath. Repeat this process for the few minutes of your meditation. This work is uncopyrighted. Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.
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Distraction | Definition of Distraction by Lexico
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