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LegalFuel podcast explores mindfulness training as a tool for sharpening focus and concentration

Senior Editor Top Stories

LegalFuelRenowned University of Miami psychologist and brain researcher Dr. Amishi Jha has some good news for Florida lawyers.

Contrary to popular myth, that constantly ringing cell phone and other electronic distractions aren’t putting a dent in anyone’s attention span or damaging anyone’s ability to concentrate.

“Are attention spans shrinking because of modern technology? No, they are not,” Jha says. “The human capacity to pay attention has not changed. Your brain is not altered.”

Jha, who serves as the director of Contemplative Neuroscience for the Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative, discusses her work in the LegalFuel podcast, “You Can Strengthen Your Brain, Improve Your Memory, and Elevate Your Mood in 12 Minutes a Day.”

Hosted by Practice Resource Center Director Christine Bilbrey, the 50-minute podcast describes how mindfulness training can be a powerful tool for sharpening focus and concentration.

(The podcast has been approved for 1 hour of General CLE credit including 1 hour of Mental Health CLE credit.)

Jha describes how she has used functional MRI, electrophysiological recordings, and behavioral analysis techniques to understand why our attention sometimes fails us, and how it can be trained for greater focus and less distractibility.

Her book is generating rave reviews in board rooms across the country, Bilbrey said, not to mention stories in the New York Times, Time, Forbes, and on NPR.

If digital distractions were responsible for a shrinking attention span, then why did Medieval monks complain about their loss of concentration during prayer, Jha demands.

“They were thinking about lunch,” she said. “The mind is built for distractibility. And this is the notion that 50% of our waking moments are not devoted to the task at hand.”

Ancient humans had to be able to gather berries and still be aware of the predator rustling the next clump of bushes, Jha said.

“In some sense, the cell phone and our modern technology, is like that rustling in the bushes,” she said.

Throwing away the cell phone isn’t possible, especially for a lawyer, Jha acknowledges, and it isn’t necessary to sharpen a person’s ability to focus.

Mindfulness involves aspects of meditation, an umbrella term that people tend not to understand, Jha said.

“What it really means is engaging in specific mental practices to cultivate specific mental qualities,” she said. “We call it meditation because of its history, but frankly, a brain training app is the same thing.”

Mindfulness training is a form of meditation, she said, or more simply put, paying attention in a particular way.

“With mindfulness, the quality we’re aiming to cultivate is present-centered attention,” she said. “Doing so can be very, very helpful because we’re more present to our lives, and oriented to our experience in this non-judgmental, evaluative way.”

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