When the Distraction Is a Squirrel
I lost my water bottle. It had to be somewhere close because I hadn’t left the house that morning.
But I couldn’t find it anywhere.
I began retracing my steps. I looked out the front door as I passed by.
The squirrel was back at the bird feeder, draining all the seed that wasn’t meant for him.
From the 2009 movie Up, Dug the dog got easily distracted by a squirrel. We’ve been using “Squirrel!” as a term for distraction ever since.
And for me this morning, the distraction really was an actual squirrel.
23 Minutes Per Distraction
Distractions can be a real pain. They derail us from our best-laid plans. They feel like a waste of productive time. They make it hard to get back on track.
Studies say it takes around 23 minutes to recover from a distraction.
But with all their faults, can distractions ever be a good thing?
As I’m finding out, yes.
Sometimes my mind gets trapped in a bad loop. I keep circling a thought I need to let go. It turns into unhelpful rumination.
What I need is a good distraction.
Distractions are useful when they bump us off an unhelpful track. Let’s be real: we aren’t always using our time wisely to start off with (as in my case of ruminating) when we’re interrupted with a distraction.
In these cases, we can be grateful for a distraction.
Distractions can serve as a reset, a pause, a moment to reevaluate if we were doing the best thing in the first place.
When we can use distractions to get on a better path than the one we were on, distractions are beneficial.
Use to Your Advantage
I am learning to purposely seek distractions when I’m spiraling into negative thoughts. Put on music. Work a Sudoku puzzle. Practice Bible memory. Even turn on the TV.
Used effectively, distractions can break up a bad mood, help us get back to sleep, and even stop an angry argument.
In John Gottman’s findings on effective communication in relationships, he actually recommends taking a 20-minute break from your partner if you find yourself in an overheated discussion.
But don’t use the 20 minutes to go to your corner to privately stew on “he said/she said” and “what I can say next.” (It doesn’t work, trust me, I’ve tried.) Use the time to mentally distract yourself from the argument, allowing your body chemistry to cool down, so you can return to the conversation with a clearer mindset.
Use distractions to your advantage.
But just don’t stay there too long.
Move forward once distractions have served their purpose.
Otherwise, distractions can rob you of time, health, energy, and possibly even money.
Thank You, Squirrel
I finally found my water bottle that morning.
The first time I’d seen the squirrel, I’d had the water bottle in my hand. Squirrel! I set the bottle down by the door to chase away the squirrel. Then walked away.
Oddly enough, it was seeing the squirrel again that brought me back to the door…and back to my water bottle.
Sometimes distractions—and squirrels—truly are helpful.
Are you easily distracted? What distractions help you? Share in the comments.
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