#AD This is a sponsored post about self care, mindfulness and the attention economy as part of my Johnson’s Baby UK ambassadorship.

The process of me drafting up this blog post speaks volumes. Firstly, I intended to start last night, but I put it off, thinking it was better to enjoy the evening with Jim and watch a film instead (we watched Vice – it’s good, I’d recommend it!). This morning, before I opened up this new blog post, I updated WordPress. And did 15 other plugin updates. Then I got distracted by a notification on my phone, and watched a BBC news video that’s been getting lots of attention. That was when I noticed the voices were different in the cartoon I’d put on the TV for Pickle… so I googled English/American voice over differences and fell down a rabbit hole of Wiki pages relating to a certain dog related children’s TV show.

Before I knew it, an hour had swept by and I’d not achieved anything. Imagine what I could have accomplished had I remained focused and attentive during that time frame? Potentially, I could have finished writing this up and we could have been up and out as a family much earlier, enjoying a day out and some quality time together.

Enjoying a family day out at Conkers - Holly and Pickle walking towards the camera

This is a perfect example of what I learned more about at our August Ambassador day with Johnson’s Baby. I was fascinated by a presentation given by Louise Harris, a mindfulness expert who explained to us about the PAID reality we live in, and the move from an information economy into an attention economy. Let me explain…

What does ‘PAID’ stand for?

Louise talked about the PAID reality that we live in:

  • Pressured
  • Always On
  • Information Overload
  • Distracted

Does this ring true for you? Whilst the internet has undoubtedly added value to our lives in many ways, the advancement in technology has created a shift in our neurological wiring. It is crunching our attention spans. Instead of reading books or newspapers from cover to cover, we digest our news in tweet size chunks. A refresh of Instagram or Facebook will fill our screens with the very latest content to consume – there is always something new, creating this perpetual cycle of us feeling like we’re never fully up to date or on top of anything. Oh wait, hang on, I’ve just had an email notification ping up – I’ll be right back…

Woman sat at a laptop with a tablet and mobile phone beside her. Information overload. Attention economy.

We feel the need to be constantly multi-tasking, although… is there really such a thing? Are we not just fragmenting our maximum possible attention span and therefore diluting our efforts? At work, I’ve been making more of an effort to segment my time into chunks, and allowing myself to focus on just one thing to get that done before moving onto the next. I’ve turned off my email notifications (because even the split second it takes to glance at that pop up in the corner of the screen detracts from productivity) but I need to start applying these things to my personal and home life too.

What is an Attention Economy?

The reason why we are suddenly so bombarded with things competing for our attention is simple: it’s incredibly valuable. And this is what is meant by an attention economy. Our attention is the gateway to our wallets. Take social media as a prime example: it’s primary purpose is to hold our attention because the longer we view the platform, the more content we digest and the higher their potential for ad revenue – companies are willing to pay to get access to our attention. It’s a lucrative market, but we’re paying the price with our ability to focus and concentrate.

How does Mindfulness help?

Practicing mindfulness helps to build up our ability to focus. Louise taught us an exercise that we could do daily to help:

  • Close your eyes
  • Take some deep breaths, counting each breath up until 10
  • Continue breathing, but now count down from 10
  • If at any point, you find your mind wandering – don’t think you’ve failed. Acknowledge it, park it, and start counting from 1 again
  • See how long you can manage it, and by practicing for a little bit each day, you should start to see big improvements.
Holly standing in the woods at Sutton Park, photo by Amy Eliza Photography

Not only is mindfulness good for parents, but it’s excellent for children too. My fellow outdoorsy blogger Natalie has a great post on the benefits of mindfulness for children and for some further tips on mindfulness exercises for children, have a look at these 9 mindfulness exercises for kids from Emma at 3.

Time Spent Outside = Perfect Antidote

There’s a very good reason why I believe spending time outside is so good for me, and for us as a family – it removes the pressure of technology. When we’re outside together, I feel like I’m a better parent. I enjoy living in the moment, and giving Pickle my full attention. I’m not distracted or trying to do a million things at once. I’m less stressed and I come home feeling proud of our day together.

Walking around Conkers on a family day out

For me, sport and exercise is a particularly effective tonic. Firstly, because it gives me some space and time away from parenting (I love you, Pickle, but sometimes I need to be reminded of who I am when I’m not just Mommy). The main benefit however is that you can’t be checking Twitter whilst on a run, I don’t worry about my email inbox whilst I’m doing a yoga class, and I focus on nothing expect the ball and my position whilst on the hockey pitch.

Technology has it’s place

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-technology (I’m a blogger, of course I’m not!), but I think it’s important to encourage ourselves and our children to have a healthy relationship with it. By actively trying to reduce the impact of the PAID environment we live in, we can all relieve the crushing pressure we put on ourselves: as employees, spouses, business-owners and parents. Through self-care and mindfulness, we can combat the attention economy and make it work for us.

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#AD – When I heard @louise.harris1976 talk about the PAID reality that we live in, it struck a huge chord with me. She was talking about the society we live in: pressured, always on, information overload and distracted. Doesn’t that sum it up really well? ⁠ ⁠ It’s made me realise they’re the reasons I love being outdoors so much. Because it naturally helps to combat those four emotional and physical drains. If I’m outside, I can’t be replying to emails. When we’re out walking, I don’t look at a screen. During a run or a hockey game, I can’t be doing anything else. And that takes all the pressure off and allows me to just enjoy the moment for what it is.⁠ ⁠ I loved Louise’s presentation on mindfulness at our most recent @JohnsonsBabyUK day, and I’ve wanted to read more into it ever since. Have you come across this idea of PAID reality before? And how do you like to combat it? #JohnsonsAmbassadors #ChooseGentle⁠

A post shared by Holly @ HollyMadeLife (@hollymadelife) on

I’m incredibly thankful for the time we spent discussing and learning about this with Johnson’s Baby – all part of their mission to help us all #ChooseGentle: for our babies, our children and for us too.