One of the many things I admire about cats is their ability to focus. If you’ve ever watched a cat stalk her prey, you know that even though the cat is very much aware of what is going on around her, she will not break her concentration on waiting for just the right moment to pounce. What seems to be so easy for cats can be an overwhelming challenge for humans.

We are  constantly exposed to a never ending stream of information and stimuli. Studies have shown that the brain cannot effectively switch between tasks, and it can actually take longer to get things done if you constantly give in to distractions. More importantly, allowing yourself to be constantly distracted is the antithesis of conscious living. I believe that going through life mindfully is good for the soul, and changing your response to the inevitable distractions life throws at you is important.

Aside from the obvious – unplug more, turn off email and text notifications on your smartphone and stop checking email obsessively for new messages (some statistics show that the average person checks their mobile phone 150 times a day – how is this even possible!) – the following three tips may help minimize distractions.

1. Remove clutter

Physical clutter distracts on a lot of different levels. Physical clutter is a visual distraction, drawing your attention to thoughts about how you really should clean your desk, or how you really should get rid of some of the chotchkes on your shelves, rather than to the task at hand. Cluttered environments drain your energy, whether it’s your desk, your car or your home. This applies to digital clutter as well. Close unused programs, clean up desk top icons. Pay attention to what distracts you, and remove the trigger.

2. Develop a healthy morning and evening routine

Rather than starting your day by jumping right on the computer or turning on the television, start the day by meditating, savoring that first cup of coffee or tea of the day, or journaling (after you feed the cats, of course!). Don’t end your day checking email “just one more time” or allow yourself to fall asleep while watching television.  Studies have shown that the light emitting from TV screens and devices actually disrupts sleep cycles, preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep. Your brain needs to rest. Evening is also a great time to keep a gratitude journal.

3. Keep a to do list, and update it frequently

Writing things down anchors them, and frees up mental space. But don’t let your to do list become yet another distraction. Find a system that works for you, and stick with it. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to prioritize your to do list, and to eliminate tasks that may no longer be important.

Perhaps cats have it a little easier when it comes to focusing on one thing at a time – after all, I have yet to see a cat with a smartphone. But even though it may be more challenging for humans, I believe that these three tips are a good first step toward living more mindfully and with fewer distractions.

10 Comments on Conscious Cat Sunday: Minimize Distractions

  1. We can learn so much from cats can’t we!

    While my partner is currently away from the house, albeit for just two days, I’m making a valiant effort to get to grips with a lot of things to be done, one of them clearing mycomputer mailbox which is becoming a nightmare. I feel sure once clear I could keep it that way, but I know I’m not going to get where I want to – but making a start has made me feel better
    about it.

    I loved your first answer to this and also was puzzled by how it got from there to
    hyperthoidism in cats!

    Very strange is life!

  2. Great post Ingrid. Would be good to get a fresh start this year. Especially the clutter part. I have many distractions in my life I would like to get rid of also. Going to try the healthy morning and evening routine too.

  3. Thanks so much for posting this Ingrid. (could you post it once a week for me ; )
    I’ve started out this year a scattered mess and just can’t seem to get a grip on things…..but I will.

  4. I have no idea how long a hyperthyroid cat can live as there as many factors as there are cats with the condition.

    I can only speak from my current experience with my kitty named Thunder. She was born Feb 20, 1999 and adopted as the remaining only un-spoken-for kitten of numerous litters my veterinarian rescued & cared for, & had combined in the clinic lobby wire dbl-decker “condo” for several weeks.

    There was a very interesting backstory to her coming to my home, and a few that occurred upon her arrival, that would take way too long to tell here, but were quite remarkable & had no other explanation other than manifestation of multiple miracles.

    After that, she settled in as a gentle alpha, yet not the eldest cat of the household, then or now. She still is 3rd oldest of the kitty herd after many years, but quietly maintains her leadership role. They, and I, respect that.

    About 2 to 3 years ago she was diagnosed with hyperthyroid, treated conservatively with a few pill form rxs for several months, but it was not being helpful/stable for very long at a time, and had some bad side effects that made her feel terrible. Her weight and demeanor dropped suddenly and dangerously low. She did not have much of a chance at survival by the end of calendar 2013, except to try the last resort – to eliminate the offending thyroid.

    I wanted to give her whatever reasonable chance there was at survival as long as her remaining time was quality as well. With the input of my trusted DVM of over 30 years, and a consult with a specialist locally for this condition, I made the decision to go forward with the radiation treatment to try to suppress the excess thyroid hormone that was deteriorating a once completely healthy cat who had never had a “sick day” in her life up to that point.

    She has now reached her 1-year anniversary from her radiation treatment of January 2014. The radiation knocked out about half her original thyroid gland, without traditional surgery. She still has an enlarged thyroid gland that is palpable on one side.

    Thunder will turn 16 years old in a few weeks. Her post-radiation labwork/bloodwork & exams have all been wonderful. Her poor quality fur texture and severe weight loss just prior to the radiation treatment, have been restored to her former dense Chartreaux-like texture and petite body proportions.

    Yes, she does show her senior age somewhat, but she is still active, alert and spry, especially for all that she’s been through. There were no apparent underlying system-organ involvements, nor pathology being hidden by the overlying hyperthyroid condition. Except for some partial tooth loss in recent years that gives her that “Elvis upper lip” appearance, one would not suspect she’s almost 16.

    I spoil her by giving the special flavor & texture canned food she loves, as well as her rx dry food to keep her calories up. She continues to have regular good checkup results, and her healthy yet lean figure & weight have been stable since about the 12 wk post-radiology mark.

    Was it expensive? Yes, of course. But to get her to feeling so much better and give her a longer yet quality life, is so worth it.

    Thunder continues to be my “Walmart greeter” of the household, as she has done since she was a kitten, coming to locate-then-tell me, wherever I was within the home, when there is someone approaching the house.

    Not only does she truly feel that anyone coming to visit here is actually here to see HER, but I have significant hearing loss and I could not hear a knock on the door or jamb, to tell anyone is approaching or has arrived. Thunder knows the difference between the regular passersby [postal carrier, teens walking to/from the h.s. a half-block away at the end of the street, or neighbors who live near], & who is approaching for an appropriate reason versus annoyance ones: [unknown/inappropriate/unwanted solicitors, etc.].

    If I don’t respond to her alert of company the first time, she finds me again, gives me “the look” and then gets me to follow her to the front door where there is without fail, someone just approaching the porch step.

    I pray that Thunder continues to enjoy her early & current quality level of life [prior to the thyroid issues], and that she meets or exceeds the age that most of my dear cat companions have since their first adoptions or rescues here, dating back to 1975, and that is between 18 & 21 years of age, with conservative medical care, & lots of love and attention.

    • Good to read you comment and that Thunder is doing well after the Radiation Treatment. I was hesitant about that for my cat Belinda. She was diagnosed with the Hyperthyroidism last April and after a series of tests and medication adjustments (Neo-Mercazole) she is pretty fit and happy. Started with 1 pill morning and 1 at evening but now reduced to ½ and ½ only. It is a big commitment but as long as she is well I will keep doing that and taking to the Vet regularly. As she ‘adopted’ me in 2005 I don’t know her exact age, probably 11 to 12. She is very smart and a good company, I’m doing everything possible for her wellbeing.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience, and all my best to Thunder! Amber went through the radioactive iodine treatment more than ten years ago and she, too, did really well afterwards. She died from unrelated causes.

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