Collaborative Post

Why Your Focus Matters in Times of Social Isolation


Pandemics have caused people to spend time in isolation several times across history. For example, Isaac Newton came up with his ideas about gravity during a period of isolation, in 1665, when the university he was working at, Cambridge, was closed due to the plague.

However, while some people have a natural way of keeping their minds busy when they are alone, like a lot of introverts are used to doing, others have problems doing so and usually start to get worried and anxious. People react differently to this type of situation.

Photo by Makenna Entrikin on Unsplash

A biker, for example, could spend their time looking for a radar detector like the ones reviewed by while another could spend their time obsessing about the fact that they have to spend time inside and can not ride the motorcycle. Perspective makes all the difference in the world, you would say, and that is correct.

But there is another difference between these two bikers. One of them lets their mind wander, while the other deliberately focuses on things that keep the mind busy. We are going to tell you all about how not letting your mind wander can benefit you during this period of social isolation.


How social isolation can impact our lives

As we have said before, people react differently to different situations and we have to be understanding and care about one another, even if we are not similar in that way. Introverts can be more comfortable staying away from people, but extroverts could really struggle in this period. However, what we can influence is how we ourselves react to social isolation.

There are a lot of fears that can come to mind that can make us anxious and restless, such as the fear of getting sick, losing our jobs or our apartments. Even though it is really easy to fall into the worry trap, it is very important to understand that we can avoid doing so by doing one essential thing: keeping our minds busy.


The default mode network

You may have probably heard before that the prefrontal cortex is the one that allows us to make scenarios about the future. If not, you should know that the prefrontal cortex is a part of our brains that makes us the most evolved species on Earth. However, it can make us worry and create scenarios when it is not busy doing anything else.

Our brains are always active, and when we are not busy focusing on something like work, for example, they are still using the default mode network. The default mode network is a network composed of several parts of the brain that are responsible for analysing the past, predicting the future, and paying attention to people’s opinions about us.

As you can imagine, when this network is active, we worry and can even become very anxious. Thanks to the functional MRI, scientists have been able to analyse what happens inside our brains when engaging in a certain activity, keeping our attention focused on that specific thing.

They have concluded that when we are focused on something like reading a good book, or cooking, or playing a musical instrument, the default mode network is less active. But how can that be great news for our social distancing time?

As you have probably noticed, people are scared and anxious during this period and it is for good reasons. However, living in fear is not the solution to this problem and will not help us gain anything, on the contrary, it will make us suffer more.

So a way to improve your state of mind during this pandemic is to keep your mind busy. This is easy for people who can work from home, but people who do not have this opportunity have to spend their whole day at home without a purpose. If you decide to do nothing, your default mode network will be very active and will make you worry more.

However, if you keep busy reading, watching a good movie, exercising, learning a new language, taking an online class or doing any other engaging activity to keep yourself busy, you will be a lot happier. The choice is yours.

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