Keeping alert and vigilant can help you defend yourself just as well as a swift kick in the groin (and it’s a much easier skill to learn).
If you were walking down the street and someone snatched your phone, or broke into a car or assaulted a fellow pedestrian, would you be able to identify the perpetrator in a crowd? Chances are you’d struggle. Better self-defence isn’t just something that’s achieved by taking karate classes – you can improve your ability to stay safe by developing your awareness.
Studies have shown that giving your awareness a workout for a few minutes each day will instantly make you more observant. Here’s what you can do every day to stay alert without breaking a sweat.
1 Pay deliberate attention
We tend to go on autopilot, paying far more attention to our thoughts than our surroundings. Next time you’re driving or walking make a conscious effort to take in the details around you. Test yourself. Count how many people are using cellphones. If you’re at a coffee shop, figure out whether any of the waiters are left-handed. Pretend to be a private eye for a few minutes a day and you’ll soon start to pick up on anomalies in your vicinity automatically. You’ll learn to notice when something (or someone) doesn’t seem right.
2 Train your brain
Remember the memory puzzles you used to do as a kid? These games do wonders for your brain and awareness. Randomly place some pairs of cards face down on the table. Turn over two for a few seconds, and return them to their original position. Continue this until you’re able to match a pair, then remove that pair. Little games such as this one, or even investing in a Where’s Wally? book, will be sure to make you more detail-oriented – a key skill if you ever
find yourself in a situation where you have to identify a perpetrator.
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3 Observe, don’t see
There’s a big difference between seeing and observing: one is passive and one is active. Try to take note actively rather than just absorbing what’s in front of you. It’s not enough to stare straight ahead, unblinking – use your peripheral vision too. Practise the process of taking in anything and everything in your field of vision. If you pick up on something that seems strange or out of place ask yourself why and how it’s unusual. By doing this you’re forcing yourself into a state of constant alertness. You know the saying: ‘Stay alert; stay alive.’
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4 Get enough sleep
When you have a busy schedule, sleep is more often than not the thing that suffers – but if you want to be aware of your surroundings lack of sleep will make it almost impossible. The more tired you are the less reactive you’ll be in a situation that requires your full attention. Try to stick to the ideal eight hours of sleep a night to ensure optimal awareness, memory and learning. Remember, any of these exercises are pointless if you’re operating on five hours a night.