If you struggle with focus and concentration, you’re not alone. With constant distractions from our devices, busy schedules, and busy minds, it’s a challenge many of us face. I know I personally used to have the ability to spend hours reading or working on a task without getting distracted, but our brains are so overloaded with information these days, that focusing on one thing for long periods of time seems nearly impossible.
The Brain and Focus
The modern brain is overloaded with an unprecedented amount of information. We are bombarded by notifications, alerts, emails and other stimuli on a constant basis. This taxes the prefrontal cortex – the area of the brain responsible for executive functions like focus and concentration.
When the prefrontal cortex is overloaded with too much information, it suffers from “decision fatigue” and has a harder time filtering out distractions. This makes it difficult to sustain focus on one task for an extended period of time.
Despite the challenges of focusing in our fast paced world, there are several steps you can take to boost your ability to focus and get more done.
Steps to Improve Your Focus and Concentration
1. Meditate daily. Starting or ending your day with just 10-15 minutes of meditation can improve your mental clarity and focus throughout the day. Meditation helps train your brain to focus on one thing at a time and shut out distractions. If you’re not experienced in meditation, try using an app that offers guided meditation practices to help you get started.
2. Limit distractions. Turn off notifications on your devices, close distracting apps and tabs on your computer, and let others know you need focus time. Even putting your phone in another room can help you concentrate better.
3. Take regular breaks. Our brains can only focus intently for about 90 minutes before needing a break. So set a timer and take a 10-15 minute break every 90 minutes to recharge and come back to your work with a fresh mind. I find going for a quick walk to be super helpful.
4. Exercise. Getting your heart rate up for 20-30 minutes through exercise can boost dopamine and norepinephrine in your brain, improving your ability to concentrate afterwards. Mid-day walks on your lunch break are an easy way to help your mind refocus for the rest of your day. And leave your phone behind so you can really just enjoy the movement!
5. Eat brain-boosting foods. Foods high in omega-3s, vitamin B and D can help optimize neurotransmitters in your brain. Try salmon, walnuts, spinach, eggs and mushrooms.
6. Set goals and review progress. Have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish and review your progress regularly. This gives your brain a concrete target to focus on and keeps you motivated. I find it helpful to journal, write lists, or write down a schedule to help me stay focused.
In conclusion, by making simple changes to your daily routine, you can significantly improve your ability to focus and concentrate. Start by choosing one or two of the techniques above and build from there. With a little bit of practice and consistency, you’ll be amazed at how much more productive and engaged you feel.
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