I stare out my open office window and listen to the sound of nature and dogs barking. A bus drives by and picks up kids for school. I hear my husband on a call in the next room. The cat pushes open my office door and saunters in, ready for attention. My computer dings, notifying me of a new message.
We all face myriad of distractions as we go about our day. How can we be expected to focus when we have a world of technology at our fingertips? The daily information overload we receive from the TVs, computers, and messages can be overwhelming. But the internet isn’t the only thing keeping our minds from the tasks in front of us. There are many factors that affect our attention, but with every problem comes a solution.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that distract us. The biggest offenders that take away your ability to concentrate are underlying conditions like depression or sleep disorders. Also, if you’re feeling the effects of vision or hearing loss, attempting to listen harder or see something on a page can take your mind away from other things. What makes it worse is that taking medications for depression or other mental illness can also slow down your processing speed. As if we weren’t dealing with enough already!
Even if you aren’t dealing with any underlying conditions, it can still be extremely difficult to focus your attention with the wild world around you. Luckily, there are multiple ways to improve your focus. You can start slowly or incorporate all into your daily routine.
Train Your Brain
When you usually think of training, you may think of the last time you had to prep for a 5K or a similar activity. But this training is fun! Try your hand at sudoku, word searches, or other memory games. There are free apps and websites, or you could choose pencil and paper and buy a book full of puzzles to enjoy while unwinding.
Focus on Improving Sleep
Sleep is an enigma. We never seem to get enough! Increase your focus during the day with a good bedtime routine at night. Getting at least eight hours of sleep improves concentration and memory. There are a few simple steps you can follow that will help you get the sleep you need. The first one is a doozy. Put your electronics away! The light keeps your body from producing melatonin, which tells your brain it’s bedtime. Put down the phone, shut off the iPad, turn off your TV, and drift into your dreams. Also, stick to your routine, even on the weekend. Staying up later and sleeping in messes with your circadian rhythm. Go to bed and wake up around the same time every day to see the difference!
It’s a scientific fact: exercise is good for you. No matter how much you love relaxing on the couch watching true crime shows, you should get at least two and a half hours of moderate exercise per week, as recommended by the World Health Organization. In fact, at least one study shows that just a year of moderate physical activity can stop or reverse memory loss in older adults. Just going for a brisk walk could help protect your brain. You don’t have to go all out just yet. Build up your exercise routine. Start small with walks, runs, or free workout videos.
Sometimes your brain just needs a little boost. Thankfully, you have supplement options that can make that happen. These contain ingredients like choline, that helps with liver function, muscle movement, and brain development. Also, panax ginseng is famous for sharpening memory and mental focus. Another ingredient you may see is Ginkgo biloba. Researchers say it increases antioxidant activity, lowers stress, and improves circulation. Talk to a doctor before adding a supplement to your diet.
Eat Healthy Foods
What you put in your body impacts your mind. Some foods you should incorporate into your diet include fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and sardines. These are rich in omego-3 fatty acids, which are a major building block of the brain. Research suggests that people who eat fish regularly have more nerve cells that control decision making, memory, and emotion.
Here’s some good news for coffee lovers: it’s great for your brain. It contains caffeine and antioxidants that support brain health. On that same note, blueberries have also been found to improve memory and cognitive processes in children and older adults. And finally, there’s another excuse to eat dark chocolate, it’s also brain food! Focus on dark chocolates that have 70% or greater cocoa content for a brain and mood boost!
As Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” That’s why you should take a break and meditate. There are several ways you can meditate and you should choose one that fits your personality best. You could also incorporate yoga into your routine, which is a great way to begin or end a potentially stressful day.
Mix and match the tactics that work best for you. Improving concentration isn’t just great for now, it will also help you in the future. Take the steps to improve your focus. Your future self will thank you!