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Staying on task can be difficult, but it can be particularly difficult when surrounded by constant distractions. In today’s always-connected world, diversions are nothing more than a click away. Even during quiet moments, distraction is literally at your fingertips as you find yourself constantly checking your phone.
The ability to concentrate on a task and direct mental effort toward it is critical for learning new things, achieving goals, and performing well across a wide variety of situations.Whether you are trying to finish a report at work or competing in a marathon, your ability to focus can mean the difference between success and failure.
It is important before working toward improving your mental focus to know exactly where your strength lies at the present moment. Your focus is good if you find it easy to stay alert, set goals, and break up tasks into smaller parts, and if you take short breaks, then get back to work. More focus is needed if you daydream regularly, lose track of your progress, and cannot tune out distractions. Even if you feel you reside in the good focus group, there is always room to improve your concentration and make your focus stronger.
Factors That Affect Concentration
Concentration is often confused for attention span referring to the length of time you can concentrate on a task. However, it actually refers to the mental effort directed towards the task at hand. Both attention spans and concentration can be difficult for a number of reasons.
Age, lack of sleep, and difficulty tuning out distractions are the minimum of what keeps someone from focusing. As we age, our memories tend to worsen and forgetting things can become inevitable. A decreased concentration also can stimulate memory loss, as well as head injuries, such as concussions. Mental health conditions can factor in as well.
As one can see, there are a lot of ways concentration can be affected on a daily basis. It is easy to become frustrated and emotional when dealing with concentration issues. The frustration and emotions tend to lead to stress and irritability which in turn causes more focusing issues. The cycle seems endless and is quite annoying. However, there may be an end in sight yet.
Here are the best methods to get your brain to focus.
Train Your Brain
The brain can be taught, but training does not have to be boring. Playing certain games can help the brain focus and get better at concentrating.
- Crossword puzzles
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Word searches or scrambles
- Memory games
Spending 15 minutes a day, five days a week, on brain training activities can have a big impact on concentration. Thinking of your mind as a muscle may help you understand why brain training benefits your concentration. Working out your body targets the muscles and improves strength. Working out and training your brain is the same concept. Your physical muscles and your attention “muscles” both have limited amounts of strength at a given time. They require a lot of purposeful exercise and rest and recovery after.
The brain training games also help develop your working and short term memory, and stimulate your problem-solving skills. Brain training is not just an adult task. Children can complete the tasks as well in order to help stimulate their concentration and focus. Coloring pages can help improve concentration in children and adults. Older adults experience memory and concentration loss as it declines with age, so brain training games may be more important for positive effects.
There are no shortcuts and hacks when it comes to strengthening your muscles. Gaining strength within the brain is ultimately about eating right, getting ample sleep, and engaging in challenging daily exercise.
Sleep deprivation can easily disrupt concentration, as well as other cognitive functions, such as memory and attention. Regularly failing to get a good night’s sleep can affect your mood and performance at work. Being too tired slows reflexes and affects your ability to do daily tasks.
Having a demanding schedule while lacking the required amount of sleep the body needs can lead to health issues and make it difficult to concentrate, thus causing stress which leads to less sleep. It is recommended adults aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
Tips to Help You Sleep
- Turn off the TV and put away screens an hour before bed
- Keep your room at a comfortable but cool temperature
- Wind down before bed
- Play soft music
- Take a warm bath
- Read a book
- Set a schedule
- Waking up and going to bed around the same time each day, even on weekends, will help regulate the body and allow sleep to come easier
- Exercise regularly, but try to avoid a heavy workout right before bed
Create a Distinct To-Do List
The internet has granted access to all kinds of information with a quick flick of the finger. Today’s culture is quick to look up anything as soon as it crosses their mind. Consequently, it is easy to become distracted while working because the instant a thought or question comes to mind, the need to look it up is daunting. The average person takes roughly 25 minutes to return to the original task. It does not help the switch back and forth drains the strength of our brains. In order to stay on task, try writing down the thought onto a piece of paper to look up later when you finish what you were doing.
Willpower allows us to deliberately ignore distractions while staying focused on the task at hand. Meditation not only helps keep the mind and body relaxed but it can boost one’s attention span. 10 to 20 minutes of meditation a day will allow the power to focus on your studies for hours at a time. The point of meditation is the focus on breathing for a handful of minutes. The rise and fall of your chest as the air enters and exits the lungs should bring a calming sensation over your mind.
Mindfulness Throughout the Day
Finding opportunities to practice mindfulness throughout your day will strengthen and expand your attention span. Mindfulness is simply focusing on what you are doing, slowing down, and observing all the physical and emotional sensation you are experiencing in the moment. Mindfulness can help push back against distractions as they arise. If you are working on something and have a strong urge to do something else, think about bringing yourself back to the moment. Bring your awareness to your body and breath. After a couple seconds of focusing on your breath as you do in meditation, you will notice the distraction is no longer present and the work is already being completed.
Practice examples for mindfulness include smelling the shaving cream as you shave, noticing the slow drag of the razor across the stubble. When you brush your teeth, notice the lather building up over your gums, listen to the sound of the brussels gliding across your teeth, and notice the mint as it tingles on your tongue. Honing into all the sensations of living in the moment will enable you to embody the true essence of mindfulness.
It may seem obvious, but the amount of distractions affecting concentration are often underestimated. Minimizing the sources of distraction is not always easy. Set aside a specific time and place to be left alone for a period of time. Seeking out a calm location like a library, a private room, or even a quiet coffee shop are good to try. Distractions like exhaustion, worry, anxiety, poor motivation, and other internal disturbances can be difficult to escape. Make sure you are well-rested and are utilizing positive thoughts to fight off anxiety and worry.
Building mental focus and concentration is not an overnight process. It takes plenty of time and practice in order to strengthen your concentration skills. Building your mental focus allows you to accomplish more and bring success and joy to your life thus leaving you satisfied.
It may not be completely possible to eliminate every distraction in your life, but by exercising the brain, you can achieve a stronger focus. The focus enables the mind to eliminate the strength distractions have on your concentration allowing you to work to the best of your ability. Your brain can be looked at as a muscle and, just like physical muscles, it needs to be exercised and grown on a daily basis. Participating in training games, limiting lack of sleep, and meditating are beginning ways to help train the brain without overworking your body. The training is a process, so keep going when you feel discouraged because it will not improve over night and these provide the best methods to get your brain to focus.