Improving concentration and boosting brain power appears to be a constant pursuit in our modern world. Thankfully there are ways to improve concentration that include managing your attention, avoiding constant sensory input, prioritizing tasks, setting a schedule, regulating your diet, and eating brain-boosting foods, just to name a few.
Without getting too scientific, concentration is the power to choose what you pay attention to and what you ignore. Concentration is a fundamental aspect of our social, professional, and personal lives, and drives much of what we do. If we are unable to concentrate on the road, we would be unable to and unsafe while driving. If we can’t concentrate on a project or a textbook, then we are unable to function normally. Therefore, in today’s high-performance world, with seemingly constant streams of sensory input vying for our attention, the question of how to improve concentration is quite important. Concentration is mainly controlled by the front region of the brain and is closely linked to our working memory.
To improve our concentration, there is not a magical pill that you can take or procedure you can undergo. In this way, concentration is a much less tangible problem for the betterment of our health. Granted, there are certain attention disorders that negatively impact concentration, such as ADD and ADHD, among others. These conditions are caused by a slower or underdeveloped frontal portion of the brain that controls our attentional behaviors. This problem can be mediated through medication. However, there are many behavioral strategies and methods that can help you improve your concentration, whether you suffer from an attention disorder, or simply want to boost your powers of attention. That being said, let’s take a closer look at some of the best ways to improve concentration.
Ways to Improve Concentration
There are several ways to improve concentration and the most effective ones are listed below:
Avoid Constant Sensory Input
Everyday life forces us to constantly shift our focus and attention, which many believe is causing the increase in attention disorders. We are constantly bombarded with sensory input, from the advertisements on every building to the beeping demands of our mobile phones and tablets. As we grow up, we learn certain behaviors, and as evidenced by skyrocketing ADHD diagnoses, young people are particularly susceptible to developing bad concentration habits. Put your phone down, avoid the constant input, and practice concentrating on a single thing for once!
Stress causes our body to enter a heightened state of awareness, due to the release of certain hormones and neurotransmitters when we are “stressed out”. Remaining calm, even in potentially tense situations, can be very difficult, but establishing a sense of calm in your life will help your mind from leaping from one thought to the next. You need to establish a peaceful mindset before concentrating on any one thing.
One of the most relaxing and invigorating ways to improve your concentration is by meditating. There are many different forms and philosophies to meditation, which goes beyond the scope of this article, but by clearing your mind and focusing on “nothing” or a single mantra, you are training your brain to clear out distractions in your normal life. This can be very powerful if you struggle to remain focused.
Manage Your Attention
You should try to remain present and engaged in a single task or idea without losing that attention and getting lost in another thought. By “managing” your attention, you can improve your powers of organization, both mentally and physically. This intention to remain present and focused isn’t easy to do, but it will remind you of what you’re seeking – better concentration skills.
Very often, life seems overwhelming because there are too many things to do. Your to-do list keeps growing and you find it hard to concentrate on one task without thinking of the dozens of other things needed to be done by the end of the month. Prioritizing can eliminate that source of stress, so choose the most important or short-term “deadlines” or responsibilities, whether that is getting groceries, finishing a paper, or picking up a friend from work, and slowly knock off the most important things one by one. This will give you more control over your schedule and your mind, rather than letting your responsibilities control you.
If you commonly skip meals because of an uncertain schedule, or if you tend to overeat in stressful situations, you’re making it much harder to concentrate. The body and mind need proper nutrition and regular energy intake to function properly. If you’re “hangry” and thinking about how much you wish you’d eaten lunch, you’re not going to be able to focus on anything until you get a snack.
Set a Schedule
Making a schedule for life is daunting for some people, and impossible to conceive for others. However, if you are willing to regulate your life a bit more, even with set times for going to sleep and waking up, your body will be on more of a rhythm and your stress levels will decrease. This will help you concentrate on the normal order of your day, rather than trying to piece together your plan every morning, distracted by thousands of possibilities.
Foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, and organic compounds that stimulate the body and mind are great for concentration. Try adding green tea, blueberries, salmon, oatmeal, and eggs to your weekly diet and see if your brain doesn’t get a bit of a boost. Also, avoid high saturated fat content, artificial sugars, and empty calories as they won’t do you any favors when you’re trying to focus.
Concentration skills can even be developed by watching others. If you struggle to remain focused while working, try co-working with someone who is a high performer, or who never seems stressed or under-the-gun for deadlines. You can see strong powers of concentration everywhere from movie theaters to your office job, so pay attention to the physical signs, the movements, the visual focus, and the bubble of focus that seems to surround these people. Mimic those same traits to improve your own concentration.
Chasing down specific dreams and making firm goals and deadlines will help to keep you accountable to the tasks at hand. Without working towards something, the motivation to work faster or more efficiently is gone. You need to give yourself a reason to focus and remain dedicated to one concept or idea, or else any other potential distraction that comes along may be enough to break your concentration.
There are a number of simple exercises that can strengthen your brain and powers of concentration. You can search for many of these exercise guides online, and most of the strategies and “workouts” can be completed in a few minutes each day. Training your brain is like training your body; you won’t see improvement unless you work at it.