We live in a buzzing and flashing world of distractions: Slack messages scroll across screens, phones vibrate with the latest news and discussion group discussions, and worries about COVID and other threats shatter our focus. No wonder staying focused can be a challenge.
An environment filled with distractions is just one factor that hinders concentration, therapist Billy Roberts of Mind-Focused ADHD Counseling in Columbus, Ohio, tells Health. The general stress in your life can also play a role, he says. Your feelings also affect your concentration. âThere are times when emotions are strong and anxiety or frustration gets in the way of concentration,â says Roberts.
So how can you achieve a state of flux, focus on what you are doing right now, and do what you need to do? Here, the experts share 7 strategies that help you get in and stay in the zone.
Create a distraction-free environment
Some people can only concentrate in total silence and need a clutter-free workspace. Others need background music or a loud TV, while still others can only access the right headspace when their desk displays personal memories, photos of loved ones, or artwork. of art that have personal meaning.
There’s no one right way to set up an environment where things get done, it’s very individualistic. The trick is to figure out what works best for you and create that space, even if you need to invest some money and energy in it.
âThere are a lot of distractions to be aware of, but it’s essential to be really specific to your life,â says Roberts. He recommends thinking about the sights, sounds, and temperature of your surroundings, and then building it yourself.
Start a meditation practice
You’ve probably heard of the power of meditation before, but research confirms it: taking a few minutes a day to meditate can improve your focus. And it doesn’t take long for the effects of meditation practice to materialize. In a review of 20 studies, the researchers found that a few months of meditation increased sustained attention.
“Meditation improves our concentration by reducing our stress and allowing us to bounce back more quickly from distractions” Dorlee Michaeli, LCSW, an EMDR-certified psychotherapist in New York, says Health. It makes us react less to minor annoyances and emotional triggers, she says, so we can get into the right open space to get through.
During meditation, you learn to return your attention to your breathing as your mind wanders, Michaeli notes. Developing this skill “makes it easier for our brains to return to the task at hand more quickly when interrupted by a text or a phone buzzing,” she says.
While concentration is a mental task, physical activity also plays a role. Exercise can help improve your ability to focus and boost your memory, according to a 2020 review published in Translational sports medicine who examined the link between physical activity and cognitive function in young adults.
How does getting around help? âCreating time-limited pauses in movement helps keep the brain stimulated and may increase your productivity on long-term projects,â Scott Allen, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist with Just Mind, LLC, recount Health. Participating in regular physical activity, such as a night jog or a gym session, can also relieve stress and clear your head to make concentration less difficult.
While sustained exercise is helpful, small breaks in physical activity can also work. The next time you’re feeling distracted, try this: Get away from whatever you’re doing and go for a short walk, do a round of show jumping, or do a chore that involves being active.
Plan activities when you are naturally more alert
Our alertness levels naturally rise and fall throughout the day, Allen says, and it often depends on whether you are a morning person or a night owl.
If you’re a lark, load your morning with the more complex mental tasks on your to-do list. Night owls, on the other hand, should calm down during the day, relying on the evening hours for projects that require concentration. âPlan activities that require maximum concentration during the times of the day when you are most alert and focused,â says Allen.
Break big projects down into small tasks
âSeeing a big project coming up can create a cycle of high anxiety, procrastination, and challenges with focus when you actually get started on that project,â says Allen. Breaking down a major project or task into several small steps can help you stay focused, he suggests.
For example, instead of adding a major working project to your to-do list, break it down into several small steps: call the customer, set up a meeting, find prices, and more. These small tasks have a less intimidating vibe, and it’s easier to maintain your focus in a short period of time.
Plan for short wait times
Even people who are good at focusing their attention on a task experience hollows and distractions; our brain is always on alert. The solution: take an occasional break. It’s not lazy or a bad use of your time. Then you will return to your task with concentration, rather than letting your attention drift, according to one. to study published in the journal Cognition.
Try limited-time sprints, suggests Michaeli. The Pomodoro technique – where you focus on a task for 25 minutes, then take a break for 5 minutes – is a popular strategy, she says. Or try 90-minute task-dedicated sprints, followed by a 15- to 20-minute break, she suggests.
Eat foods that boost cognition
Have you ever had a sweet treat that you expected to help you focusâ¦ only to experience an accident an hour later? What you eat can make a difference in how your brain and body work. Simple carbohydrates and refined sugar cause a burst of energy, quickly followed by drowsiness, according to the American Heart Association. It’s hard to focus when you’re struggling to keep your eyes open.
Other foods, on the other hand, help your intelligence. The caffeine in a cup of coffee really helps with focus and mental function, according to Harvard Health Publishing. And cruciferous vegetables, such as kale and broccoli, as well as berries, help strengthen memory, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
This story first appeared on www.health.com
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