Top Tips for Improving Your Concentration
By Helen Sanders
Almost everyone has experienced the feeling of drifting off, thinking about the weekend, or the last movie we watched, only to suddenly realize we’re still in the office, and the boss still wants those figures by the end of the day!
Whether at home, work or school, everyone can benefit from improved concentration to increase productivity and efficiency.
In this article, we’ll explore concentration and how to improve it.
What is Concentration?
Concentration is the brain’s ability to focus attention on one activity. The cerebral cortex, in the frontal lobe of our brain, is responsible for concentration, memory, thinking and understanding.
Nerve cells, or neurons, are activated by thoughts and activities. If we are thinking about lots of things at one time, the neurons are activated in such a way that we are unable to focus our attention (source).
The Right Amount of Sleep
Research has proven that too little sleep adversely affects concentration. Similarly, too much sleep can adversely affect our focus – it makes us feel sluggish and not at our best.
How much sleep we need is different for everyone, and changes with age. The most important aspect of sleep is to get enough so that you feel refreshed when you wake up, and to have a regular sleep pattern (source).
Brain Training and Meditation
Concentration is a learned activity, like riding a bike. The more we practice focusing, the more concentration will improve. There are lots of different techniques and exercises available online to improve concentration.
Meditation is one excellent way to do this, because it requires us to develop the ability to become aware of and to have control over our thoughts (source).
Make a Plan
If you’re working on several activities, write them down and prioritize them. This helps us to concentrate on one task at a time because we know we don’t have to remember them all – your brain feels like you’ve got things under control.
Writing down and planning tasks also helps us to improve concentration by telling us what we’re supposed to be concentrating on. There’s less chance of getting distracted by Facebook when the task you have written down in front of you is to check your emails – and if you do get distracted, the reminder is likely to re-focus your attention more quickly.
Consider Your Environment
Some situations are better for concentration than others. If you work in an office and people around are being noisy, close the door, change your location, or politely ask them to keep it down.
Listening to music is a technique that works for some people, but not others. The brain associates beds, darkness and lying down with sleep, so sitting in a brightly lit room is likely to improve your concentration.
Eat a Balanced Diet – and Eat Breakfast
Eating well balanced, light meals improves concentration. Avoid overeating – this makes us feel lethargic and sluggish. Eating whole nutritious foods that nurture the brain is vitally important.
It would be unrealistic to expect a major league basketball player to perform well on a diet of burgers and tacos. The same goes for your brain!
Research tells us that breakfast is one of the most important ways to boost concentration. A healthy morning meal consists of foods like fruits, yoghurt, nuts, seeds and dark chocolate (source).
Foods to Improve Concentration
Foods high in good fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants improve brain cognition, memory and focus.
Increase your amount of:
- Broccoli and green-leaf vegetables
- Coconut oil
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Dark chocolate
All are proven brain power boosters.
Water helps to maintain normal body temperature, helps to balance chemicals in the brain, increases our nutrient absorption and flushes out toxins and waste products. All of these functions help to improve concentration.
Water requirements vary between individuals, but the general rule is around six cups per day (source).
Take Regular Exercise and Regular Breaks
Exercise gets the blood pumping against the flow of gravity up to the brain, increasing oxygen flow.
Research shows that regular moderate physical activity is directly linked with improved brain performance and increased concentration (source).
While you’re working, take a break every 30-60 minutes, walk around and get moving. This has been shown to improve concentration and productivity (source).
There are many different factors that affect concentration, and a huge variety of ways to improve it. By making a few small changes, you have the power to supercharge your day!