There are many benefits to the digital age in which we live now, such as being able to access just about any information at any time, staying in touch with friends half way around the world, and having a variety of technological conveniences.
But one area where we’ve begun to see drawbacks is in our ability to maintain concentration without getting distracted.
A 2015 study by Microsoft revealed that the average person’s (65 or under) attention span is about 8 seconds, which is slightly shorter than that of a goldfish. The study also showed that this length of time is down from a 12 second average in 2000. And whilethis study has been challenged by media literacy advocates, the fact remains that we can all do with a little more focus to achieve our goals, expand our minds, and connect with what really matters.
So how can you improve your ability to focus? Here are 6 ways to start:
Get 8 hours of sleep - Yes, you’ve probably heard it before, but sleep really matters when it comes to your brain. Shoot for 8 hours per night, or at least 7, to ensure your brain has the capacity for attention. With inadequate sleep you’ll impair your ability to learn and remember, make good decisions, and have endurance in challenging tasks. When you’re rested, you are primed to focus.
Meditate - Regular meditation aids in the development of self-awareness, mental clarity, composure, and emotional balance, all supportive of sustained concentration. If you really want to develop focus, start by integrating a simple meditation practice into everyday life.
Schedule time for distraction - Distraction isn’t necessarily “bad.” It’s just part of living a dynamic and connected life. It’s only detrimental when it takes mental energy away from what is more important right now. So find a way to get distractions out of the way before embarking on an important task. Give yourself 15 minutes to text, check your email, look at videos of avocados being shaped into flowers, whatever, and then move on to your focus task for a few solid hours before taking a “distraction break” again.
Eat whole foods - Sustained attention takes energy, and energy comes from nutrients, which come from food! Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fresh and cooked vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, herbs, and a generous helping of healthy fats – such as via eggs, dairy, coconut oil, nuts, butter, fish, or chia seeds. We all have unique nutritional needs and preferences, but the point is to eat real, nutrient-rich, food and a reasonable amount of naturally-derived saturated fat for optimal brain health.
Exercise - Exercise isn’t just good for your physical body, it helps keep your mind sharp too. Numerous studies have shown that regular, moderate exercise improves the length and quality of attention that can be applied in everyday life. Something as simple as a vigorous walk, yoga sequence, or riding a bike a few times a week will help improve your ability to concentrate.
Get in the zone of what you love - Being “in the zone” refers to a natural state of heightened concentration, creativity, and productivity that occurs when we are fully engaged in something that we wholeheartedly love. What is that for you? Playing guitar, painting, gardening, writing? If you have an activity that you truly enjoy, let yourself dive deeper into that. Developing concentration in something that feels effortless will help you develop concentration skills in general.
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What do you do to stay focused? Share with us below!