We live in a busy world. From work commitments to responsibilities in the home, our lives are busy and our to-do lists can weigh heavily on us. Whether you’re learning in school or focusing on a big project at work, mental health and focus has never been more important.
In this blog, we share 7 ways to boost your mental focus so you can enhance your potential to perform at your best, mentally and otherwise.
Focus on your mental focus
Taking stock of where you are can be a great exercise in mental focus. If you are a procrastinator, it can be hard to even start improving.
Make a list of the things you do in a given day and analyze your level of focus in each activity. If you need more focus in certain areas, you have a place to start so you can measure your improvement. If you need focus most times of the day, then read on for some tips to help you.
Each day, identify one priority you want to accomplish. This helps your brain to focus on what matters. Break down large tasks into smaller chunks to avoid overwhelm. You can use a daily planner to help with this too. Forming a daily routine will help you develop positive habits that in turn benefit both your mental focus, energy level, and relaxation.
If you’re not aligned with your purpose or passions day to day, it may be time to focus on a new direction you want to take. It’s hard to focus if your heart isn’t aligned with what you’re doing.
Although it hasn’t been proven, playing games that improve your attention span and response times may help with mental performance in everyday life. Playing chess with someone or doing word searches or unscrambles, crosswords, sudoku, and jigsaw puzzles require setting aside time to think, so there may be some validity to them.
More recent research suggests playing video games could help boost focus. One hour of gaming could improve visual selective attention (VSA), your ability to concentrate on a specific task while ignoring distractions.
Depending on where you need your mental focus the most, it’s helpful to remove all distractions. Having music on during work or study could help, but if you interpret it as noise, try ambient music or nature sounds at a soft level.
Co-workers that pop by to chat when you’re trying to focus on completing a task can also be distracting. Try to work where you know you’ll be undisturbed (a locked door could help if you’ve got a private office) or request to be left alone when you know you’ll need to focus. If home or the office are full of distractions, try the library or a quiet cafe.
Being well-rested and free of stress also helps to reduce or eliminate distractions.
The Power of Now author Eckhart Tolle had it right: staying present helps with your focus! Dwelling too much in the past or future can be distracting and lead to negative thoughts and emotions. Focusing on the here and now keeps your attention sharp and mental faculties honed in on what really matters.
While multitasking can feel productive, it actually lowers focus and decision-making skills and can lead to higher stress and anxiety. Focusing on single tasks will lead to increased concentration since you aren’t dividing your attention. The Pomodoro Method is a popular productivity hack that requires you to work on a single task in 25-minute increments, followed by a five-minute break. Four Pomodoros should be followed by a longer break of up to 30 minutes.
Doing one task for a long period of time can be mentally exhausting. Research has found that taking short breaks by shifting your attention to something else for a short time can improve focus. For example, taking a walk can help you get some physical activity if you’ve been sitting at a desk for a long time, or you can watch a short video online to take your mind off the task at hand.
You can set a timer to focus on tasks and signal time for breaks.
Meditation and breathwork have seen a resurgence in recent years, for good reason. Sitting still with eyes closed for even a few minutes, and bringing focus to your breath, along with other sounds and smells around you may help rewire your brain to bring your attention to other areas of your life.
In one study, human resources professionals engaged in simulations of the sort of complex multitasking they would engage in each day at work. Some participants received eight weeks of training in mindfulness meditation. The results found only those who had received this training showed improvement in focus. They stayed on task longer, switched between tasks less frequently, and performed work more efficiently than the other groups of participants.
Evidence also supports the positive impact of nature. Make sure you spend 15 to 20 minutes outside daily. That could include sitting in your backyard or garden, or taking a short walk around a nearby park.
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Maintain a healthy lifestyle
The basic elements of a healthy lifestyle are key to maintaining mental focus. Being too tired from lack of sleep can slow down your reflexes and affect your ability to do daily tasks, as sleep deprivation can disrupt attention span and memory. Getting seven to eight hours of sleep, heart-pumping exercise, and consuming a clean, mostly whole-food diet with lots of water intake all support good hormone balance, prevent illnesses, and support brain health.
Some caffeine, such as one cup of coffee or green tea or a piece of 70 percent dark chocolate could help improve your focus, as can some supplements. Our Bacopa Brain is designed to support brain health, cognitive function and the nervous system, and improve memory.
Boosting your mental focus won’t happen overnight, so practice patience with yourself—and others! Prioritize your time and wellness practices, and you’ll eventually feel a sense of accomplishment and contentment.Check out our past blog for tips on enhancing your memory.