Feel like you’re always doing something but never accomplishing anything?
Between jobs, families, devices, and all the multitasking they demand, some of this is normal. But “normal” can easily become disabling — upending your productivity, sapping your attention span, and messing with your overall Health Esteem.
Losing focus, however, doesn’t mean losing out. Read on for some simple tips on how to increase attention span, improve focus, and fine-tune a wandering mind.
Your body’s not the only thing that benefits from working up a sweat.
“Exercise increases your brain’s neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine, chemicals that boost focus and attention,” says John Ratey, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
Studies show that exercise has also been found to improve skills known as executive function, which are essential in planning, organizing, and maintaining focus.
By helping bring your attention to the present moment and approach that moment with openness, awareness and acceptance, meditation is a great way to reign in random thoughts and bring a distracted mind to one of increased focus and calm.
Studies suggest that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) — a popular and simple form of meditation — may actually stimulate change in parts of the brain responsible for attention and information processing.
This type of meditation involves focusing your attention on a specific thing and returning your thoughts to that object if you become distracted. And you need not be a master at it; even novices find it helps improve focus and concentration.
“The most unlikely people in the world are into meditation precisely for this reason — to help them focus and be more productive,” says Ratey, who has also authored the book Delivered From Distraction.
3. Try Uni-tasking
Contrary to popular productivity palaver, it’s impossible to effectively do your work while periodically checking TikTok, keeping a second computer screen open to a news feed, listening to music, and scarfing down a sandwich.
Your brain simply isn’t optimized to do more than one thing at a time, and studies show that multitasking interferes with brain activity and processing. Be kind to your brain and give it one task at a time; you’ll improve focus, and your productivity could soar.
We all do it, but what good is all that inhaled oxygen and exhaled carbon dioxide if we’re not doing it right? Slow, deep breathing is a type of relaxation and helps lengthen your attention span by taking your mind off distracting thoughts that compete for real estate in your brain, according to experts at Harvard Medical School.
There are many methods, but one of the best (and easiest!) ways to breathe deeply is to slowly inhale through your nose, filling your lungs and fully expanding your belly, then breathing out slowly through your mouth (or nose). It may feel unnatural to stick your belly out, but it’s just temporary and a great way to let go of tension and avoid shallow “chest breathing.”
5. Write It Down
Too many mental “to do” lists contribute to a cluttered mind, say Mayo Clinic experts, which is hell on an already short attention span. Keep a notepad (or your phone) within reach to jot down (or take a photo of) things that pop into your brain at random times.
Building this kind of structure into your life is how to increase focus, Ratey advises.
6. Sleep Tighter
Getting a good night’s sleep — both in quality and quantity — can have a major impact on your ability to perform well and focus the next day. The National Sleep Foundation says it helps by reactivating memories and strengthening connections between brain cells. One of the best ways to improve your sleep is — you guessed it — through regular exercise, they say.
7. Focus on Your Diet
A healthy brain is a brain more able to focus and less likely to forget things. Doctors at Harvard Medical School give a thumbs-up to these “brain foods:”
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Berries, like blueberries and strawberries
- Coffee and tea
- Fatty fish, like salmon, pollack, pickled herring, and cod
And if you have trouble getting what you need from food, supplements are an effective way to close the gap.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.