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The key to better concentration

by Amanda Collins

Do you have issues concentrating? Find yourself mentally wandering off during conversations, reading, watching TV?

Don’t fret, we’ve all been there, and in this day and age where the “cult of busy” reigns supreme, and where we are constantly bombarded with information, it is unsurprising that we find it hard to focus for any great length of time.

The good news is that there are things you can do to improve your concentration, including working with the increasingly popular idea of mindfulness.

Start your journey towards better concentration with these simple and easy tips.

napping with open eyes

Build your mental muscle

Focus requires practice, and just like training to run a marathon, it takes time to build up your focus fitness.

The key is to start small and build up.

First, set your focus goal as five minutes of pure focus. Set a timer on your phone for five minutes and focus solely on one task, whether that be reading or writing, for five solid minutes. After the timer has gone off, take a one minute break, then do another five minute focus block. Then stop.

Every day add five more minutes to your focus period. So the next day you focus for 10 minutes straight, with a one minute break, then 10 more minutes focus before you stop. Then on the third day do 15 minutes. You get the picture.

Focus on your breathing

Mindfulness has become such a buzzword, but in reality all it means is simply being aware and present in the moment.

Mindfulness and concentration go hand in hand, and if you get a handle on mindfulness, concentration becomes very easy.

To start you off in mindfulness, set aside 10 minutes every day, whether that be in the morning, afternoon or evening.

During that 10 minutes focus only on your breathing.

Whether you are sitting at your desk, on the floor or on the train, focus all your attention on your inhalation and exhalation of breath. How does the air feel rushing down into your lungs? How does your rib cage feel when it expands? How does the warm exhalation feel?

Focus on your breath for 10 minutes and let all other thoughts fall away.

Focus on one thing at a time

Multitasking is shortening our attention spans.

With this in mind, one of the best ways to improve your concentration is to ditch multitasking and instead embrace one task at a time.

Give the task your full, undivided attention and then move onto the next task. The more you do this, the more you will find your ability to concentrate improves.

Just a normal Tuesday morning really

Put away your phone and limit distractions

This may seem obvious, but every time you check your phone, Facebook or your email, you are breaking your concentration.

So if you have a task you need to focus on, put your phone in the drawer, block your access to Facebook and your emails, and commit to not looking at any of these things until the task is done.

You’ll be surprised at how much time “quick checks” of these sites eat up, and just how much they shake your concentration.

Eat and drink

Fueling your body with the right mix of fibre, protein, fat and carbs really helps you to stay focussed. It keeps your body primed to work, and not fatigued, looking for a quick sugar boost.

So if you want your concentration and brain power to be at their best, don’t skip breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Research has also found that staying hydrated with water throughout the day also works to boost concentration, brain power and mood.

Make a list

If you have important tasks to do throughout the day, spend 10 minutes making a list of everything you need to get done. Arrange this list from the most important task to the least.

Making a list helps your mind to stop wandering to all the things you need to do, and worrying if you will remember to do them. Once you have a plan, you are free to focus fully on one task at a time.

She does not work in an office, clearly she is a model

Five more minutes 

When you are ready to give up on a task, promise yourself that you’ll focus for just five more minutes, then do it.

Similar to building physical strength, every time you push your mental muscle, you build it up for next time. Over time you’ll find that all the little ‘five more minutes’ have helped you build a stronger and more focussed concentration muscle.

Find some Om

Daily meditation has been linked to serious improvements to concentration levels.

To meditate, all you need is around 10 minutes of alone time. If you’re just starting out, it may be best to follow a guided meditation. Try the following meditations and see what’s best for you:

How to meditate

Guided meditation for deep relaxation

How to meditate in 12 minutes

Or find out more about the Headspace app, which talks you through a guided mediation every day, in our Get some Headspace article.

Yeah, this is what my hair looks like when I meditate

So there you have it, all the tips and tricks you need to improve your concentration! Anyone can do them, and absolutely anyone can improve their concentration levels.

Concentrate on your studies

If you’ve been struggling to get back into your studies after a break, take the hints above and head to OpenSpace. There’s no time like the present to take what you’ve just learned and put it into practice with your course!

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