Photo byÂ Arend Vermazeren
Weâ€™ve all been there, havenâ€™t we? Sitting at our computer, day-dreaming instead of getting on with our assignments and nothing, not even the fear of deadlines or exam failure, can pull our minds back into focus. I know I have.
Well the good news is that concentration is a mental skill you can enhance naturally, by just following these seven mind-focusing tips.
Meditation has been used as a stress-buster for centuries and the techniques are simple enough to learn, and you can start using them for just five minutes every morning to see an improvement in your concentration skills.
Some people are opposed to practicing mediation – they see it as time-wasting, sitting around â€˜doing nothingâ€™ – but the opposite is true.
Meditation has been proven toÂ improve cognitive ability, so the next time you find yourself stressed and unable to concentrate, switch your breathing pattern to a lower and deeper level. Breathe deeply from the abdomen and activate your brainâ€™sÂ Theta waves. Within a few moments you should feel calmer and more receptive to new information.
2) Get Enough Sleep
Unless youâ€™re getting enough sleep, you will not be able to concentrate as well as you should. If youâ€™re tired your mind is scattered, your short -term memory goes and you become far more irritable. Eight hours a night is the optimum sleep time the brain needs to rest and recharge, so make sure youâ€™re getting it. Go to bed earlier and get yourself into an evening routine to wind-down from your daily stresses.
3) Brain Training
Your brain is a powerful organ that never stops learning and making new connections with every thought you have. You can sharpen your mind and even take years off your cognitive age if you play brain training games that keep you thinking.
For 10 minutes every day, try doing one of the following activities and you will see your concentration abilities improve: attempt a crossword or Sudoku puzzle; spell some words backwards; cultivate ambidexterity by brushing your teeth, eating and writing with your non-dominant hand.
Doing little tasks can also be a great way to boost your confidence with the bigger things too!
4) Eat Healthily
Overusing caffeine in the form of coffee and energy drinks can affect your ability to concentrate as they are diuretic substances that cause the body to dehydrate. Make sure youâ€™re getting enough water into your system and try eating a little healthier too. Beans, eggs, cheese, meat and nuts are all high in protein and are great to eat in the morning, when your energy and concentration levels need a kick-start.
Omega-3 fatty acids are an important substance that make up the brain and protect it from damage, so make sure you are eating plenty of oily fish like salmon, herring and tuna. But if youâ€™re not keen on fish, you can also find Omega 3 fatty acids in walnuts, flaxseeds, olive oil and enriched eggs.
Eating more fruit and veg is always good; fruit containing lots of complex carbohydrates like apples and oranges, kiwis and grapefruit can help people who have trouble getting enough sleep. You can also try taking a multi-vitamin every day or vitamin C or fish oil capsules, although be sure to check with your doctor first.
5) Remove Distractions
You can take all the supplements you like, but if your environment isnâ€™t conducive to study, you wonâ€™t stand a chance of getting any work done. Remove the distractions when youâ€™re trying to work. Turn your phone onto silent (or off) and donâ€™t try to work with the TV on.
Take a break every two hours to stop your mental energy from getting zapped as well. Just 10 minutes is all you need to recharge. And if youâ€™re finding your work hard to concentrate on because itâ€™s boring you, think of a small reward you can give yourself as an incentive to stick with it.
Exercise gets extra oxygen into the brain, which in turn boosts mental ability. Do moderate exercise three times a week to feel the benefit on the hippocampus region of your brain (the part that deals with learning and memory). The hippocampus can be damaged by the stress hormone cortisol, so whenever youâ€™re feeling stressed do some exercise to dispel this damaging hormone. Yoga is a very good form of exercise to take up if youâ€™re prone to stress and anxiety.
7) Time Management Techniques
Maintaining a study schedule is a simple way to boost your concentration and eliminate stress from your studies. If everything is well planned out, you will know that at this specific time youâ€™re working on that thing and everything else that can lead you to distraction is put on hold until youâ€™ve completed it. Prioritise which things need to be done first and switch from doing hard activities to easier activities now and then.
What other techniques do you have to boost your concentration? Share below!
Bio: Gavin HarveyÂ remembers all too well the pressures of student life. He likes to write about natural ways to improve the mind and body forÂ classroomcarrots.com, whoÂ provide positive ways for teachers to motivate their students.