Brain Functions : How To Improve Focus
Whether its at the gym or at work, not being able to concentrate can effect your growth. Luckily through understanding brain functions, we can improve our focus and thus improve our growth.
How do we focus?
The ability to focus is a habit formed from the mind. There are multiple types of attention which produce and control your ability to concentrate.
- Sustained Attention: This form of attention is used for focusing on a specific task or activity for a long period of time. A good example of this would be reading.
- Selective Attention: We use this form of attention when we’re focusing on one activity in the midst of multiple activities. An example of this would be having a conversation with a friend at a loud party.
- Alternating Attention: This form of attention is used for alternating between tasks. For example cooking, while reading the recipe.
- Divided Attention: We us this form of attention when attempting to focus on two or more tasks at a time. Such as talking on the phone while playing video games.
What interrupts our concentration?
Some times its obvious why we can’t focus; it’s too loud, too bright, maybe you’re hungry, etc. But other times we can be oblivious to it.
- Even if you don’t actually feel hung over, a few drinks you had may be part of the reason you cannot concentrate. Alcohol can impair your ability to get a good night’s sleep, and fatigue can make it difficult to concentrate. Additionally, even minor hangovers can impair proper brain function. Long term excessive alcohol intake can seriously affect your overall brain function.
- B Vitamins help your body convert food into energy. They also help you metabolize fats and proteins. All of this means adequate intake of B Vitamins means greater ability to get the most out of your food, and more fuel for mental focus.
- Stress, up to a point, can help concentration – it provides additional motivation and urgency to finish a task. However, excessive stress can have the opposite effect. Having too many competing priorities disrupts your concentration and can also lead to forgetfulness.
- Multi-tasking is a fine art, but it can hurt your ability to concentrate on larger, more complicated tasks. If you are continually skipping from one small, mindless activity to the next, your brain starts to work in ways to accommodate that behavior. This leads to an inability to focus on larger, more complicated tasks.
Lack of Motivation
- New and original tasks stimulate the brain. Boring, mundane tasks can do the opposite in the short term. There are numerous studies that show that having a variety of tasks to perform throughout the day leads to higher productivity, greater worker satisfaction and higher productivity when compared with doing the same, repetitive tasks each day.
- Low omega-3 levels have been linked to a variety of mental, learning and cognitive difficulties in a range of people. One particular type of omega-3 called ‘DHA’ (docosahexaenoic acid) is important for mental performance. Some research also shows low omega-3 levels have also been linked to difficulties in reading, numeracy, concentration and memory. Increasing DHA levels in these studies lead to a small increase in cognitive performance.
Natural Ways To Improve Brain Functions and Focus
Like how we train our muscles to improve strength, you have to train your mind to improve focus. Of course if one (or more) of the scenarios above applies to you, you should prioritize correcting that. Then if you still struggle to concentrate check out the tips and exercises below. And let us know which method works for you or if you have another tip to add in!
Tip 1: Meditation
Meditation can help you keep calm and also has shown that mindfulness meditation can boost your attention span significantly. Research has shown that just 10 to 20 minutes of meditation a day is enough to notice improvements. Practicing mindfulness can involve learning how to meditate, but it can also be as simple as trying a deep breathing exercise. Start by taking several deep breaths while really focusing on each breath. When you feel your mind begin to wander, guide your focus back to your deep breathing.
Tip 2: Exercise Your Mind
Mental challenges can help to create new wire connections in the brain, which makes it more effective and more resistant to memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. So develop a new hobby, read a novel, learn a foreign language, or practice at crosswords or Sudoku. Or try other exercises like sitting still in a chair. This is not as easy as it seems. You will have to center your attention on sitting still. Making sure that you are not making any involuntary muscular movements. At first try sitting in a relaxed position for five minutes. After you are able to keep perfectly still, increase the time to ten minutes and then to fifteen. You should never strain yourself to keep still. You must be relaxed completely.
Tip 3: Exercise Your Body
Researchers have found that students who engaged in moderate physical exercise before taking a test that measured attention spans performed better than students who didn’t exercise. The researchers found that exercise primarily helps our brain’s ability to ignore distractions. Physical activity has been shown to sharpen focus possibly because it can help trigger the release of chemicals in the brain that are thought to affect learning and memory. One report suggests that aerobic exercise in particular may improve immediate and long-term functioning in regions of the brain relating to attention.
Tip 4: Circadian Scheduling
Do the most demanding mental work during periods of peak mental energy. Most days, our peak mental energy will occur at roughly the same time of day. For most people it’s sometime in the morning, right after their first cup of coffee. For others it’s at night after everyone else has gone to bed. Figure out first what time of day tends to be your period of peak mental energy. Then arrange your schedule so you can get 90-120 minutes of work done during that period every day. If you can do just this one thing you will likely make more progress on your projects than the average worker. Then you can do the less mentally taxing and more socially engaged parts of your job or life during the periods of lower mental energy.
Tip 5: Workspace
If you work in an office with others, does the location of your workspace allow you to shield yourself from interruptions? Can you focus with a cluttered desk? Or do you need to tidy up after working, so you can start your next session with a clear desk? Do you focus better with your back to the door? Or does that make you paranoid about what might sneak up behind you?
If you work at home, do you get lonely? Do you have too many alternative activities (such as cleaning, eating, or watching television) tempting you away from your work? If you work at a coffee shop, do you get distracted? Or does the random movement of mostly strangers actually help you focus?
If your workspace is distracting, consider ways you can change your workspace to reduce distraction. And if that’s not enough, consider changing workspace. If you can’t change workspace, a simple pair of headphones might help you create a cozy little bubble in the midst of chaos.
Tip 6: Set Small Achievable Goals
Planning and organizing tools can also help us keep our minds clear as we work. Below we have a some guidelines to help create your goals.
- Be specific – Set specific goals, putting in dates, times, and amounts so that you can measure achievement.
- Set priorities – When you have several goals, give each a priority. This helps you to avoid feeling overwhelmed by having too many goals, and helps to direct your attention to the most important ones.
- Keep goals small – Keep the low-level goals that you’re working towards small and achievable. If a goal is too large, then it can seem that you are not making progress towards it. Keeping goals small and incremental gives more opportunities for reward.
- Set performance goals, not outcome goals -If you base your goals on personal performance, then you can keep control over the achievement of your goals, and draw satisfaction from them.
Tip 7: Sleep
Healthy sleep puts us in the right state of mind to take in information as we go about the day. Sleep is also necessary for memory consolidation, and feeling alert and refreshed improves your attention and concentration. Being chronically tired means that we are less likely to perform well. Neurons do not fire optimally, muscles are not rested, and the body’s organ systems are not synchronized. Lapses in focus from sleep deprivation can even result in injury.
Tip 8: Supplementation For Brain Functions
As we mentioned above, being low in certain nutrients can cause difficulties in concentration. An addition to supplementing for those nutrients, there are products available to increase your focus as well.
- B Vitamins are often called the energy vitamins, but they are more like keys that unlock it. Fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, anxiety and depression—all can be signs of a B vitamin deficiency. That’s because compounds in the B complex are needed for everything from the healthy maintenance of brain cells to the metabolism of carbohydrates, the brain’s source of fuel.†
- Omega-3 fatty acids functions include increasing memory, increasing speed of neural transfer, and more efficient energy production. They can help repair damaged neuro-connections.†
- Vitamin C can help children with ADHD symptoms focus better and concentrate longer. But, it’s not a direct action. Vitamin C * is part of the process for producing the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. Norepinephrine controls attention and response actions.†
Supplement Blends For Boosting Brain Functions
- Cognitex By Life Extension is a comprehensive formula containing 11 brain-boosting nutrients that you’re probably not getting from your diet. The result is a youthful cognition and memory.†
- True Focus By NOW Foods combines important nutrients with other ingredients like Ginkgo biloba and DMAE to complement it’s powerful formula. True focus may improve mental acuity, mental clarity, and promote a positive mood.†
- Elevate By Blue Star Nutraceuticals works by providing an energizing blend of 12 nootropic ingredients to amplify specific neural pathways that enhance cognitive function, improve focus and mental clarity, while also decreasing fatigue. Elevate eliminates brain fog, elevates performance and keeps you motivated, on-task and in the zone.†
- Adderex SR By Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals can help increase your memory and concentration throughout the day, and supports normal levels of neurotransmitters, which help promote enhanced information processing in the brain. The stimulants in Adderex-SR will give you more energy and elevate your mood.†
†The intention of the information above is for reference only. While we attempt to keep our information accurate, we cannot guarantee it is an accurate representation of the latest formulation of the product. If you have any concerns, please visit the vendors web site. The information above are the views of the product’s manufacturer, not the views of Same Day Supplements. The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated these statements. The intention of this product is not to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.