How to concentrate in a world of distraction
We’ve all felt guilty for procrastinating from time to time. Sometimes, finding the will to focus on a task and stick at it seems practically impossible, particularly if you’re one of the estimated 4% of the UK population with ADHD, or if you’ve shouldered a lot of responsibility in your life.
So, how can you concentrate in a world of distraction? Are there any techniques that really work?
The answer is, yes. There are things you can do to help organise your mind and streamline your attention more effectively. However, there’s one point above all others that often gets missed: struggling to concentrate is often just a sign that you need a break. A real break.
Admittedly, that might not always feel like an option. There are deadlines to meet and snippets of time among parenting duties for you to get things done. But arranging your day in a way that incorporates genuine rest and, better still, socialising and/or getting into nature, is likely to be the key thing that makes the biggest difference.
Need to concentrate? Take a break.
There have been many studies to support the benefits of taking a break, but the first came from researchers William Dement and Nathan Kleitman. These two pioneering sleep experts discovered the 90-minute sleep pattern during which we move through five stages of sleep, (from light to deep, and then out again) more than 50 years ago. They also discovered that this natural flow is not limited to sleep. We all operate by the same 90-minute rhythm when we’re awake too, moving through phases of higher and lower alertness.
This means that taking regular breaks equates to higher productivity and creativity during the day, and it also suggests that our brains are wired to take breaks, supposedly for the essential purpose of processing.
The fact is, when we don’t take regular breaks the mind becomes overloaded. It’s then that we lose the ability to focus and concentrate. But taking a real break means getting away from your screen every hour, even if only for a few minutes. It’s all too easy to fall into mindless doom scrolling, which doesn’t let your brain rest. You need to go offline completely and stop absorbing a constant stream of information to restore your focus and energy.
Aid your concentration with plants
There are several plant-based supplements which are used by millions across the world to enhance focus. Functional mushrooms, such as Reishi and Lion’s Mane, are popular choices, as are adaptogens, such as Ashwagandha, and of course CBD.
These all work in different ways. Anything that gives a serotonin boost helps, as this neurotransmitter plays a key role in focusing. Increasing dopamine has a similar effect, and is especially important for people with ADHD, who have naturally lower levels of dopamine, which is needed at appropriate levels for concentration. CBD activates both of these receptors – the Lady A Green Tea/CBD Daily Fix capsules are the perfect choice!
When it comes to mushrooms, Lion’s Mane has been shown in numerous studies to boost memory and focus by aiding nerve cell functioning.
Exercise for improved focus
Moving your body is the answer to so many problems in life, including struggling to concentrate. Research shows that physical exercise releases proteins in the brain that can help improve your memory and increase your cognitive performance. It also kick-starts your neurones and promotes cell growth, which can improve concentration and focus.
It really doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you do, whether it’s running, dancing, swimming, skipping or weight lifting. As long as you undertake physical exercise for at least 20 minutes a day, you’ll see and feel the difference it makes.
Break up your day
You may be reading this thinking “I don’t have time to fit in exercise or take breaks!”, but you do. You just have to schedule it into your day. Creating a schedule for yourself which includes dedicated sections for procrastination, relaxation and exercise, means you’ll be much more likely to focus on the task at hand and keep your distractions to their allocated time slots!
Ease yourself into the day with some time to reflect and align your mind into a positive state – meditation, journaling, yoga or even just sitting peacefully with a cup of tea are all great choices. Then, depending on your own energy flow, you may wish to energise with some exercise or schedule an hour or two of work time before getting physical.
Once you’re in the rhythm of your scheduled day, you’ll find your work times are far more productive and that concentrating comes naturally.
Create ‘to do’ lists
If you’re overwhelmed, you won’t be able to concentrate. It’s that simple. So do things for yourself to make your life easier!
Something as simple as a short ‘to do’ list of created for each day (or week) can help you streamline your thoughts, and reap the benefit of a sense of accomplishment when you cross something off. Remember, rewarding yourself for completing tasks is also important! So why not combine your list-making and break-taking, by taking a moment to rest and celebrate yourself and your new-found focus for every ticked-off task?