Thanks to technology our attention span can be likened to that of a goldfish (says researchers). Thankfully, our brains can be trained and untrained. Just as Twitter has shrunken us into soundbites of less than 144 characters, you can stretch your mind into running a marathon.
Here are simple ways to boost your mental focus and attention.
1. TAKE GREEN TEA AND DARK CHOCOLATE
On almost every list of essential brain foods, you’ll find these two items. Green tea contains l-theanine which stimulates brain activity and releases caffeine at a steady rate. Dark chocolate, with at least 60% cocoa, contains magnesium, which reduces stress, and stimulates the release of the feel-good chemicals endorphin and serotonin.
The next time you need a mental boost make yourself some tea and break off a piece of chocolate.
2. DO HEADSTANDS
These ancient postures promote mental clarity and focus. Contrary to reports, headstands do not send more blood to the brain. Rather, the blood pressure in the neck is increased by about 20 perecnt, which opens up the blood vessels and improves the pattern of blood flow in the brain. If you’ve never done a headstand, it is advisable not to attempt one alone — have a friend spot you. There are many variations, and it’s best to first practice against the wall.
3. REMOVE CLUTTERS FROM YOUR WORK SPACE
Mess causes stress, a cluttered desk means a cluttered head. Clutter distracts and cripples our minds with excessive stimuli. Adopt the mantra, “everything has a home,” and create a designated space for your most frequently used items. Take a few minutes now for a quick tidy-up, and give your mind some breathing room.
Even being slightly dehydrated affects your attention. When the brain detects even the smallest changes in physiology, it may begin operating at a suboptimal level to get your attention. When people are less than 2 percent dehydrated, their ability to concentrate on cognitive tests was impaired. The 8×8 rule (eight 8-ounce glasses) is a popular standard for the amount of water you should drink each day. It’s not only healthy overall, but is particularly beneficial for the brain and focusing.
5. REST/WORK RATIO
Rest periods are integral to physical training, and they’re just as important for any mental work. Both have been shown to improve focus and productivity. Everyone has their own rhythm. Experiment and find your best ratio.
Knowing that you have a window of time, and an end in sight, provides a psychological comfort and allows you to focus until the time is up.
6. DO BREATHING TECHNIQUES
Paying attention to your breathing (mindfully and intentionally) comes with enormous benefits. Therapists teach breathing techniques to help sufferers of anxiety, and it is highly effective in restoring focus. A simple technique is to take in a long breath through your nose, hold your breath until your stomach tightens (about five seconds) and then exhale. This technique, along with five others, are listed in Time Magazine.