It’s hard to stay focused and mentally alert in today’s digital age. Distractions are everywhere. Recognise the term doom scrolling? It’s easy to get carried away with absorbing information through the content we see, and before you know it, hours have passed.
At work, you’ll be even more hard pressed to have better focus so you can be productive. So if you’re struggling to concentrate on a task, here are some useful ways you can keep your attention up.
To deal with concentration problems, you have to first identify your distractions. These could be anything from music blasting in the background, social media notifications, or your roommate busting into your room for a quick chat.
Eliminating these sources of distraction can be harder than you think. You can quickly turn off the music playing, or disable notifications on your phone, but when it comes to dealing with a persistently talkative roommate, or an interrupting co-worker, things get a little more tricky.
One way to deal with this is to set aside focus time where you can be alone. Seek out a quiet, peaceful corner which will be conducive for work, where you know you can spend hours undisturbed. The library, your home study, or the neighbourhood cafe round the corner are all potential places to check out.
Not all distractions are external either. You could be distracted by anxiety, worry, exhaustion and more if you’re dealing with some struggles or challenges in life. To help minimise or eliminate such internal distractions, it’s key to focus on yourself. Ensure you’re getting sufficient sleep and feeling well-rested, and fight off your anxieties and worries with positive words of affirmation. It’s all about perspective.
Practising mindfulness is all about paying attention to the present. Instead of ruminating on the past, or worrying about the future, which can cause great discomfort, focusing on coming back to the here and now can significantly reduce your level of stress.
Everyone always talks about the importance of being present. And it’s true! It does come with lots of benefits. Being present recaptures your mental focus. It keeps your attention sharp and your mental state honed in on the details that really matter.
Mindfulness generally involves a heightened awareness of sensory stimuli — such as your breathing, the sensations of your body, the sounds you hear around you, and being in the moment. It may take some getting used to, but doing it regularly will do wonders for your mental health and alertness.
You cannot change the past and you cannot control the future, but you can truly live in the moment. A study on multitasking in a high stress environment found that those who used mindfulness meditation showed an improvement in concentration and focus. They were also able to stay on task longer, switched between tasks less frequently, and performed the work more efficiently than the other groups of participants.
Meditation can be one way of practising mindfulness, but it isn’t the only way. Even something as simple as a quick and easy deep breathing exercise is another way of practising mindfulness too.
Exercise is also essential in boosting your ability to be alert and to concentrate. It helps to boost your mood, and also reduces stress.
You should aim to get at least 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate physical activity in a week. This includes taking a brisk walk or going for a swim. You can also try doing 1.5 to 2.5 hours of more intense physical activity, such as joining a team sport, going jogging, or cycling.
The endorphins from exercise don’t just make you feel better. They also help you concentrate and be mentally sharp for tasks at hand. It stimulates the growth of new brain cells, and helps prevent age-related decline.
Sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being, including our mental alertness. When we don't get enough sleep, it can have a negative impact on our cognitive function, including our ability to concentrate and focus. Getting enough sleep can help improve these functions, leading to increased mental alertness and productivity.
Lack of sleep can also impact our mood and emotional well-being. When we're tired, we're more likely to feel irritable, anxious, and stressed, all of which can negatively impact our mental alertness. On the other hand, getting enough sleep daily will help improve our mood, making us more alert and focused.
Sleep deprivation also can increase the risk of accidents, including car accidents, workplace accidents, and falls. When we're tired, we're more likely to make mistakes and have slower reaction times, which can lead to accidents.
Having regular sleep also aids with decision-making. When we're well-rested, we're able to make better decisions with a clear mind and solve problems. Lack of sleep can impair our ability to make decisions and can lead to poor judgement.
A healthy diet provides essential nutrients that our brains need to function properly. It can keep us more alert, as well as improve concentration and attention.
Lean proteins from chicken and meat, as well as fatty acids from meat, eggs, fish, and nuts, are also brain-healthy foods, and help improve cognitive function and memory. B vitamins found in whole grains and leafy greens can also help improve mental alertness.
What we eat can also impact our mood and emotional well-being. Eating a diet that's rich in whole foods and low in processed foods and sugar can help boost your mood, leading to increased mental alertness and productivity.
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Find out more about the supplements that support brain health:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.