co-written by Rick Olazabal, BSc, BN
Nowadays we are constantly bombarded with all sorts of stimuli (i.e. any stressor, thing or event that evokes a nervous response), from ads on TV, to noise pollution, to your kids running and screaming around the house, to who will be the next president of the United States, and why is the dollar so low in value, and oil prices still so high, and, and, and….
See my point? So it’s no surprise that it may be a little difficult to stay focused, or maintain your concentration.
Let’s take a deep breath, and see explore five things you can do to improve your concentration.
Why we might have concentration problem?
Perhaps the most common diagnosis we think of when we hear the words, “lack of concentration” is ADD or ADHD. But instead of medicalizing ourselves with fancy labels, we should take a minute to assess our lives and ask ourselves the difficult questions: am I happy with what I am doing? What am I trying to escape?
If were to be concentrated, what would that look like? How can I get there? And many more, I’m sure. Lack of concentration may be intimately connected with your emotional and psychological state. Procrastination may be your coping mechanism.
What are the easy ways to improve concentration?
- Go out for a walk in nature or a run: take some time from your busy day to get some exercise. Get your blood flowing, and relieve your stress. Endorphins from exercise will make you feel better. More blood flow means more oxygen goes to your brain and this “declutters” some of the negativity.
- Indulge in the activities that make you happy and do not feel guilty! “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” (…or Jill a dull girl?). You need to take breaks from your work in order to be productive! It’s about being efficient and doing things smarter, not harder. You are allowed to treat yourself. After all, if you feel better you will perform better!
- Fragment your tasks and give yourself shorter, yet strict, timelines to complete them: Some tasks are huge, or perhaps you have too much on your plate. Do you have too much on your plate? Remember that you can say, “no!” But if “no” is really not an option, then fragment your tasks into smaller components and challenge yourself to do one at at time (and reward yourself after you complete each task), but remember to adhere strictly to the timeframe.
- Socialize with the people you enjoy! This may go hand in hand with indulging in the activities you enjoy. However, some people (introverts) prefer to be alone, while others enjoy the company of people. Research has shown that those with a strong support network tend to be happier, healthier, and live longer! Socializing with others (not just anybody, but those people who are a positive influence on you) helps to reduce depression, which is a condition highly linked to lack of concentration.
- Sleep more! If you’re not sleeping well, or not sleeping at all, it is no doubt you cannot concentrate on tasks. As a matter of a fact, probably every aspect of your life is affected. Sometimes this is easier said than done, so if you are having trouble sleeping, speak with a licensed naturopathic doctor about your natural options.
Bonus: Shake up your routine, challenge yourself to do something new and exciting every week (if not every day!).
Sometimes we may feel like we’re in a rut and if this going on long enough it can severely affect your mood, mental and emotional states. Add some exciting to your life—it does not need to be exuberant nor expensive—just challenge yourself to do something new (e.g. run a half marathon; try cooking a different recipe; go to the movies by yourself; treat your wife or husband to a special dinner).
Some medical conditions (e.g. thyroid conditions) can affect your mood and concentration. If changes in your ability to concentrate are significant, recent, or sudden, seek medical attention right away. To support your brain, essential fatty acids (i.e. EPA/DHA) may be beneficial. Herbs like bacopa and ginkgo can also help, but stay away from them if you are taking blood thinners or experience headaches.