How To Naturally Increase Your Focus
With many of us being in the midst of the Holidays and everything that needs to be done, it can be difficult to focus on important tasks (ask me how I know!) While we can keep things simple and stay organized when we have multiple things to do, focus can be elusive.
For me, it can be a monumental thing to be able to start the task and especially, to finish the task. Because I have so much going on (even when the Holidays aren’t happening), and a family history of ADHD and focus issues, some days are very tough! (For example, I have a dental appointment in an hour). And when I initially sat down to start this article, I thought about the bathroom that I need to clean, the living room I need to straighten up, and whether or not I need to do any prep work for dinner tonight. Having so much to do can take my focus off of my task at hand. It has helped immensely to simplify my life and to delegate some tasks to others. There are other things that have helped me too!
First of all, I have much better focus if I get good sleep at night, listen to music, take breaks from my tasks, exercise and when I write things into my calendar (everything I write down gets done!)
Sleep – in this article, we wrote about the importance of getting enough sleep and how sleep deprivation can be detrimental to your health. When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain isn’t able to cycle through the sleep stages it needs to cycle through and the brain can’t dump toxins like it needs to do (the brain cleaning out happens at night, while you are sleeping). In this study, it is written:
“When one sleeps, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself, and removes toxic waste byproducts which have accumulated throughout the day. This evidence demonstrates that sleeping can clear the brain and help maintain its normal functioning. Multiple studies have been done to determine the effects of total sleep deprivation; more recently some have been conducted to show the effects of sleep restriction, which is a much more common occurrence, have the same effects as total sleep deprivation. Each phase of the sleep cycle restores and rejuvenates the brain for optimal function. When sleep is deprived, the active process of the glymphatic system does not have time to perform that function, so toxins can build up, and the effects will become apparent in cognitive abilities, behavior, and judgment.”
And in this study, as well.
According to this article:
“During an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging), the brain of an individual who sleeps normally will show normal metabolism and blood flow to multiple areas of the brain. An individual who is sleep deprived will show reduced metabolism and blood flow to multiple areas of the brain.
“These reductions in metabolism and blood flow have been linked to difficulty focusing, forgetfulness, lack of concentration, problem paying attention, short attention span, irritability, lack of impulse control, mood swings, depression, learning difficulties, and risky behavior.”
Music can help you with focus! Different people use different types of music to focus because it can help to provide motivation and improve mood. In my house, we’ve specifically started playing Vivaldi in the background to help with focus as my kids work on their homework. It has helped a TON! It helps me to get my work done also.
Music has some important effects on the brain. I can activate both the left and right sides of the brain for improved memory and increased learning. Music can also affect your brain waves to help you focus better and be more productive. Classical music is great for this.
Binaural beats are also a great alternative to music. In this article:
“Binaural beats can be used to mimic different brainwave states of the brain. When the brain hears a specific frequency, it seeks to fall into alignment with that frequency. It resonates with the binaural beat to match its output with what it hears.”
Taking breaks from tasks is a way you can clear your mind to focus better. Our brains have a finite ability to focus, and taking a break from our tasks helps us to refresh that focus. Diverting our attention on something else for a short period of time gives our brains a rest. When we come back to our task at hand, our brains are more rested and ready for focus. When taking the break, it’s important to do something different than what you’ve been working on (if you’re working on the computer, a Facebook break won’t be as effective). What I like to do is work on a task for 45 minutes (usually I’m writing on my computer); then I take a break and walk on my treadmill or around the block for 15 minutes for my break. Sometimes, I stretch. And taking a lunch break is effective also.
Exercise is also a GREAT way to help with focus. In addition to using it as a break from work, exercising regularly can help to strengthen our brain’s focus. When you exercise, your brain releases dopamine (plus endorphins and serotonin). Exercise helps to keep the body loose. Exercise also helps us to sleep better at night, and that can help us to get more sleep and higher-quality of sleep at night. And getting better sleep and more of it helps us to focus better the following day.
Last, using my calendar helps me immensely to remember to get things done. I use Google calendar on my phone and computer and it’s free. I also keep track of my lists in Evernote and Trello (I use the free version of both of these!) Some people like to write things down into a physical calendar, as well, and there are many different systems that are effective for that, such as bullet journals, Panda Journal, regular journals, and daily, weekly and/or monthly calendars. If you opt for keeping a physical planner, find a system you LOVE and one that you’ll be consistent with.
One strategy I use to help me get things done each day is to focus on 3 BIG things for the day. With the 3 BIG things strategy, I actually get things done (I used to write down long lists that were overwhelming and impossible to achieve and that was not helpful for me). This can help with focus because when there’s a lot to do, it can tax the brain and make it harder to get things done. A shorter list is easier to keep track and when you get it done, you feel SO good, which is great for future tasks.
In addition to the lifestyle changes, there are natural supplements that can help with focus.
Ginseng helps to boost focus and concentration. It can act as a stimulant but without the side effects. Find Ginseng here.
Green Tea can help you to maintain a “calm focus”. This is due to the theanine that green tea contains. Green tea also contains caffeine, which helps to prevent a chemical in the brain, called Adenosine, from forming. This speeds up neuron firing and can increase dopamine. Find green tea here. And you can find an even larger selection of green tea here.
If you already drink something that has caffeine in it, like coffee, and you want theanine only, you can it here.
Vitamin D is super-important in helping cognitive function, which includes helping the brain to get rid of beta-amyloid, an abnormal waste protein that is tied to Alzheimer’s. Vitamin D is also crucial for other processes that happen in the body. Many people are dangerously low in Vitamin D, especially during the winter when there’s less daylight out. You can buy vitamin D here.
Zinc can help to regulate dopamine. It also helps to reduce impulsivity and hyperactivity in those with ADHD. Studies show that people with ADHD tend to be deficient in zinc. You can purchase zinc here.
Ginkgo Biloba increases blood flow to the brain. This helps to give more oxygen to the brain so your focus is improved. Buy it here.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – the EPA and DHA in Omega 3 fatty acids are critical for normal brain function. Fatty acids may help to increase the brain’s production of dopamine, which can help with better focus. They can also help to combat depression and poor memory. Fish oil naturally contains omega 3 fatty acids. You can buy fish oil here. Krill oil also contains omega 3 fatty acids and you can buy it here.
Acetyl-L-carnitine is an amino acid that normally develops naturally in your body. It helps to improve attention and is also protective against free radical damage in the cerebral cortex. It can also be helpful as part of an anti-aging regimen. Purchase it here.
As you embark on increasing your focus, remember to try one or two things at a time, and wait to see how things go before adding more things or trying something new. Keep it simple.
As with all supplements we recommend, please check with your doctor or GP before you take any of them. Some of them could interfere with other supplements or medications you may be on.