Whether you suffer from something like attention deficit disorder or you’re up to your ears in work and are having trouble staying alert, not being able to focus can be frustrating. Upcoming deadlines and brain fog can introduce new stress and make focusing even harder when you need to get things done, and there aren’t always easy answers for how to improve your concentration—and fast.
But did you know that there are a lot of simple, natural ways to refine your focus and make it easier to maintain your attention span? In your quest to cross things off your to-do list, you may overlook these five key methods.
1: Drink more water
We’ve all been there at one point: We stare at our to-do list, bounce between projects, struggle to get even one thing done, and, at the end of the day, we realize we’ve barely touched the water bottle sitting on our desk.
Water is a fundamental part of improving concentration that often gets taken for granted. In a world where coffee and energy drinks are our go-to “pick-me-up” beverages, water can fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, allowing this to happen paves the way for brain fog and reduced concentration.
Water is a fundamental building block for new cells and keeps existing cells performing optimally. Without water, cells begin to break down and malfunction. When this happens in the brain, your ability to concentrate, remember things and store information are all hampered.
To help yourself drink more water throughout the day, keep your water bottle in plain sight as a visual reminder, or set timers on your phone or watch to be reminded to drink. Make a goal to drink a certain amount of water each day and sip it over time so you are constantly providing your brain with fresh water.
2: Avoid multitasking
One of the biggest obstacles to concentration is something that people actually think improves concentration! Multitasking, the “art” of trying to complete multiple tasks at one time, can make you less productive—not more.
The brain isn’t capable of handling more than one active task at a time, so when you multitask, your brain is really just switching between tasks very quickly. While this might make you feel productive, it can actually cause mental burnout, anxiety, short-term memory and more—all of which reduces your ability to concentrate!
Instead of multitasking, try staying focused on one task for a short period of time (30 minutes to an hour is ideal), then take a break, reevaluate your priorities if you need to and dive back into work.
3: Fuel your body and brain
Eating a nutritious breakfast followed by a few healthy snacks and a delicious lunch are not only good for fueling your body. These meals are also key to maintaining your concentration!
Have you ever tried to focus while your stomach is rumbling out of hunger? Not only is it difficult to stay on task because of hunger pains, but your brain needs nutrients to help it work properly, too.
Aim to eat a brain-healthy diet filled with lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs will keep your blood sugar stable throughout the day, while proteins aid in the creation of neurotransmitters that help with brain function.
Make sure your diet isn’t filled with unhealthy foods like simple sugars. Refined carbs like white bread or sugary snacks will cause your blood sugar to spike and fall rapidly, making you moody, exhausted and more prone to brain fog.
4: Supplement smartly
In addition to healthy foods, you may want to add a few brain-boosting supplements to your daily regimen—particularly if you have food sensitivities or lifestyle diet restrictions.
B vitamins are some of the best for concentration and cognitive function. Multiple types of B vitamins play active roles in the brain, improving energy, alertness and memory. Supplementing vitamins B6 and B12 are of particular importance, especially if you are vegan or vegetarian.
Additionally, ginkgo and ginseng are two herbs that are popular in concentration supplements because of their effects on the brain. Ginkgo is believed to improve circulation to the brain, increasing oxygen and nutrient delivery. Ginseng has been used as a memory and cognitive aid for centuries and is an adaptogen that’s also great for stress relief and balance.
Sometimes, all that stands between you and a productive workday is a brief break to refocus your attention. The practice of meditation may help you relieve some mounting stress and bring your attention back to where it is needed most so you can get back to concentrating.
Research has shown that meditation has a profound effect on stress relief and focus, particularly when people make it a part of their everyday life. There are a lot of ways to meditate, but what is important is that you take a few minutes each day to unplug and focus on your breathing or a particular mantra to clear your head.
By implementing these natural tips into your work or school day, you should be able to see improved focus and mental clarity while reducing stress and feeling much more productive!