We have all had those days where our to-do list is growing but we aren’t able to focus long enough to get through even one thing. Whether we’re stressed about something unrelated, generally anxious, excited or just feeling fidgety, this inability to focus can be frustrating and stressful in and of itself.
Sometimes, all you need to refocus is a short walk around the office, a five-minute “fun” break or a drink of water and a snack. But other times, these things just won’t do the trick. If you’ve tried just about everything to no avail, one solution that might work for you is meditation.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a simple method of concentration and relaxation that has been practiced for thousands of years. It originated in ancient India and is a focal practice of Buddhism.
Meditation can be done by anyone and might even be possible to do anywhere, if you’re practiced enough. All it requires is your body, your mind and a few minutes of quiet relaxation during which you focus your mind on a single thought or object to refocus and calm yourself.
Just because meditation is a simple method does not mean it is “easy,” though. Many people in today’s world actually find meditation challenging because of the high level of distraction we face. This same distracting atmosphere may be to blame for your lack of concentration to begin with, as well.
Fortunately, the more you practice meditation, the better you will become. You can easily incorporate meditation into your daily routine, whether that is through a few minutes after you wake up, a short session before bed or a brief interlude when you’re feeling stressed or unfocused at work.
How can meditation improve focus?
Meditation is designed to create feelings of calm, relaxation and focus by centering the mind and focusing on a single, simple element. When you take a break from the things that are stressing you out to refocus, you’re more likely to be able to restart on your to-do list with a clear head and fresh eyes.
By teaching you how to effectively redirect and center your attention, meditation gives you the ability to better focus on the task at hand. This can be instrumental in accomplishing a long to-do list when distractions are everywhere.
Meditation also actually helps train the brain to better respond to stressors. Stress responses can be debilitating, scattering the brain rather than focusing it. When you’re worried about the pile of work to finish, this can make matters worse. Taking time to meditate can help you calm down and get in the right state of mind to get things done.
Studies have shown that meditation can have an impressive effect on the brain—even changing it physically in places related to focus and attention. People who meditate regularly have an increased ability to focus for longer, avoid distractions more easily, reduce stress and even combat cognitive decline, anxiety and depression.
How to meditate for improved concentration
If you’re interested in meditating, it’s very easy to get started. There is no single “right” way to meditate. The most important part is that you’re focusing on a single thing to recenter your mind. It’s normal for the mind to wander, but as you’re meditating, you must practice control over redirecting your attention.
Some people like to meditate while centering on their breathing. By focusing on each breath in and out, you can avoid thinking about other things. Simply bring each new thought back to your breathing.
Other people like to meditate while repeating a mantra. This could be a word or short phrase of meaning to you, or one that will help motivate you. One popular choice is “ohm.”
No matter what you focus on, another major part of meditation is sitting calm and still. Avoid fidgeting or moving around. Find a comfortable position in a chair or on the floor and try to maintain complete control for the duration of your meditation.
Work very hard to avoid distractions, such as noises, phone notifications or email alerts. These things can be put on hold for even five minutes. Do what you need to, including wearing headphones and closing your eyes, to avoid being distracted by your surroundings.
The more you meditate, the better you will become at it. Start with short, five-minute sessions and try to work your way up over time. Fit meditation in when it works best for your schedule, then use it when you need to throughout the day.
In time, your brain will be better able to focus on your tasks, and you should feel calmer, happier and more centered because of it.