How to Improve Focus and Concentration

How to Improve Focus and Concentration | Ethos

How to Improve Focus and Concentration

Focus Dictionary Definition

Everyday life can be a bit chaotic, and our personal lives feel as if they are constantly being assaulted by external distractions. On top of daily life distractions depleting our already limited attention spans, the body and mind tend to decline a bit as we age. By improving our brain health, we can, in turn, improve our concentration and focus.

The truth is, achieving better focus and a healthier brain, in general, requires a long-term commitment.

If you're wondering how to improve cognitive function so you can remain sharp, please continue reading for tips and suggestions on keeping your brain healthy and active. 

Why is Brain Health Important? 

There isn't one universal definition of brain health, but we can agree on a few standard features of what it means to have a healthy brain. Brain health can be defined as preserving a suitable level of cognitive and mental function. This includes the absence of any obvious neurological disorders or brain injuries. 

Brain health is vital because the brain is our primary center of the nervous system. It dictates our thoughts, emotions, memory, movement, and overall well-being

Our goal is to maintain an optimally functioning brain for longevity and health in the long run. So, how can you do that? A lot of research points to your diet and lifestyle habits. 

How to Keep Your Brain Healthy

A combination of physical exercise, brain training activities, diet changes, and good emotional health is the best way to keep your brain healthy and active. Remember that cognitive changes do occur as you get older, but there are actions that you can take to minimize memory decline and a decreased mental capacity. Here are our top suggestions for keeping your cognitive performance at a high level throughout life.

Regular Physical Exercise 

Regular Exercise has so many excellent benefits for both the body and the brain. Various research studies indicate that physically active people have a lower risk of experiencing a noticeable mental decline or developing dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

These benefits of exercise are attributed to the increased blood flow to the brain that occurs during exercise. Aerobic exercise that increases your heart rate is perfect for preserving brain health. Your goal should be to perform some form of physical activity at least three times a week, for about 30-60 minutes. Besides improving physical health, aerobic exercise serves as a great mental break.

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Adequate Sleep

Your brain's health depends on getting the recommended amount of sleep. Some studies conclude that sleep assists with clearing abnormal proteins in your brain. Consecutive sleep is pertinent because it allows your brain time to store your memories more effectively through consolidation. 

Circadian Rythm

You should aim to get seven to eight consecutive hours of sleep. Deep sleep is when your brain has the most time to rest, and it benefits more from extended rest periods than from fragmented cycles. 

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Brain Training Games 

The old adage, "use it or lose it" is applicable here. Your brain is like a muscle, if you want it to remain strong, you have to challenge and train it. Brain games create the perfect gym to exercise your brain in various ways.

This tip doesn't require much, and can even be therapeutic for some. Simple brain training games like crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, playing cards, Sudoku, solving riddles, etc., help to keep your brain focused and sharp. 

Even reading a few pages of a book every day can greatly benefit your brain's overall health and mental sharpness. However, be wary of too much television time, as it is more of a passive activity that doesn't help with brain stimulation and memory training. 

Stress Management

Maintaining a positive outlook on life, or developing adequate coping skills can go a long way with improving your brain health. Stress is harsh on the brain, causing chemical imbalances and mental disorders when the levels are too high. 

Mindfulness training is one of the best ways to alleviate mental and physical stress, as well as, lowering your blood pressure, improving your sleep, and reducing depression. Similar to our other recommendations, you need to practice mindfulness for a few minutes every day to truly reap the rewards.

Mental breaks are an excellent way to manage stress. They act as a "detox" for your brain and body by allowing you to recharge for another period of concentration.  Taking a 15-minute break every 45 minutes to an hour will work wonders for your concentration.

Social involvement is one of the ways that helps to keep stress and depression at bay. Both of those factors contribute to memory loss and a lack of concentration. 

Brain Health Foods 

Blueberries

You could incorporate several foods into your diet that would help with improved focus and concentration, as well as decreasing memory loss. Foods and drinks that contain antioxidants help to protect your brain and stave off damage. Fatty acids and other nutrients that we'll mention on this list are great for supporting brain development and supporting your memory. 

Certain foods also help boost your mood and alertness. Some studies suggest completely conforming to a Mediterranean diet, instead of solely incorporating these foods into a pre-existing diet. The Mediterranean diet has received positive support concerning helping to deter mental decline.

Here are a few foods to incorporate into your diet:

 

  • Fatty fish: this food has a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, which help to improve mood, sharpen memory, and protect against mental decline. 
  • Blueberry: Antioxidants serve to combat inflammation and oxidative stress, which are conditions that may cause neurodegenerative diseases and brain aging. Blueberries may also help with improved brain cell communication. 
  • Turmeric: Turmeric has an active compound called curcumin, thigh has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Research also indicates that it reduces symptoms of depression. 
  • Coffee: Increases alertness by blocking adenosine, which is a chemical that makes you feel sleepy. Coffee also increases serotonin, which boosts your mood, and sharpens your concentration.
  • Pumpkin seeds: Pumpkin seeds contain critical micronutrients that optimize brain function. The substances include copper (crucial for nerve signaling), iron (low iron contributes to brain fog), magnesium (important for learning and memory), and zinc (helps control nerve signaling).
  • Nuts: Nuts contain a lot of nutrients that help to protect the brain and reduce free radical damage (vitamin E). Nuts also have healthy fats that boost brain development as well.
  • Eggs: Eggs contain various types of B vitamins, as well as choline. These nutrients assist with brain functioning and mood regulation.  
  • Green tea: Green tea supports your brain with caffeine that increases your alertness, antioxidants that protect it from damage, and L-theanine, which helps you to relax.
  • Oranges: Oranges contain a high amount of vitamin C, which can help defend the brain against free radical damage.

Brain Health Supplements 

The reviews are mixed on this one. Scientists and other experts have repeatedly echoed that there is not enough firm research to indicate that isolated vitamins and minerals have any real impact on memory or better brain performance. They instead argue that the combination of vitamins and minerals in certain foods is what does the trick. 

 

While there are limited research studies that lack strong evidence, supplements such as Fish Oil capsules, L-Theanine, Caffeine, and Vitamin B6, have been touted as just what the doctor ordered. A cup of coffee or green tea are good short term solutions to give you brain a small energy boost.  For an extra boost, add some coconut oil to your coffee.  If you're running low on glucose, your body utilizes ketones as a back-up source of energy. Coconut oil breaks down into ketones and provides fuel for your brain. Always be cognizant of the time of day. Consuming caffeine too late will negatively impact your sleep.

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How to Improve Your Memory 

Take a look at these easy ways to improve your memory and retain your focus throughout your life. 

1. Always keep learning

Better mental functioning is associated with education. When you continually stay mentally active, you encourage a strong memory, conserve your brain cells, and stimulate cell communication.

By continuously learning, you will further develop your concentration skills and concentration muscles.

You can learn anything at any time; remember that preserving and maintaining brain connections is an ongoing process. 

2. Engage all of your senses

Think of it like this: when you use all of your senses while learning, your brain is forced to be more involved in retaining memories. Engaging all of your senses in a task creates a more focused mind.

3. Dedicate brain use to things of importance

Use the resources that are at your disposal. This means using your brain energy for things that matter; new information that you'd like to retain.

Take full advantage of things like planners and maps, calendars, file folders, shopping lists, to-do list with an anchor task etc. When you declutter your mind, you make room for a sense of clarity and less distraction and fogginess on minute details. 

4. Environment

A key to dedicating your energy to things of importance involves identifying and eliminating constant distractions.  Create a distraction list The number one enemy of concentration is your mobile phone. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb to avoid any distracting phone calls, texts, or cell phone notifications.

Another enemy of concentration is your external work environment.  Take some time to figure out which environment you work best in, whether it is a bustling coffee shop or a quiet secluded area in a library. If you can't control your external environment and noise is an issue, try using classical music as background music or white noise to eliminate background noise.

5. Repeat, repeat, repeat

If you really want to remember something that you read, heard, or thought about, continue to repeat it to yourself out loud, and write it down if you have to. These actions are reinforcing memories and connections. The "Forgetting Curve" is real.  There is a direct correlation to the amount you forget and the time between review periods.

Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve

6. Mnemonics 

A creative way to remember information is to utilize a mnemonic device. Sentences or acronyms are a great cognitive resources to help you jog your memory when you're trying to remember something. 

Take the first-aid advice for when someone injures a limb: RICE — this stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate. Doing this can help to exercise your memory and help you recall more information to mind. 

What is the Best Way to Improve Brain Function? 

Keep in mind that your brain must be properly cared for in order to increase its performance and extend its longevity. The necessary changes that you have to make are a lifetime commitment that your brain and body will thank you for later.

Changing the foods you eat to those that will help boost healthy brain development, increasing exercise, and reducing stress will assist with maintaining optimal brain performance as you age. This combination of actions is the best way to improve brain function. 

Final Thoughts 

The brain is arguably the most important organ that we have in our bodies. It controls so much of what makes us human, and it's painfully obvious when any symptoms of mental decline or cognitive functioning start to occur. 

Before it reaches lower levels that affect your daily living, take these steps to keep your brain fresh, active, and healthy. Protecting your brain by any means necessary is the best way to ensure that you enjoy relatively the same quality of life and happiness as you continue to advance in age.


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