Are you having a tough time focusing these days? We’ve got some Holistic Options From 3 Experts for boosting your concentration:
Jennifer Louden, Life CoachoStart by ‘flossing your mind’ to clear space. Journal for fifteen minutes, keeping your hand moving, no editing, no grammar worries, simply brain dumping everything and anything that occurs to you; including worries, obsessive thought loops, and wish-I-could ideas. Ah! Now feed your brain with alternative nostril breathing for concentration. Close off your left nostril with your thumb, and breath in through your right. Now close off your right nostril and exhale through your left. Inhale left, close off that left nostril again, and exhale right. Repeat three more times on each side.
Next, light a candle and focus on the flame while breathing regularly. Keep your attention on the color, the flicker, the changing nature of the flame. Finally, set an intention for your day, a still point of purpose that names what you want to create today. This provides a focus and direction to your actions and attention. My weekly intentions have included “no forcing, no holding back,” “patient parenting,” and questions like “What would help me create in this moment?”
Life Coach and women’s lifestyle expert Jennifer Louden is the author of The Woman’s Retreat Book: A Guide to Restoring, Rediscovering & Reawakening (HarperCollins, 2005) and Comfort Secrets for Busy Women (Sourcebooks Inc., 2003). Jennifer Louden
Sharon Salzberg, Meditation Teacher
Many people don’t recognize that concentration is a trainable skill “it isn’t an attribute that we either have or don’t have, though we can, of course, have a greater or lesser degree of natural focus. For all of us, concentration is a quality we can enhance through meditation practice.
A common object of focus in meditation is the feeling of the natural in and out breath wherever it is most predominant; at the nostrils, or with the rising and falling movement of the chest or the abdomen.
One aspect of concentration development is cultivating a balanced relationship to the object of our attention. We take an interest in just this one breath, right now . . . what has already gone by doesn’t matter, and we don’t have to get ready for even the very next breath. We rest our attention gently (Buddhist texts say ‘like a butterfly resting on a flower’). We also work with what is the essential skill of all meditation practice: being able to begin again. We rest our attention on the breath, and commonly discover that after just a few moments our attention has wandered; to the past, to the future, to judgment, to speculation. Whenever we notice that, rather than judge ourselves, berate ourselves, or get angry at ourselves, we simply let go of the distraction and begin again. If we have to do that thousands of times in one session, it doesn’t matter, this is the actual training. If we practice this, we will see a big change in the quality of our concentration.
Spiritual teacher Sharon Salzberg is co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. She is the creator/author of the interactive meditation kit Unplug (Sounds True, 2008), numerous books, and audio learning courses including Lovingkindness Meditation, (Sounds True, 2005). Sharon Salzberg
Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD
A healthy diet to maximize concentration and focus is about not only the “what” but also the “when.” So, eat breakfast. Starting the day off with a healthy breakfast with fruits and/or vegetables, lean protein, and perhaps a healthy whole grain, picks up the metabolism and provides much needed, long-lasting blood sugar, the only nutrient that actually crosses the blood/brain barrier to actively fuel the brain. Eating breakfast has been associated with better concentration, attention, and cognitive development in children and adults.
Stay hydrated. Think of water and also your teas, fruits, vegetables, soups, salads, and all the abundant water sources that keep you hydrated and well-nourished. Even as little as 1 to 2 percent dehydration has been associated with poorer athletic and mental performance.
Eat every few hours, but don’t graze all day. Enjoy three moderate meals and two snacks during the day to provide your body with a steady supply of blood sugar energy. This is achieved by having a mixed and balanced combination of whole grain carbs, lean proteins, healthy fats like omega-3s (important for brain health), and fruits/vegetables at each meal for sustained energy to fuel sustained focus.
Stop eating about three hours before bed. You don’t want to be actively digesting when resting. A well-slept body can keep you more focused, so the timing of when you stop eating can be as important as starting with your breakfast.
Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD is a nutrition specialist at the Golden Door resort and spa, co-owner of Bazilian’s Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine, Nutrition & Activity in San Diego and author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet: Lose Weight with the Power of SuperNutrients (Rodale, 2008).