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Monday, April 17, 2017

8 Ways to Improve Focus Naturally


In our current culture, it’s almost as if we are training ourselves toward distraction. More and more people are beginning to struggle with the inability to focus on a task without getting off track or succumbing to the constant stream of stimuli we encounter every day. 

You may sit down to accomplish whatever is on your “to do” list that day, but find yourself interrupted and drawn away from the task at hand by texts, emails, phone calls, the latest news, or even an annoying advertisement.

Maybe you just can’t seem to concentrate on whatever you’re working on: school, work, writing, research...because your mind just wanders on it’s own.

It may be that without realizing it, you are practicing things that decrease your focus. Try some of these natural remedies to help improve focus and concentration.

1. Feed Your Brain

“You are what you eat” is not just an outdated saying. There is usually some truth to these things. If you’re filling your body with highly processed, artificial food, and food high in refined sugar, your brain doesn’t get the good stuff. When it comes down to it, with every bite you can either nourish your brain or contribute to its depletion.

Eating lots of fruits and vegetables and other “whole” foods feed your body (and your brain) with nutrients that improve your function overall, and when your brain is happy, your focus will improve. 

Some especially brain healthy foods are eggs, berries, kale, salmon, nuts, avocado, and olive oil. These “brain foods” are proven to contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that help your brain thrive.

2. Have Some Green Tea

It’s no secret that caffeine is used by anyone and everyone to help improve productivity and just to “wake up” after you get out of bed. But while coffee is usually the caffeinated drink of choice, it has high levels of caffeine and can also contribute to some negative effects such as anxiety and insomnia.

A moderate amount of caffeine is more ideal way to boost your concentration. Green tea contains less caffeine than coffee, but still has enough to increase your alertness, focus, and productivity.

Green tea also contains an amino acid called L-theanine. When working with caffeine, L-theanine can improve brain function. So boost your focus by drinking tea!

3. Stay Hydrated

The human brain is 75% water. Your body and mind will function on a higher level if you drink plenty of water and keep yourself hydrated. Besides improving your digestion, giving you softer skin, and strengthening your immune system, staying hydrated boosts your mental alertness and helps you concentrate.

Begin your day with a good amount of water, then fill your water bottle and keep drinking throughout the day. Also be sure to drink plenty of water before and after exercise, to replenish lost fluids.

Aren’t crazy about plain water? Try infusing fresh fruit with your water (remember berries are brain super food!) or making fruit or herb infused ice cubes to kick up your water up a notch.

And here are a few recipes to try:  Strawberry Mint Water, Blueberry Orange Water, and Raspberry Lime Infused Water.

4. Take Herbal Supplements

There are many naturally found supplements that increase brain function and help you focus. Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Ginkgo Biloba, and Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) are just a few. 

Take for example, Ginkgo Biloba. A leaf of the ginkgo tree, Ginkgo Biloba is thought to thin the blood and therefore improve oxygen flow to the brain. An increase in circulation to the brain can help to improve focus, brain reaction performance, and memory recall.

There are a number of herbal teas available to help you get these herbs into your system and immediately begin to increase your attention and concentration level.

5. Take your Vitamins!

Adding a regimen of vitamins to your daily routine can also help to hone your concentration. A combination of B6, folate, and magnesium hits the sweet spot to spur the brain on to healthy energy. 

Vitamin B6 increases serotonin levels (a “feel good” chemical) in your brain. Folate helps to maintain oxygen in your blood and prevent against tiredness, for where there is tiredness, there is decreased ability to focus. Magnesium is used in over 300 processes in your body. The vast majority of people are deficient when it comes to magnesium, so increasing this mineral is key.

Add in an omega-3 vitamin, and you should see a decrease in small aches such as sore muscles. When you are not distracted by annoying muscle pains, you feel and can focus better.

6. Exercise

Eating the right foods, staying hydrated, and taking your vitamins and supplements are great, but adding to these regular exercise can more effectively improve your focus. 

When you do aerobic exercise, chemicals in the brain are released that increase blood flow to the brain, and also affect the health of brain cells and growth of new blood vessels within the brain.

A run, jog, or even a simple brisk walk during a break from school or work can help improve your concentration as well as boost your energy level and increase your overall productivity. 

Aerobic exercise, while beneficial, is not the only way to increase your focus through exercise. Yoga, itself a practice in concentration, is very beneficial to brain function. Some poses that are especially helpful for concentration are the cobra, the plow, the camel, and the tree pose.

7. Get Enough Rest

While it may seem hard to prioritize getting to bed early, when you realize the effect it can have on your ability to focus and be productive, you may be more motivated.

“Scientists measuring sleepiness have found that sleep deprivation leads to lower alertness and concentration. It’s more difficult to focus and pay attention, so you’re more easily confused.” (WebMd).

When you are asleep your brain has a chance to “clear” itself. It is almost as if you are taking out the trash in your mind. If you deprive your brain of this chance, your alertness, memory, and focus suffers while you are awake.

8. Improve your Surroundings

Research has shown that clutter can decrease your ability to focus and concentrate. Having an organized environment can improve your attitude and increase your productivity. 

Clutter isn’t only on your desk. The noise in your environment can affect your focus. If you cannot get to a quiet space, try listening to music and/or using noise canceling headphones.

Multitasking is not always a good thing. You can improve your concentration by setting your focus on only one thing for a certain amount of time. Setting aside an allotted time and place to devote to the task at hand, even in short bursts, can increase your productivity and ability to accomplish things in less time.

The Bottom Line

While all the above practices will help you increase your focus, combining some or doing all of these things together will be the best route to take if you want to refine your concentration and increase productivity.

Begin your day after a good night of sleep with green tea, have a healthy breakfast, fill your water bottle, and begin your work in an environment free from distractions and clutter. Take a break and exercise or do yoga, continue to hydrate, and get in those supplements with some herbal tea.

Make these things a part of your everyday routine, and you will see an improvement in your ability to focus. Naturally!

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