An artiste, a working professional, a student or a sportsman, irrespective of your field of expertise, your performance and ability to learn new things will ultimately depend on your ability to focus.
There comes a time when focusing turns into a task. The ability to focus becomes difficult; it may last for a few days, weeks, or even months. The endless demands of our time and stresses tell on our concentration power. This takes a toll on overall performance and, in turn, affects our sense of well-being.
Many people struggle with focusing, and there are different reasons for it. It could be tiredness, apathy, disinterest, anxiety, stress among others. The lack of focus predominantly originates from a scattered and restless mind. So, how should you train your mind to improve focus?
Research suggests that people use a range of “smart drugs,” prescribed and illicit, to boost their work or academic performance. However, the focus is an in-built natural function. It is possible to enhance it naturally simply by relaxing the mind. While you may have personal choices to relax your mind, it may or may not necessarily sustain focus. To sustain focus, it is imperative to relax the mind through meditation. This simple practice has many benefits, and its by-products include improved concentration, focus, enhanced memory, and clarity.
Why meditation to improve focus?
Several studies have shown that regular practice of meditation can help increase and sustain attention span. It helps to relax the mind enabling you to stay in the present. A study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that those participants who practice meditation were better at completing tasks when faced with distraction. We often hear that meditation requires concentration. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar counters, “Meditation is de-concentration. Alertness and focus of mind are the result of regular meditation practice.”
Now, along with meditation, it helps to incorporate some practices that will help boost your concentration powers.
Tips to improve focus
If you practice these simple techniques, your meditation will become deeper.
A. Observing the breath:
Breath is the main source of prana, the vital life-force energy. By simply becoming aware of your breath, one can experience a state of calm and mind can relax. A simple tip would be to first, choose a quiet spot for yourself. The second step is to keep gentle attention on the natural rhythm of your breath for a couple of minutes. The third step is to meditate. You can play this guided meditation to experience the state of stillness and calm mind.
The main aspect of pranayamas is inhalation, retention, and exhalation. To boost your short and long-term energy levels, pranayamas are the way to go. Practice nadi shodhan pranayama (alternate nostril breathing) for a few minutes before you begin to meditate. It helps to keep the mind happy, centered, and peaceful.
C. Sudarshan Kriya
Sudarshan Kriya incorporates specific natural rhythms of the breath, which harmonizes the body, mind, and emotions. This powerful yet, simple breathing technique helps eliminate stress, leaving the mind calm, and focused. Research has backed that Sudarshan Kriya practitioners have better immunity, increased stamina, and sustained high-energy levels.
D. Concentration Pranayama:
This two-and-a-half-minute technique can help retain and improve concentration for three hours. Taught at The Art of Living’s specially designed programs for kids and teens, the concentration pranayama is highly effective in reducing distractions and improving concentration.
Other tips to improve focus
1. Physical activity/yoga
Physical activity is essential as it helps the mind to be peaceful. Practise Sun Salutations (Surya Namaskars) or any set of yoga asanas at a slow pace. Remember to pay attention to every movement and stretch, while coordinating them with your breath. It is said that just 20 minutes of yoga stimulates the brain functions, associated with the ability to focus and retain. So yoga is one of the natural ways to improve focus.
2. Eat healthy
It is said, "You are what you eat." The food you eat affects not just the body, but also the mind, thoughts, intellect, and awareness. A brain-healthy diet is essential to keep your memory and intellect sharp, and your mood buoyant. It is better to keep a check on your junk food quotient. Many experts recommend abstaining from non-vegetarian food as well.
3. Be in the now
This is a key practice in improving focus. To have focus is to be in the now, the present moment. The moment you become aware that the mind has strayed, bring it back to the present, using your breath as a tool. Make this a kind of mindfulness a way of life.
Challenges you face when you try to improve focus
To make the mind restful and focused, have you ever taken time out and observed the schedule of your day?
- What do you read?
- How much time do you spend in front of the TV or laptop?
- What kind of company do you keep?
Reading fiction, magazines, advertisements, or news that agitates the mind, only makes the mind more restless. The TV and the Internet clutter the mind, filling it with irrelevant banter. Instead,
- incorporate a bit of light spiritual reading in your day, or
- explore inspirational, thought-provoking ideas and philosophies or
- take a nature walk.
This helps to settle the mind and improve focus.
Focus can have far-reaching rewards in many areas of daily life. It is worthwhile to invest some time and effort in sharpening it. So, when was the last time you proactively tried to improve your focus? Take the step to work towards the difference you want to see in yourself today.
The Art of Living’s Happiness program can help stimulate your inner energy and channelize it in a dedicated and productive way. This program blends natural practices like yoga asanas and meditation with breathing exercises like the Sudarshan Kriya. It will help improve your focus taking your wandering mind to a meaningful and desirable destination!
Find a Happiness Program near you!