6 Simple Ways To Boost Your Mental Focus And Attention 

Image via Unsplash/Quin Stevenson

I’ll keep the intro short; our attention spans are reportedly now shorter than that found in a goldfish. In our frenzied world of technology, we’re drowning in devices, and our minds have become a game of musical chairs.

Thankfully, our brains can be trained and untrained. Just as Twitter has shrunken us into soundbites of less than 144 characters, you can stretch your mind into running a marathon. Here are six simple ways to boost your mental focus and attention.

1. Work-rest ratio.

Rest periods are integral to physical training, and they’re just as important for any mental work. You may know the Pomodoro technique, a simple strategy of working for 25 minutes and then resting. Other studies have suggested the optimal time is working for 52 minutes, and then taking a break for 17 minutes.

Both have been shown to improve focus and productivity. Everyone has their own rhythm. Experiment and find your best ratio.

Knowing that you have a window of time, and an end in sight, provides a psychological comfort and allows you to focus until the time is up.

2. Deep breathing techniques.

Paying attention to your breathing — mindfully and intentionally — comes with enormous benefits. Therapists teach breathing techniques to help sufferers of anxiety, and it is highly effective in restoring focus.

A simple technique is to take in a long breath through your nose, hold your breath until your stomach tightens (about five seconds) and then exhale. This technique, along with five others, are listed in Time Magazine.

3. Drink more water.

Even being slightly dehydrated affects your attention. A study in “The Journal of Nutrition” noted that, “When the brain detects even the smallest changes in physiology, it may begin operating at a suboptimal level to get your attention.” When people were less than 2 percent dehydrated, their ability to concentrate on cognitive tests was impaired.

The 8×8 rule (eight 8-ounce glasses) is a popular standard for the amount of water you should drink each day. It’s not only healthy overall, but is particularly beneficial for the brain and focusing.

4. Declutter your workspace.

Mess causes stress; a cluttered desk means a cluttered head. Psychologist Sherrie Bourg explains that clutter distracts and cripples our minds with excessive stimuli. Adopt the mantra, “everything has a home,” and create a designated space for your most frequently used items.

Take a few minutes now for a quick tidy-up, and give your mind some breathing room.

5. Blueberries, green tea, dark chocolate.

On almost every list of essential brain foods, you’ll find these three items. Blueberries contain a cocktail of antioxidants, and are known to boost concentration for up to five hours. Green tea contains l-theanine which stimulates brain activity and releases caffeine at a steady rate. Dark chocolate, with at least 60% cocoa, contains magnesium, which reduces stress, and stimulates the release of the feel-good chemicals endorphin and serotonin.

The next time you need a mental boost, grab some berries, make yourself some tea, and break off a piece of chocolate.

6. Headstands and inversions.

These ancient postures promote mental clarity and focus. Contrary to reports, headstands do not send more blood to the brain. Rather, the blood pressure in the neck is increased by about 20 perecnt, which opens up the blood vessels and improves the pattern of blood flow in the brain, according to studies by Dr. F. Chandra’s.

If you’ve never done a headstand, it is advisable not to attempt one alone — have a friend spot you. There are many variations, and it’s best to first practice against the wall. Here’s a great how-to video to get you started.

If there are any effective techniques you’re using, please share and comment below!