What is concentration?
There’s no denying that we live in an extremely competitive age, where juggling multiple responsibilities is a given. And while trying to get more things done simultaneously, we often lose focus on the most important things. All our time goes into meeting work deadlines, finishing household chores, and keeping up with social, cultural and familial expectations. So, it is no wonder that it has become a challenge to develop concentration and mental focus.
Now, what is concentration? For the unversed, concentration is a state wherein our entire attention is focussed only on one single thing, while being oblivious to other things around us. When we develop concentration and focus, our mind tends to focus on an object or situation where simply a lone thought occupies our mind.
Read on to understand why you lose focus and what you can do to regain the same.
What causes lack of focus and concentration?
Being unable to develop concentration or focus on the tasks at hand can be a result of many medical, cognitive and mental health disorders. Alcohol and substance or drug abuse can also cause lack of concentration.
Medical conditions that affect developing concentration are:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Restless leg syndrome
- Cushing syndrome
- Sleep apnoea
- Heavy metal poisoning
Psychological conditions that interfere with our ability to develop concentration and focus are-
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD)
- Learning disabilities
You might be unable to develop concentration due to changes or alterations in daily routine or lifestyle, such as lack of sleep, changes in climate, lack of exercise or relaxation through techniques such as meditation, and hunger. Being unable to develop concentration can also be a result of side-effects of certain medications. You can talk with your doctor to rule out whether your medications are hampering your ability to concentrate. It advised not to stop your medications unless advised by your doctor.
What are the symptoms of lack of concentration?
Being unable to develop concentration plays out uniquely in different people. However, broadly, you may experience-
- Inability to remember things that happened just a short while ago
- A feeling of restlessness or having difficulty to sit still
- Inability to think through clearly
- Losing things more often or facing difficulty tracing the whereabouts of things
- Inability to do complex tasks
- Inability to focus
- Lack of mental or physical energy to develop concentration
- Frequently making silly and careless gaffes
Several physical symptoms pertaining to chronic illness or metabolic conditions can occur along with an inability to concentrate. These include-
- Frequent urination and feeling thirsty often
- Muscle weakness
- Nausea and abdominal pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing or breathing difficulties
- Fruity breath
Grave symptoms related to lack of concentration that may point to life threatening conditions
In some instances, inability to develop concentration may be a symptom of a mortal condition, requiring prompt medical evaluation. If you or someone you know exhibit the below symptoms, we advise you to seek immediate medical attention.
- Bouts of unconsciousness or frequent passing out episodes
- Sudden changes in behaviour, such as confusion, delusions or hallucinations
- Inability to speak clearly or slurred or garbled speech
- High fever
- Unusual drowsiness or irritability in a child
- Sudden vision changes or eye pain
- Throbbing headaches
How to diagnose the inability to develop concentration?
As we can see, a lack of concentration can be due to an underlying disease, infection or condition, requiring further evaluation. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may order various tests, discuss your symptoms, and ask you questions related to your health history.
Your doctor may also check your medications or any supplements or herbs that you might be taking, to ascertain if these might be interfering with your ability to develop concentration. Your healthcare provider may recommend blood testing to gauge the hormone levels, view brain abnormalities through CT scan, and ask you to undergo electroencephalography (EEG) to gauge the electrical activity of your brain.
Ascertaining the cause of your inability to focus and concentrate can take considerable time and multiple evaluation tools.
How to develop concentration?
Once your doctor rules out any medical causes for your lack of developing concentration, you can adopt many lifestyle changes to develop concentration and memory.
Below are some tips to develop concentration:
Eating a well-balanced diet
Consuming a nutritious, especially brain friendly diet, is a good idea to enable your brain to function optimally. The foods we eat on a day-to-day basis play a key role in maintaining and improving certain mental functions, such as concentration and memory. Foods like fatty fish, blueberries, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, nuts, eggs, oranges and even dark chocolate and coffee help in improving our mental acumen.
For instance, fatty fish are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Studies show that the brain and nerve cells are built using omega-3 sources of food such as fatty fish, and these fats help improve memory and learning. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are brain’s major building blocks, also prevent cognitive decline.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, magnesium, iron and copper. These micronutrients promote brain health by preventing many neurological diseases, brain fog and impaired functionality.
Eating at regular intervals
Research suggests that eating a healthy breakfast and nutritious snacks all through the day is believed to improve memory. So, choose to eat several small meals throughout the day.
Getting physically active
We all know that physical activity improves our physical endurance and strength. But, in 2013, the Boston University School of Medicine researchers concluded that physical activity enhances cognition and brain health, therein building upon ways to develop concentration. Moreover, a 2013 study by the researchers at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber found that endurance exercises result in the release of a certain molecule called irisin that improves cognitive function while being neuroprotective. One of the most effective practices to improve concentration is yoga. There are several inversion yoga poses that enhance the circulation to your brain. This leads to better oxygen supply resulting in improved concentration and memory.
Getting more sleep
Sleep is vital to maintain cognitive function and develop concentration and focus. Our brain reorganises itself during a restful sleep. A 2014 study revealed a connection between poor sleep and reduced volume of brain’s grey matter, which is responsible for functions like working memory and other functional aspects like focus and concentration. So, make conscious efforts to get enough sleep each night for improved focus and concentration.
Limiting caffeine intake
Though coffee is said to boost alertness and mental focus, on the hindsight, the less caffeine you consume, the more chances it has, to work better. The more you consume caffeine, the more your body gets used to it. This means that the same dose of caffeine over a period won’t get you the same effect. In fact, you will need a higher dose of caffeine to keep going through the day. So, to get an optimal caffeine effect, you should not consume more than 300mg of it every day. In other words, drink caffeinated coffee or other beverage just once a day.
Getting creative and curious
A Michigan State 2013 study suggested that people who participated as children in activities like crafts and arts were more likely to own businesses or file patents as adults. So, it’s not too late to be curious about things around you. It might just open up a creative vocation for you besides making you focus on things with greater attention.
Moreover, staying open to new experiences, flexes your brain like any other muscle in your body. This helps your brain to stay active while keeping age related cognitive decline at bay. So, get out of your comfort zone and do things that are mentally challenging and unfamiliar to you.
Reduce chronic stress
Chronic stress can play havoc not only on your physical health, but also affect your mood, memory, focus, and the ability to develop concentration. A 2014 animal study found that high amounts of the stress hormone cortisol was associated with short-term loss of memory, resulting in cognitive decline.
Make the effort to reduce stress by indulging in activities that bring you joy. Listening to music, reading a book, journaling or talking to a close friend can prove to be your stress buster. Yoga and meditation are also powerful tools to reduce stress.
Harnessing the power of yoga and meditation for developing concentration
Yoga is an ancient Indian practise that helps to calm your senses and still your agitated mind. A calm mind is then better equipped to develop powers of concentration. In simple words, yoga coupled with meditation keeps distractions and wavering thoughts at bay. This in turn enables you to attain a calm and peaceful state of mind. Hence, practising yoga is the best way to declutter your mind and attain better focus and concentration. In fact, as per a study published in the International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, regular practise of yoga led to higher levels of concentration while exhibiting enhanced memory in the short term.
Best yoga asana exercises to improve focus and concentration
Empower yourself with these yoga poses for harnessing the power of concentration:
- Vrikshasana (Tree Pose)
- Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
- Natarajasana (Dance pose)
- Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
- Garuda asana (Eagle pose)
- Passchimotasana (Seated forward bend)
- Bakasana (Crane pose)
Yoga practise becomes more effective if mindfulness is inculcated into the yoga routine. Practicing meditation becomes even more significant if you want to develop concentration and focus. Develop mind concentration through mindfulness meditation. In fact, Columbia University Medical Center researchers claimed that meditation has the ability to alter the structure and functionality of the brain, leading to better concentration and enhanced focus.
This mental training practise helps to shun negativity and slow down racing thoughts while calming down your body and mind. There are many techniques through which mindfulness meditation can be practised. However, awareness of the mind and body and deep breathing form the crux of all meditation techniques.
Below are some types of meditation that you can practise to develop concentration.
- Mindfulness meditation
- Mantra meditation
- Transcendental meditation
- Body-scan meditation
- Focussed meditation
- Spiritual meditation
- Progressive relaxation
- Visualisation meditation
One of the easiest ways to start meditating is to sit quietly and focus on your breath for about 20 minutes. It might appear difficult in the beginning as you will be distracted by the noises around you and your own thoughts. Develop powers of concentration by being consistent as you slowly build upon your meditation practise by gradually increasing the time you spend on it.
It is possible to achieve both focus and concentration when you have a healthy mind as well as healthy body. Any imbalance at the physical, psychological and cognitive levels can lead to a loss of these mental acuities. Medical, behavioural and lifestyle modifications can go a long way to enhance mental alertness and develop concentration abilities. By including healthy natural practices such as yoga, meditation, and balanced nutrition in your daily routine, you can accomplish better concentration and a productive life easily.