We live in a world deprived of sleep, hurried through meals, and often driven to exhaustion and beyond by our daily work. Aren’t there any natural remedies for focus and concentration that will help us to deal with this world?
Let me ask you this: Is it any wonder that afternoon traffic is a nightmare as exhausted workers try to thread their way through traffic snarls, avoid running into the back of school buses or over the exiting children?
At the same time, those same adults are trying not to get rear-ended by some other exhausted driver.
Our modern world of super efficiency, intense concentration, and precisely calibrated schedules and dopamine driven social media feeds is enough to drive the sanest savage into a frenzy.
Since modern humans aren’t all that far removed from their prehistoric ancestors, it is no wonder that every now and then someone glitches and the whole system comes crashing down – sometimes far too literally. It’s not just people who suffer from ADD or internet addiction who need help to stay focused.
It is too easy to forget that we are not build to live in this world. We are living beings with needs, wants, and emotions that were developed for thousands of years to survive in a world that does not exist anymore.
Our lives can be more joyous, more relaxed and much happier if we take time to use natural solutions to renew our focus without taking supplements.
Time to smell the roses and take a deep breath.
Nature did not intend humans to hustle frantically all day every day in all seasons and weather.
To do so turns on that good old fight or flight level of stress, only there isn’t anything to fight or run from.
Here are seven important remedies that can help you keep your focus and concentration.
Natural Remedy #1: Use Sleep to Improve Brain Function
“Sleep, that knits up the raveled sleeve of care.” William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Sleep deprivation is considered to be torture. Yet modern adults are likely to be chronically sleep deprived, especially parents of young children.
They are not, however, the only ones. Entrepreneurs, teachers, lawyers, doctors and other professionals, like modern-day Macbeths “murder sleep” and call it other things like “pushing the limits,” or “being professional.”
It is pushing the limits. That’s what medical colleges to do interns, or so we’ve been led to believe. But… is it professional?
Pam Selle, a self-described professional nerd, and amateur comedian expressed it very well.
She notes that after long hours of work you run into diminishing returns for your effort, which means that you are, in effect, losing money.
This holds true even if you work from home. Eventually, your brain gets tired, the synapses aren’t firing as well as they were six to ten hours ago, and you are going to get better results if you stand up, move away from your computer and either go wash the dishes or go to bed. It’s no wonder that students cannot focus on studying after they pulled an all-nighter because it harms their brain.
More work does not equal more productivity.
It does mean that you are grumpy, tired, stressed and completely out of sorts. In fact, you are generally angry with the world because you know that things are going all wrong, but you aren’t sure how to fix them.
Sleep is not treasured by the young. Edna St. Vincent Millay considers the discrepancy between the attitudes of young and old in her poem, “Grownup.”
“Was it for this I uttered prayers,
Sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?”
In a very odd sort of way, we have become a nation, no, make that a world of rebellious teenagers, pushing our limits, leaning against boundaries, trying to squeeze one more drop of production out of a day of effort.
Michael J. Breuss, PhD., sometimes known as the sleep doctor notes that sleep is crucial for consolidating learning, and for memory. This view is corroborated by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Want to be more effective? Get some sleep.
Natural Remedy #2: Feed and Hydrate Your Brain
Athletes are careful to consume a diet of nutrient-rich, high energy foods. Your brain needs nutrients, as well. While you might be able to exert your will power and soldier on past fatigue and hunger, you aren’t going to be at your sharpest or your best.
That means another natural way to increase your focus and concentration is to stick to a high-protein diet that is accompanied by properly prepared fruits and vegetables.
But don’t overestimate the value of a quick, pick-me-up. Hard candies or one or two dark chocolate drops can do wonders as long as you don’t over-do it.
As any diabetic or pre-diabetic can tell you, neither low nor high blood sugar helps your thinking. By the same token, your brain needs plenty of fluids. Extreme thirst can cause delirium at worst and muddy thinking at best.
Natural Remedy #3: Avoid Social Media or Anything Else That Punches Your Buttons
Emotions can fuel passions, but they rarely support rational, well-thought-out and well-executed results.
If you are working on a professional document, the last thing you want is a verbose temper tantrum on paper or screen. Social media, by its very nature, is designed to punch your emotions. Whether the topic is the latest episode of “Look what the President has done now,” or “Rat Rescued from Manhole Cover,” the idea is to get you excited.
If you are excited, you will read more and perhaps either join a Cause, contribute to charity, or write a letter to your congressperson. Worse than that, your mind will attach to the emotions or actions in social media and not focus on the task at hand.
You are not the only person with this distracting habit, and there is help.
Natural Remedy #4: Practice Mindfulness to Increase Your Mental Focus
There have been a lot of books, articles and classes about mindfulness in the last few years. In an era filled with distractions, many of them developed by advertisers who want to sell you something, there has never been a better time to check in with yourself and to do a little self-talk about doing things intentionally.
There are two sides to this mindfulness thing: When you do something intentionally, it can sound something like this: You tell yourself out loud that you are locking the door, using the key and that the key is going into the special secure pocket with the zipper.
By making sure you have the key in your hand (you use it to lock the door) and reminding yourself where you are putting the key, you develop a hand-eye-ear reinforcement that helps you remember that you did lock and where you placed the key.
With a little practice, you can become aware of when intrusive thoughts are invading your creative process, when it is time to gently nudge them to one side and when it is time to stand up and take a walk to the water cooler.
Natural Remedy #5: Practice Zen Habits
Contrary to popular articles, you do not need a yoga mat, a balance ball, or any other sort of equipment to meditate.
All you need is you. With enough practice, you can create a little mental bubble around yourself and be able to concentrate in the midst of a busy office or classroom. Personally, I like to call these my zen habits, named of the the blog of Leo Babauta.
You don’t even need special breathing. Counting your breaths is just one of many ways to distract your busy mind and make it slow down and focus on the task at hand.
You can close or unfocus your eyes for a minute and give your mind a little clear space in which to function. Giving yourself these little mental breaks can help you to see a problem from a different angle.
Natural Remedy #6: Exercise
When you are tired, frustrated or just can’t seem to think, take a walk. Walking in nature is a low-impact exercise and natural ways to increase your dopamine levels.
It gets you away from your desk, computer, or project. You aren’t abandoning it. You’ll be back in a few minutes.
If possible, take your walk outside.
Take a Walk Outside
If walking isn’t an option for whatever reason, lift your hands from your keyboard, rotate your wrists and wiggle your fingers.
If no one is looking, put your fingertips together and do that classic “spider on a mirror” exercise.
Take a minute and touch each finger to your thumb, in turn. Lift your head and look to either side. This stretches your neck and encourages blood flow.
If you are working at home, take advantage of any home exercise equipment you might have on hand, such as a stationary bike or treadmill. Some people even go so far as to rig their computer so that they can use it while walking or biking.
Exercise helps your circulation, while helping to properly move fluids through your body. Primitive humans didn’t do a lot of sitting around, and we modern humans probably should not either.
Natural Remedy #7: Do Something Fun
This is where we can take a lesson from children. If you’ve been sitting at a desk all day, stand up and go visit your garden. Pick up a jump rope and jump for a while.
This might sound counter-intuitive but spending energy will increase your energy.
If you’ve been doing manual labor, stretch out in a hammock and read a book or take a nap. Go to a playground and swing on the swing set or slide down the slide. Turn on your radio, disk player, tape player or even your streaming media and dance to the music.
It doesn’t matter whether you know any steps or not, just get moving to something lively and cheerful.
If that does not help you might discover that it is really time to stop for the day and work on it again tomorrow.
But these are seven underrated ways to improve your concentration.
Most of them require very little in the way of equipment, are easy to do, and will refresh you in both body and mind.