“I am the dreamy kid sitting in a quiet corner of the classroom. This is the kid whose mind wandered off between steps three and six of the maths lesson. I am also the one whose school report came home with consistently similar remarks, “Wendy could do better”, “Wendy does not pay attention.” Too many of my days are spent losing my way, drifting into dreamland, sometimes talking to myself as an inner world takes over. I often wonder what it must feel like to be in a head that is able to focus, to structure, to start at point A and purposely stride out towards point B. Thing is, sometimes, my filtering system just does not work. I will often stop midway, wondering where I was headed. In the meantime I have remembered countless errands needing instant attention. Ah, and where did I leave my car keys? Occasionally, my keys are all too visible, but now where did I park the car?. I can’t concentrate. My mind is always wandering.”
Sound familiar?Lacking concentration is one of the most common complaints heard and has affected us all at some point in our lives. Concentration is the ability to point our thinking in whatever direction we would intend. We all have the ability to concentrate to some degree – when engrossed in an captivating novel; whilst playing a good game of cards or watching a hilarious comedy. But many times our thoughts are scattered, and our mind races from one to-do-list to another. It is in those times that we need to learn the skill and practise of mindful concentration strategies. These times are usually when we or our children are engaged in low stimulating activities, like doing the dreaded homework, studying, doing menial admin or attending some kind of lecture.
7 Simple Steps:
- Be conscious and intentional: Before you are likely to be successful at concentrating you have to make a clear, conscious decision to focus your attention. Sounds simple enough, but more often than not we move from one experience to the next without any real consciousness, and certainly without a decision to concentrate
- Set clear goals – and victories: To concentrate effectively, it really helps to have specific outcomes in mind. Break down longer term goals – like mastering a new language – into smaller chunks that are achievable in short bursts of concentration – like memorizing how an irregular verb is conjugated.
- Be consistent: Great athletes, musicians, writers, and others who excel in their chosen field nearly always have set times and places for concentrated thinking and practice. Consistency of environment helps to normalize distractions and consistency of time helps establish a pattern and rhythm to support concentration. Pick a limited range of places where and times when you do your most focused learning. You can and should vary these over time to avoid falling into rote learning habits, but don’t be too fast or erratic in making changes.
- Avoid or remove distractions: Make it a point to put your full concentration on whatever you are doing. Don’t let anything distract you. It really helps to be in a quiet place, but you can learn to block out noise if necessary. These are some of the distractions you might encounter like multi-tasking, trying to do many things all at the same time, loud noises, and flashing light patterns.
- Set time limits and allow for breaks: Similar to how the body has limits for focused physical activity and needs recovery time from exercise, the mind benefits from periodic short breaks during periods of concentration as well as longer breaks between periods of concentration to help consolidate learning. During shorter breaks, it is better not to turn to other tasks, but to truly take a break and let the mind rest. Longer breaks should include essential activities like getting sufficient sleep at night.
- Take care of mind and body: Having sufficient sleep is also likely to positively impact your attitude towards concentrating and ability to concentrate in the first place. Likewise, a balanced diet style=”font-family: Calibri;”> and plenty of aerobic exercise are very important factors in promoting healthy brain activity and memory. Really, being well rested, well fed, and in good physical shape is the foundation for being able to concentrate well.
- Practice: Finally, few of us are able to will ourselves to concentrate and become effective at it over-night. Yes, that’s right – you have to focus and concentrate in order to learn to focus and concentrate. Breathing exercises is a good way to help clear the mind and focus attention.
Developing The Concentration Habit
Like any other skill, concentration must be learned, practiced and developed. Here are some questions to help you get in a regular pattern of concentrating.
How long is your concentration span?
When is your concentration level at its best?
What are the conditions that best allow you to concentrate?
As an antidote to inattention, a NASA-endorsed computer programme can be used to improve your overall mental agility, Play Attentionteaches you the skills to survive and thrive in the classroom or workplace. Play Attention can increase focus and concentration. It develops core skills like ignoring distractions, increasing memory, increasing organisation, finishing tasks, and following instructions. It is a dynamic integrated learning system built on NASA-proven technology that allows a child or adult to train the brain and learn how to focus and concentrate effectively.
For additional information to Improve your Focus and a
Play Attention demonstration, contact us PsychMatters Family therapy Centre, Bedfordview, JHB on 011-450 3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org.