How to Improve Your Concentration and Focus
Do you find it hard to focus? Does your mind always seem to wander? Do you find yourself looking at your co-workers or fellow students and wondering how they all seem to be so absorbed in what they’re doing? You’re not alone. Concentrating on one thing at a time is a skill that takes practice. But just like any skill, there are tips and techniques to help you along the way.
First of all, you need to understand the difference between involuntary and voluntary attention. Involuntary attention takes no effort and isn’t under your control. If someone calls your name, you turn your head without thinking about it. Voluntary attention takes effort, is deliberate and is under conscious control. You decide that you’re going to sit down and write a report; you don’t suddenly find yourself doing it without meaning to.
Scans show that these two types of attention happen in different areas of the brain. When you’re using one area, the other one switches off: you can’t give both types of attention at the same time. Paying involuntary attention to something – in other words, getting distracted – stops voluntary attention from happening.
When you concentrate, your bloodstream sends extra glucose to your brain. Paying attention makes you feel tired – it does burn calories! In this sense, getting distracted is positive because it gives the voluntary attention part of your brain a chance to switch off and recharge. That’s why you might find yourself staring into space or gazing out of the window after concentrating for a while: your brain is giving the voluntary attention area a break.
When you feel positive about a task, you can maintain voluntary attention more easily. That is called “flow.” Being fully engaged and emotionally invested in a task means that it will keep your attention longer. Unfortunately, studies in the workplace show that while flow takes at least 15 minutes to achieve, anything that gets your involuntary attention (such as a phone call or an on-screen notification) will destroy it.
Work needs voluntary attention; distractions start with involuntary attention. It takes an effort of will to focus on something and no willpower at all to get distracted. So although being positively emotionally invested in a task will make it more likely you’ll experience flow, it’s no good putting off a task until you “feel like it”; you have to make a decision, not wait around for the right frame of mind. You need to keep working at it too: getting started might be the hardest part of a task, but it doesn’t mean that staying on track is easy.
Deliberately limiting distractions will give your productivity a boost. That means not only turning off notifications on your phone or desktop but also politely explaining to friends or colleagues that you won’t answer messages or emails immediately. If you find it difficult to get yourself out of the “always on” mindset, remember studies suggest that being constantly connected has similar effects on performance to smoking marijuana or missing a night’s sleep. Unless your job requires immediate life-or-death responses, it might benefit everyone if you can have 30 minutes without interruptions.
Another aspect of being always connected is that it’s so easy to turn internal interruptions (thoughts that pop into your head) into external ones. You find yourself humming a song and you Google the words, or you know that it’s a friend’s birthday this month, so you check Facebook for the date. You can’t completely control your thoughts: part of being creative and insightful is the fact that random things pop into your head. But this doesn’t mean you can’t control your actions. Keep a notepad handy (or a note-taking app open) and write one sentence when you’re tempted to leave the task you’re on. Then get back to what you were doing: Googling lyrics or checking Facebook can come later.
Don’t beat yourself up if concentrating is difficult at first. Like most skills, it takes time and practice. And remember that distractions allow the voluntary attention part of your brain a chance to recover: you just need to make sure you’re in charge of the distractions. Set yourself a time to focus and time for a break. If you’re not familiar with the Pomodoro Method, check out the principles (Wikipedia article en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique) and start off with short periods of time – may be just five or ten minutes. With practice, you’ll be able to keep your voluntary attention engaged for much longer.
Staying focused requires you to put in the time and effort to practice your voluntary attention. Concentration involves willpower, but it also involves giving yourself a break. Minimizing distractions, whether they are external or internal, means that you’re in charge of your attention span. Stop wondering how your colleagues manage to keep concentrating. You can do it too!
CBD Has the Ability to Promote Better Focus and Concentration
Cannabis, despite having been legalized in multiple states for recreational and medicinal use alike, still has a major stigma. Many people see users of cannabis as lazy, lethargic, and unproductive, at best, but there could not be anything further from the truth. In fact, with the right formula and the right chemicals extracted, this formula sets up the user for better focus and concentration.
Most people are familiar with the recreational effects of THC, giving a sense of feeling “high” and somewhat foggy. However, there is another chemical compound in cannabis that does not offer this effect at all called cannabidiol (CBD). CBD still provides therapeutic benefits like THC does to the endocannabinoid system, which is a network of receptors in the human body that regulates it.
To understand how CBD can affect focus and concentration, the first mystery to figure out is the reason for the lack of focus. Stress, sleeplessness, and distractions are all common reasons, but CBD manages to find ways around all of those troubles. Let us first talk about stress.
When someone is stressed, their body releases cortisol, which is meant to regulate the body when in these situations. However, the unfortunate reaction from the brain is a lack of ability to focus on whatever task or thought is at hand, which explains why it is so hard to formulate a plan under stress. CBD oil can reduce stress significantly as it reacts to the ECS, which means the user can pay attention to whatever they need to.
Sleeping is crucial to the body for the rest it needs to recharge for the next day, but the brain also requires sleep. The brain is the computer that controls the entire body and leaving it “on” for the entire day will leave it needing to restart. The reason that someone is missing sleep can vary, and it would be unrealistic to think that CBD can fix it all. However, if the sleep cycle is off for some reason, or it is hard to relax enough to sleep, CBD can help. CBD also helps with pain, so consumers that find it hard to sleep from discomfort in their muscles and joints could find relief in CBD as well.
Another concern that is brought to light with CBD is the way that it helps with ADHD and ADD, which are disorders that often involve hyperactivity or an inability to maintain focus for long. Studies have shown that CBD reduces hyperactivity and has shown some progress in the symptoms of ADHD.
Even with everything that CBD can do, users need to do their best to remove distractions that inhibit their focus as well. CBD may be able to calm and quiet the mind, but it cannot take away a noisy dog that keeps a user awake, and it cannot turn off an illuminated phone. However, with all of the wellness benefits, customers can still get the support of this treatment.
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