Being able to focus, concentrate and be productive is essential in life, especially when we are bombarded with seemingly never-ending to-do lists, obligations, commitments and multiple distractions.
Many of us do whatever it takes in order to get everything done, often putting in long hours, assisted with multiple cups of coffee, energy drinks and even supplements in order to keep ourselves focused, alert and primed with energy.
Although this may help get us through, over the long-term by pushing ourselves too hard and over consuming stimulants, it can put us at greater risk of burnout, emotional breakdown and even health issues such as adrenal fatigue, heart attacks and stroke.
With all this in mind, mental focus can in fact be enhanced by taking a more natural, holistic and balanced approach which encompasses the cognitive, physical and emotional aspects of our life.
To get a better understanding, let's first break it all down to basics and take a closer look at each component...
What is Focus?
A focus (plural: foci) is simply defined as a central point, in all sorts of situations. In one such situation, the science of physics in its study of light devotes much time to illustrate how to find focal points or foci of light rays. In terms of people the verb focus is often used in association with targets, objectives, goals and tasks.
What is Mental Focus?
Mental focus can be defined as the ability to remain concentrated on any important task and ignore all distractions, often called noise, happening in the environment. By doing this we are better able to perform cognitive processes and their associated actions.
Why Mental Focus Is Important
In today's "Information Age" where knowledge, productivity, creativity and innovation are the name of the game, the ability to focus mentally for extended periods of time plays a vital role in getting results. Amazingly, when people desire something a great deal and focus all their energy on it, they usually get it or a good approximation to it. To the contrary a lack of mental focus and engaging with distractions can severely affect the attainment of goals. In many ways, the development of mental focus is all-important for success.
How The Mind Works In Regards To Concentration & Focus
Concentrating and focussing are actions that originate in the brain. The brain is composed of countless billions of nerve cells known as neurons. Neurons receive and send signals via electrochemical processes that drive thought and movement. The part of the brain that controls such mental functions as thoughts, attention, and concentration is the frontal cortex.
The frontal cortex is located on the forehead (hence the name). It is only a small part of the brain and consists of about 4 to 5% of it. However, the frontal cortex is where people think. It is the region of the brain that decisions are made as to what to think about. Without this part of the brain, it would be impossible to problem solve or make decisions.
Despite its importance, this part of the brain is limited:
- It cannot handle large volumes of information.
- The frontal cortex is unable to retain information for very long.
- Energy-wise, it is very expensive. It uses a lot of energy.
This is where conflict happens between concentration on what should be done and thoughts of other things, such as daydreams. Daydreaming is counter to concentration. So, why do we spend so much time dry daydreaming when we would better be concentrating?
When we concentrate, the brain uses what is called the executive system, which consists of not only the pre-frontal cortex but other cortices as well. When the brain is not concentrating, there is a default neural network, which is a set of areas of the brain that work with one another and perform much of the activity that the brain carries out while our minds are at rest.
When we concentrate then the consumption of energy in the brain increases. The default network is busy when there is nothing specific to be thought about and apparently during such times does a whole lot of background work. When we need to concentrate then the executive system dominates the default neural network.
Generally, most people prefer to use their default network and daydream rather than concentrate. They don't get into "the zone" often enough.
What Is "The Zone" And How To Get Into It
"The Zone" is a state of ultimate concentration and focus which can sometimes feel almost easy and effortless. When you're in the zone, your mind is focused on what you want to achieve and it only deals with positive thoughts that are associated with this goal. When you're in the zone, there are no mental limits on what can be done and there is what is called 'flow'.
When there is this flow, everything seems to go as if it were well lubricated and on wheels. Flow occurs when the subconscious mind replaces the conscious mind.
Great athletes and other successful people often attribute their success to being able to get into zone and achieve flow with far greater regularity than others. When they enter the zone, fear of failure, doubts, distraction, and other negative influences disappear.
Getting into the zone is sometimes regarded as something that is almost magical and reserved for a select few. However, this is not the case, anyone can enter it, by using some specific techniques and through practice. When you live in the zone more often it can be really beneficial for sports, exercise, business, work, learning, actually, any human activity, which can benefit from total and undistracted commitment.
But how do you enter this zone and get into the flow?
If you're trying to get into the zone and flow you need to activate the subconscious mind. It may seem a bit of a paradox but being in the zone requires you to be not consciously thinking about the task —just doing it!
Once you have learnt something and practised it often enough, the less conscious attention you need to perform it.
Here are some tips which can help:
- Be clear on your goal and what you want to achieve
- Know exactly how to achieve the goal and what is required before you start
- Visualization of the goal can be very valuable. Have a clear image of the goal in your mind. "Keep your eye on the prize"
- Learn and practise how to better control your thoughts. Meditation, especially "mindfulness" is great for this if you do it often enough. Your mind is like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Through practicing meditation you'll soon get better at finding the "stillness" amongst a barrage of seemingly endless thoughts sometimes referred to as the "monkey mind".
- Never multitask. Although this might appear to be a good idea, in order to be more productive, our minds perform best when 100% attention is dedicated to one thing at a time.
- Don't take on too much. The task must be challenging but not overwhelming. If it is then self-doubt creeps in and focus goes. You stop flowing. If it is a large task, break it down into smaller, more manageable parts then just focus on each one to completion before moving onto the next.
How To Concentrate & Become More Alert Naturally
Here are a few things that can assist your concentration:
- Try to find the best environment for you. Of course, this varies from person to person. Live performers may be totally focused and in their element on stage and in front of many people. But, for most of us, especially if we need to do a lot of reading, writing or thinking, a quiet comfortable place is best where we can sit up straight and not be disturbed.
- Music is great for total relaxation and stimulating emotions.
- Moderate amounts of caffeine can be helpful. But too much can make you "jittery" and be detrimental to your hydration.
- Just as exercise for your body is essential for your health doing it before a task can also help with concentration and alertness
- Make sure you get enough sleep. Tiredness can make you irritable and easily distracted. Aim for at least 6-8 hours a night, and 20-30 minute "power naps" during the day can also be beneficial if you're feeling drowsy.
- Avoid stress. If you're about to do something that needs total focus then the last thing you need are stressful events in your life, whether at home, work, or anywhere. Once again, getting yourself into the right environment can help to isolate you from any potential stressors.
- Water: Like with most bodily processes proper hydration also has a positive effect on cognition, concentration and alertness. If you are even slightly dehydrated it is much more difficult to focus, plus you're likely to feel more easily fatigued and drained.
- Nutrition is very important. Just like your body needs the right types of energy to perform optimally, so does your brain.
- Tai Chi; you may well ask what this is. It is an ancient Chinese martial art that combines bodily movements with focused attention. It is superb for helping you learn to focus and concentrate more mindfully.
Tips To Boost Memory & Learning
If you're studying or learning how to do a new task or process, the following are some tips that can help you boost your memory and learning, so that you are then more easily able to get into the zone:
- Meditation, once again, is a powerful tool. If you want to learn to concentrate, to increase your memory, to focus better then learn to meditate.
- Mental puzzles, such as sudoku, crosswords, jigsaws, etc. are great for assisting you to learn to concentrate.
- Relaxing music or specially created soundtracks that utilize technologies such as "binaural beats" or "isochronic tones" that have been specifically designed to get your brainwaves into the ideal frequency for learning and memory can be really helpful.
- Practice memory workouts, where you try to recall something like a passage from a book or a song.
- Taking a break and coming back to a task involving thought or memory can also be helpful.
Top Superfoods For Mental Focus, Concentration & Alertness
In terms of diet, the following foods can further help set you up for focus, concentration and improved cognition.
Foods High In Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Flaxseed, walnuts, and other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are great for brain health, cognitive functioning and also assist memory.
Studies have shown green tea benefits learning and memory. It also has antioxidants that greatly assist energy, endurance, and mental clarity. One type of green tea, matcha, has phytochemicals, which improve cognition, concentration, and relaxation. One type from Japan called "Matcha "has L-Theanine, a natural substance, which which in combination with its natural caffeine content provides an energy boost that can make you feel focused, calm, and happy.
All green vegetables such as spinach have antioxidants that are very helpful for brainpower. The leaves of such vegetables are very effective in helping improve concentration, memorization, and focus. Many are also high in Vitamin B which help stimulate brain activity and alertness and are slo helpful for those suffering from memory and concentration loss.
Soya is a rich source of oestrogen. This is a hormone that helps the brain stay alert and active. The addition of soya to the diet improves memory and concentration.
- Curcumin: this comes from turmeric, it helps fight neuroinflammation and so helps all thinking, particularly concentration
- Rosemary: This is another herb that helps memory and concentration
Phenoh FOCUS For Energy
If you need to boost your mental focus and productivity with reliable energy, Phenoh has created FOCUS Energy SuperBooster which is a great alternative to coffee and other energy drinks.
Coffee's benefits are outweighed by the side-effects and traditional energy beverages are unbalanced, giving you less good stuff and more bad stuff. Because sugar, harmful acidic preservatives, and lab-made ingredients are present, they no longer fit our modern needs. Too much caffeine may lead to jitters or a mid-day crash.
Learn More: FOCUS for Energy
FOCUS is a balanced combination of superfood ingredients designed to provide day long focus, creativity, and energy while reducing stress including Matcha, Green Tea, Lion's Mane, Rhodiola Rosea, Himalayan Pink Salt, and micronutrients:
- Magnesium Chloride
- Dipotassium phosphate
- Calcium citrate
- Vitamins B & C
- Zinc Picolinate
Our Rapid Hydration system, powered by Perfect pH®, quickly delivers 6 essential Electrolytes for whole body hydration.
Upgrade your morning routine with Matcha-based Energy infused with Adaptogenic Superfoods that gives you MORE than caffeinated coffee or Matcha alone. Easy-open, travel friendly, single serve packets – just add water! Welcome to Focused Energy WITHOUT the crash...