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What is behind today’s focus and concentration problems?
While there are many factors that influence our focus and concentration, we have identified three main reasons that are typical for our society.
1 – Multitasking, Focus Enemy # 1
Over the last few decades, we have received one new technology after the other at a mind-boggling pace. The fax, the mobile phone, the internet, personal computers, mobile internet, smartphones etc.
We have unwittingly become slaves to the technological progress. Thanks to our smartphones, we receive a steady stream of phone calls, e-mail, texts, messages, tweets and other social media notifications. In addition, over the course of the day we can receive dozens of app notifications with the latest news, weather etc.
At the office, the pace is so much faster than forty years ago. The trend of squeezing the maximum out of each employee has infiltrated the majority of workplaces.
Both parents have to work these days. As a result, raising children and maintaining the household must be done on the side. Multitasking is inevitable but it comes with a price.
Multitasking is the act of trying to focus on multiple tasks at once. Ironically, this causes us to focus less and ultimately we lose the ability to focus at all. Research revealed that multitasking wastes 40% of our productive time.
Trying to focus on many things at the same time causes stress in our brain. This can help us in the short-term, but can cause long-term reductions in attention span.
In California, neuroscientists proved that long-term stress causes lasting brain structure damage.
Several ways to ‘unplug’ are.
- Turn off notifications in your smartphone
- Do one thing at a time
- Take moments to completely unplug, like during (some) evenings and (part of) the weekend.
2 – Disorder, remove clutter from your life
Disorder in your surroundings and/or in your life causes disorder in your brain. It makes it more difficult to concentrate and focus.
In 2011, the Princeton Neuroscience Institute published an interesting study. Attention is not a rubber band and stimuli compete for its limited capacity. Therefore in a tidy organized office or room, you can focus much better on the tasks ahead.
On the contrary, disorder around you or disorder in your life (constant distractions) eat away the limited attention capacity you have, leaving less attention for the task that you are doing.
3 – Lack of Outdoor Time
It is so important to take regular breaks and spend time outdoors in nature.
However, with the modern office pace, there is hardly time for that. Many people skip breakfast or eat it in the car on the way to work. Lunch is all too often changed into a lunch meeting to discuss things that your full agenda otherwise didn’t permit. Dinner, well often you are so tired, a quick bite on the couch in front of the TV will do.
Sounds familiar? What about taking a lunch break outside and a short walk in the park?
A very interesting study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology (Australia) showed that students doing a boring task showed an impressive increase in concentration and focus after they had looked down at a green rooftop with grass for 40 seconds.
So, if you can’t take a walk in the park during lunch, look at nature out the window or put a plant on your desk. Take regular short half minute breaks and your concentration will improve.
Other Focus Boosters
Besides the above changes you can make in your life, there are other ways to boost focus.
Eating healthy and doing regular exercise are just two of them. The following foods and herbs help you improve your concentration.