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5 Effective Tips To Improve Concentration & Focus 2023

Lakshmi Vemuri

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Kimberly Langdon, MD

Improve Concentration

If we have to pick one terrible thing that the digital world did to humans, it has to be the inability to concentrate and increased forgetfulness. Addiction to phones, video games, or gadgets makes the ability to concentrate a lost art. We are dumped with tons of information on a daily basis. And social media can be blamed for this. 

Our brain is consuming a lot more content from social media than it should. Further, this causes insomnia. More and more people are taking sleep medications and some also tend to consult therapy to improve focus and boost productivity.

With the endless distraction around us, no wonder why the human brain’s ability to focus is fading. Did you know that the ability to maintain attention begins at a young age and it also further helps throughout their life in succeeding? Irrespective of the work-based distractions and social distractions, there are few things that can help your brain to focus. These tips will boost concentration and help you stay focused.

5 Best Ways to Boost Concentration & Focus

  1. Brain training
  2. Take short breaks from the task
  3. Fix your sleep patterns
  4. Distraction fighting tips
  5. Lifestyle changes to improve concentration

What Affects Concentration?

Before learning about the factors that affect concentration, let us know the difference between attention and concentration. First of all, attention and concentration are two different things. Distraction can give tough times to some people. Age, insufficient sleep, and some mental health disorders can affect concentration. 

Sustaining attention allows a human brain to build an internal world in a way that the motivations, emotions, and thoughts become relevant and priority in the brain.

Coming to concentration, it’s the mental effort that you put towards your work or to learn something at the moment. It is mostly confused with the attention span. Whereas, attention span is the amount of time you can focus on something. Now that we know the difference let us learn about the factors that affect concentration.

  • Aging can decrease concentration. This could further accompany memory loss. 
  • Brain and head injuries, Mental disorders that affect concentration are (ADHD) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, epilepsy, insomnia, dementia, chronic fatigue syndrome, concussion, major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, other syndromes like Cushing syndrome and restless leg syndrome.
  • Other factors such as hunger, dehydration, poor diet and nutrition, sleep problems, hormonal changes, stress, medical, emotional, and psychological problems, lack of exercise, quality of information your brain gets, and the environment, all such factors affect concentration.

5 Effective Tips To Boost Concentration

There are various ways you could improve focus and learn how to concentrate throughout the day. From brain training, creating a distraction-free environment, making lifestyle changes, and engaging in activities that improve concentration can all come to the rescue. 

To address this issue, you need holistic therapy that brings changes in the overall brain function. Furthermore, there are also many things that need to be unlearned to concentrate and focus. Read further to know in detail about them.

Brain training

Brain training methods, problem-solving exercises such as crossword puzzles, sudoku, chess, jigsaw puzzles, scrambles, or word searches, and memory games can all boost the ability to concentrate. Brain training activities can also improve your present and short-term memory. In addition to this, it also improves your processing and problem-solving skills. 

A study conducted in 2015[1] on 4,715 adults reveals that spending 15 minutes each day for 5 days a week with brain activities can have a huge impact on our brain and can improve our concentration. Get a word puzzle book or coloring book, try a jigsaw puzzle with a friend, or play a memory game, doddle, or color a few pages. Both kids and adults are known to enjoy coloring.

Brain training games can be very important for older people as their memory and concentration tend to degenerate as they age. This research from 2014 with 2832 old age people in the study[2] that followed up for 10 years found that older people who underwent 10-14 cognitive training sessions saw improved memory, cognition, and processing skills. 

After 10 years, the majority of them reported that they were completing daily activities like they were at the beginning of the research, or even better now. Concentration workouts can help children who have a tough time focusing. These concentration workouts involve devoting your attention completely towards an activity for a period of time. Here are some activities to try.

  • Draw or doodle for at least 15 minutes
  • Play with ball or balloon with friends
  • Try to blink as little as possible with a timer set for 3-5 minutes.
  • Suck a candy or a lollipop until it melts. You should focus on the flavor, texture, and sensation on the tongue and resist the urge to bite it. Pay attention to the time it lasts in your mouth. 

Once they are done with the activities, ask the child about how long they could focus and where they lost the concentration, and how did they get back to focusing. These things will help them evolve and use them in daily activities.

Take short breaks from the task

Taking short breaks in between work or studies can improve your focus and concentration. This may sound silly but it works. Working for a long time can lead to a concentration drop, and a short break can fix it. So go for a quick walk in your garden or go see your plants. 

 A study[3] showed that plants in the office increased the productivity of employees by 15 percent.  Research also found that having a green space or sight of green can boost concentration and productivity in tasks at college and workplace.

You can also refresh yourself by going to a coffee shop, in fact, coffee or caffeinated beverages can improve your focus as per the 2010 study[4]. You can also grab your favorite snack, soak up some sun. you will be surprised by the ability to stay focused after that. 

Short Breaks can boost the ability to be creative, focused, and motivated. And having all these can help you get more work done in less time. So adding a technique to it makes this super easy. The famous Pomodoro technique[5] is what I was talking about. The Pomodoro technique helps your brain stay put on the task for short time periods. Here is how you do it right.

  • Set a timer to 25 minutes and start to work.
  • Once you hear the buzzer take a 5-minute break.
  • Now again set the timer and get back to work.
  • Once you complete four cycles of this, go ahead and take longer breaks of 20-30 minutes.

Fix your Sleep pattern

Approximately, 50-70 million Americans suffer[6] from chronic sleep disorder and wakefulness. This hinders daily functioning and affects overall health and longevity. With an increase in the usage of mobile phones, there is also a rise in sleep disorders. The blue light emitted by the screen inhibits melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for the sleep-wake cycle. 

Sleep deprivation can make us cranky and anxious. It further disrupts our concentration, cognitive functions such as focus, attention, and memory. Occasional disturbances in sleep may not cause many problems but being sleep deprived regularly can affect our mood and overall performance at studies and work. 

Lack of rest makes you feel tired and this, in turn, slows down the reflexes and can affect the performance or even the ability to do everyday tasks. Most adults need a good 7-9 hours of night sleep[7].  Sleep deprivation can impact both short-term and long-term memory and the ability to pay attention to the tasks. 

According to research the adverse effects of acute or chronic sleep deprivation[8] can be seen in attention and working memory. Researchers also concluded that sleep deprivation impairs cognitive functions. Another study[9] on the sleep-deprived human brain shows that lack of sleep can disrupt emotional and cognitive functions.

Few tips to improve sleep:

  • Stay away from gadgets, TV, or any screens an hour before sleeping. 
  • Make sure your room is cool or at room temperature.
  • Listen to ASMR or soft music before hitting the bed
  • Take a warm bath before bed
  • Exercising every day, avoid weight training an hour before bed.
  • You can also practice reading.
  • Go to bed at the same time each day to fix your body clock.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunchtime.

Distraction fighting tips

The work-from-home culture has made us realize the importance of avoiding distractions while having a task at hand. Unless you have a high working memory capacity, learning to tune out on distractions becomes a difficult task. 

Background noise, phone calls, notifications can all shift our focus. If you are a parent working from home then kids make it hard to concentrate on the task. Tell your kids that you are working and should not be disturbed while working.

Did you know cell phone notifications[10] can distract you enough to diminish the ability to concentrate and focus? So make sure to keep your phone away while working or put it in a do not disturb mode while working. 

Although these notifications steal a short duration of your working time, they tend to generate thoughts that are irrelevant to the task in your mind, this makes your mind wander and damages the performance of the task at hand. This is due to the fact that the human brain has a limited capacity of attention that should be split between tasks. 

Furthermore, checking on social media during working hours can also have negative consequences on performance and concentration. Fight the urge to check on social media to boost productivity and focus. 

Few tips to avoid distractions:

  • Turn off the notifications on the phone
  •  Move to a quiet environment 
  • Separate working area at home
  • Close the apps that are not related to your work.
  • Telling people around you to not distract 
  • Telling yourself that you need to focus and complete the task

Lifestyle changes to improve concentration

Did you know that foods have an effect on cognitive abilities such as concentration and memory? Yes, it does. Avoid foods that have too much sugar, processed foods, greasy foods, and consume foods such as fatty fish like trout and salmon, whole eggs, spinach and blueberries, coffee, broccoli, pumpkin seeds, turmeric, dark chocolate, oranges, nuts, green tea, and matcha. 

Studies[11] have found that natural phytochemicals found in matcha, green tea can improve cognitive function and promote relaxation. If coffee makes you anxious and keeps you awake, matcha is for you.

Furthermore, dehydration can also reduce concentration and ability to focus so staying hydrated is essential. Skipping breakfast can also result in decreased focus, consuming a breakfast that’s high in protein and fiber and less in sugar. Eggs, oatmeal, whole-grain toast, and plain yogurt with fruit are some good choices.

A proper exercise for both body and mind can make you feel tired and may put you to a night of good sleep. Avoid exercising one hour before bedtime. This may keep you alert. Along with that meditation and mindfulness practices are also brain training activities that are proven to offer a plethora of benefits and improved concentration and focus are just a few among those. 

 A 2013 review[12] of 23 studies reported evidence that suggests mindfulness training can improve memory and cognitive abilities. Proper meditation, yoga, and deep breathing exercises can boost focus.

Lastly, supplements may also help you focus and concentrate. But supplements should be taken only on medical advice. Omega-three fatty acids, folate, vitamin K, choline, flavonoids, guarana seed extract may help improve concentration.

Things to avoid to improve concentration 

Alcohol: Alcohol abuse is linked to loss of memory in terms of blackouts owing to binge drinking. However, alcohol can have both short and long-term effects on concentration, memory, and ability to focus. 

A study conducted on adults[13] who binge drink showed that binge drinking can obstruct brain growth in the frontal areas which are linked to organization, planning, and high-level thoughts. Drinking too much alcohol may affect the ability of teenagers to perform in academics and sports. Alcohol abuse can further lead to confusion, disorganized thoughts making it hard to focus on the task

Multitasking: People who find it difficult to focus or concentrate should avoid multitasking. Multitasking is when someone tries to perform more than one task at a time. It also involves switching between two tasks repeatedly. So when someone has less focus or concentration, trying multitasking is a terrible idea. It will only lead to a subpar performance especially when you are someone who struggles with staying focused. 

Moreover, multitasking is not effective or efficient or does not make you cool. It’s not what it’s cracked up to be. American Psychological Association states that multitasking can reduce productivity by up to 40%.

However, if you want to be a multitasker, pick similar tasks and combine them. Try to do one thing at a time as this makes smoother transitions. 

Mental Health Conditions That Affect The Ability To Concentrate 

As mentioned earlier, mental health conditions affect the ability to concentrate and focus. Having trouble concentrating can also mean you have some mental disorders and you need to take help from mental health professionals. 

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can make it difficult to pay attention due to a hyperactive brain and relatively lower attention span. ADHD[14] is presented with hyperactivity, persistent patterns of attention deficit, and impulsivity. The symptoms show up at a young age. Symptoms include lack of concentration, difficulty completing tasks, disorganization, forgetfulness, and losing things. Treatment can help with focus and concentration.

Cognitive dysfunction or impairment can have an impact on memory, concentration, and learning. Cognitive dysfunction[15] may also include developmental disabilities, brain injuries, developmental delays, neurological conditions that impact brain functioning.

Mental health disorders that go untreated such as anxiety and depression leads to changes in mood and emotional symptoms at first. But they can give a hard time concentrating and staying focused, or learning and remembering new information. Stress makes it even worse to focus and concentrate.

Head injuries and concussions can affect concentration. Although it’s a temporary condition, problems related to concentration can stay while it heals.

Vision problems or farsightedness can cause difficulties in concentration and attention. So if your kid is experiencing frequent headaches and difficulty in concentration, or if you find them squinting, get their eye tests done.

Final words

We, humans, tend to forget all the time and that’s normal. The above-mentioned hacks to improve concentration may work for some and they may not help some. So consider a holistic approach to find out what works for you. Avoiding phones and practicing mindfulness has to be one of the most effective ways to stay in the present and focused. 

You can try these hacks as these pose no harm or will not decrease the concentration. So give them a try as they do not come with adverse effects. You should also consider consulting medical professionals as they can find out the underlying cause.

+ 15 sources

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Lakshmi Vemuri

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

Lakshmi Vemuri holds a bachelor’s degree in Dentistry. She is also a published author of several Food and Wellness books. Lakshmi has a profound interest in alternative medicines, various forms of physical exercise, mental health, diets, and new inventions in medical sciences. Besides being a dentist, Lakshmi is passionate about gardening and is an environmental enthusiast

Medically reviewed by:

Kimberly Langdon

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