Posted by Seminal Wellness Team on 10/1/2023 to News
The most motivated among us credit our focus for getting us far. It's our ability to work diligently on a task and avoid those other ones that won't get us ahead. It's that capacity to aim, singly, towards a goal and keep plugging away even when obstacles emerge. But, does focus have other benefits aside from goal achievement? Recent research says it does. People who are more focused are less likely to suffer from lifestyle conditions, such as heart disease (Mental Health Foundation, 2022). Additionally, those who are more focused tend to be more fulfilled (Haden, 2023). The best thing is, all of us have the ability to maximize our focus, be present in the moment, and reap all the benefits of improved concentration. Let's consider risks to heightened focus, foods and regimens to improve our focus, and ways to maintain our focus, no matter the pressures.
Risks of Insufficient Focus
There are significant health risks with insufficient focus or distraction. We know how a lack of focus can lead to reduced productivity and inefficiencies (namely, increased errors), but it can also result in anxiety and depression. Additionally, lowered focus can cause difficulties with decision making, coherent thinking, short-term memory, and planning (Nall, 2023). Distraction can even lower IQ and performance, more than controlled substances (Juliety, 2023). And, we're all aware of the effects of distracted driving, potentially leading to the injury, or death, of yourself and others on the road (Bieber, 2023). It's evident that decreased focus is not only a matter of performance; it can cost lives.
Lowered focus or distraction may not merely be circumstantial or stem from temporary interruptions in the environment; it may be rooted in physical or psychological conditions. Alcohol or substance-abuse disorders, ADHD, concussion, Cushing syndrome, epilepsy, bipolar disorders, depression, and schizophrenia, among other ailments, can result in decreased focus (Nall, 2023). Distraction or undermined concentration can even result from sleep disorders such as insomnia. If you experience the following symptoms for more than two weeks—intensified memory issues; diminished at-work, or in-school, performance; difficulty sleeping; and lasting fatigue—please consult your physician.
How Focus Impacts Your Well-Being
The risks of distraction also point to how focus impacts our well-being. Distraction and diminished focus make you dwell on what was lost, while focus compels you to value the blessings that you have, and anticipate the better that's just within reach. Heightened focus—being "in the zone," so to speak—grants someone emboldening confidence and self-concept. When you have all your faculties at hand, can grasp them fully in the moment, there is no crisis you can't handle, or disaster you can't navigate. That's because you have the clarity of mind to devise the best ideas and the optimal strategies. Aside from the psychological benefits of heightened focus, there are positive health effects. Those with higher focus tend to have lower blood pressure and are at lower risk of chronic disease; are less likely to experience strokes; and, face lower risk of heart disease (Heo, Kang, Umeakunne, Lee, Bertulfo, Barbé, Kim, Black, An, Randolph, 2023). Optimized focus also gives you a heartening sense of calm, equanimity, which enables you to effectively power through the day, amid the frequent interruptions and disappointments. The aim is to continually build and strengthen your focus, making it an inexhaustible resource, asset, on which you can steadfastly rely.
Foods and Regimens for Improving Your Focus
The following foods can help strengthen your focus and concentration:
- Fatty fish
- Leafy green vegetables
- Nuts (if you're not allergic)
- Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (olive oil, sunflower oil, mango butter, etc.) these are also excellent substitutes for nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Dark chocolate
Along with proper diet, appropriate exercises can also boost your focus. Acute aerobic exercise—running, brisk walking, dancing, and the like—has been shown to raise focus and overall cognition more than strength training; however, all types of exercise aid cognitive function (Ferrier-Uris, Ramos, Busquets, Angulo-Barroso, 2022; Dunsky, Abu-Rukun, Tsuk, Dwolatzky, Carasso, Netz, 2017 ). Additionally, social engagement--sharing time with loved ones, spending time with friends, and consistently forging new bonds--and interacting with your community also refine attention, and help sharpen concentration. We can't overlook the importance of sleep. Getting a deep, and restful, five to seven hours nightly is recommended. Not only does sleep give your body a respite, it also helps your brain synthesize the thoughts and impressions throughout the day, fortifying valuable memories and insights, that aid subsequent concentration, decision making, analysis, and creativity. And, sleep is often facilitated by mindfulness and reflection. Taking time to connect with yourself and the Power beyond--along with taking stock of the day's experiences and ways you can continue to work toward cherished goals--calms you, gives you needed perspective, and helps you transition to downtime. Focus is the constant guide, that ushers in and closes out the day.
Ways to Always Maintain Your Focus
Though we often cite stress as the cause of distraction or decreased focus, it is during the times of crisis that we need focus the most. So, what can you do to ensure you always maintain your focus, can navigate any emergency? Here are some tips:
- Always attend to the here and now: Be completely present, and have your full attention on what is happening right now. You can't change the past, and the future can still be adjusted; but, the present is the only condition over which you have control.
- Savor challenges: Yes, relish in the trying new situation, even prize the disappointments. Each setback or obstacle is an opportunity for you to become better, consider an overlooked aspect, take on a new perspective, or be more creative. Seize it.
- Practice deep breathing: Take deep breaths that maximize the air inhaled, and let it fully immerse your throat. Not only are you maximizing your oxygen intake, just a moment of this automatically centers you. Shallow breathing can actually add to anxiety.
- Always take some time for you: Even during the most hectic days, take some time, even a few moments, to connect with yourself. Take some time out. If you need to steal away for a few minutes, do it (let your partner and the family know).
- Make learning a daily routine: This can be catching up on an important piece of news that impacts your life; refining a skill; or visiting a new place in the neighborhood. Always expose yourself to new experiences, activities and people. This causes you to adapt and be responsive--challenging your focus for the better. And, learning must persist through the lifespan. Those who participate in new activities and seek novel experiences have less incidence of dementia, and similar mental declines, that often accompany aging.
With these approaches, you'll always maintain your focus—no matter the crisis, disappointment, or disaster—and ensure you remain the best for yourself, and for those around you. Yeah, focus is really your superpower. And, you had it all along.
Bieber, C. (2023). Distracted driving statistics & facts in 2023. https://www.forbes.com/advisor/legal/auto-accident/distracted-driving-statistics/
Brooks, S. & Califf, C. (2017). Social media-induced techno-stress: Its impact on the job performance of IT professionals and the moderating role of job characteristics. Computer Networks, 114(26), 143-153. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.comnet.2016.08.020
Dunsky, A., Abu-Rukun, M., Tsuk, S., Carasso, R. & Netz, Y. (2017). The effects of resistance vs. aerobic single session on attention and executive functioning in adults. PLos One, 12(4), e0176092. https://doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0176092
Ferrier-Uris, B., Ramos, M.A., Busquets, A. & Angulo-Barroso, R. (2022). Can exercise shape your brain? A review of aerobic exercise effects on cognitive function and neuro-physiological underpinning mechanisms. https://doi.org/10.3934%2FNeuroscience.2022009
Haden, J. (2023). Einstein's law of focus: How to be more productive, accomplished, and fulfilled, starting today. https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/einsteins-law-of-focus-how-to-be-more-productive-accomplished-fulfilled-starting-today.html
Heo, S., Kang, J., Umeakunne, E., Lee, S., Bertulfo, T.F., Barbé, T., Kim, J. & Black, V. (2023). Effects of meditation intervention on self-management in adult patients with type 2 diabetes: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1097/JCN.0000000000000973
Jefferson, C. (2021). Food for concentration: 10 foods to help you focus. https://www.betterup.com/blog/food-for-concentration
Juliety. (2023). Studies reveal the shocking effects of distractions at work. https://juliety.com/effects-of-distractions-at-work
Mental Health Foundation. (2022). Physical health and mental health. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/a-z-topics/physical-health-and-mental-health
Nall, R. (2023). Why am I unable to concentrate? https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate