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increase your focus & boost your brain power with these handy tips!
May 30, 2017
How to Increase Your Focus & Concentration Naturally…
Greetings everyone, and a warm welcome to our May/June edition of Life Saving Health Solutions - and a special welcome to all of our new subscribers. Thank you for being a part of our health circle and I sincerely hope you enjoy the information I’ll be sharing with you.
Ginseng has been used in China for centuries to treat several diseases including memory loss and aging. A recent study has even shown ginseng to be effective in recovering memory loss in stroke patients that suffer from dementia. A powerful energy booster and performance enhancing herb, ginseng can also decrease blood pressure, headaches, insomnia and tremors, which all lead to improved concentration.
In addition, ginseng is a strong libido enhancer and cure for erectile dysfunction. Organic teas containing ginseng can be found in most grocery or health food stores, or this herb can be taken in tablet or capsule form. The recommended daily dosage is up to 1200 mgs, depending on your reason for taking the herb. If you can, go with Korean red ginseng as this is the most potent and effective.
5. Bacopa: An Indian herb commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, bacopa is renowned for enhancing memory, concentration and learning abilities. This is due to the bacosides, which are the main chemical constituents of the plant. These chemical compounds protect the synaptic functions of the nerves in the memory part of the brain known as the hippocampus (these synaptic functions receive and send off nerve impulses and can unfortunately degenerate with age).
Bacopa is also said to help treat heart problems, asthma, bronchitis, digestive disorders and anxiety due to its antioxidant properties. The recommended dose for Bacopa is 400-1200 mgs of the herb or 100 mgs of the standardized extract per day.
6. Rosemary: Rosemary has been used for centuries to boost memory, improve digestion, and prevent brain aging and cognitive decline. It’s used (along with turmeric, sage and other spices) to help prevent and manage Alzheimer’s and dementia. Rosemary contains powerful anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-stroke, antioxidant and antiulcergenic compounds. Coincidentally, the only place in the world where people eat rosemary every day, Acciaroli in Italy, has 45% of its population over 100 years old and 12% above 110, a world record!
Along with eating rosemary and/or drinking rosemary tea, sniffing a piece of rosemary or inhaling rosemary oil will increase your memory and cognitive function by as much as 75% according to a recent study. Psychologists at Northumbria University in Newcastle conducted the study and presented their findings at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society in Harrogate. Study organizer, Dr. Mark Ross said it enabled people to “remember events that will occur in the future” by 60-75 percent and to “remember to complete tasks at particular times.”
Other Things You can do to Enhance Your Brain Power…Get Some Sleep: It’s impossible to concentrate and be focused if you’re fatigued or burning the candle at both ends. Get at least 7-8 hours a night of uninterrupted sleep and power-nap during the day if you need to. It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking a quick nap will do wonders for your focus. Harvard researcher, Robert Stickgold, says naps help you to separate important information from extraneous details. Basically, naps allow you to focus on what really matters.
So if you find yourself losing concentration, take a quick power nap. You’ll likely wake up with a better grasp on what you need to do. They don’t call it a power nap for nothing!
The trick is to keep your naps to 20-30 minutes. This prevents you from entering the deeper REM sleep zone, which can make you feel drowsy and irritable and even worse when you wake up.
Avoid Getting Hungry: You’ve seen the Snickers ad right? You’re not yourself when you’re hungry (I don’t recommend eating Snickers bars though). Hunger is distracting and signals that your brain isn’t getting the energy it needs to fuel your focus and concentration. Eat regular meals, with at least two healthy snacks in between (fruit is good). Make sure you don’t eat heavy or overly rich foods either as these can have a sedating effect. Some of the best foods for focus and concentration include…
- Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, which accelerate the signals between neurons and make your brain more responsive.
- Omega 3 rich foods like salmon, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. These are excellent for brain health and focusing ability.
- Eggs (the white and the yolk) contain brain-supporting choline and phenylalanine which your body uses to produce the neurotransmitter dopamine. Eggs are also an excellent source of the omega-3 DHA fatty acid.
- Avocados contain monounsaturated fats that support healthy blood flow to the brain.
- Whole grains help improve blood flow, regulate glucose (steady glucose levels make it easier to concentrate) and decrease the risk of plaque building up in the brain, so be sure to eat plenty of these.
- Blueberries improve learning and concentration while protecting the brain from free radicals.
Vitamin B3 or niacin — needed to maintain the continual supply of glucose your brain uses for energy. Without this key nutrient you’re likely to struggle with poor concentration, confusion and memory loss. Get at least 20mgs a day.
Vitamin B6 — needed for the production of neurotransmitters and to prevent confusion and lack of concentration. Again, get at least 20mgs a day.
Vitamin B12 — B12 is essential for having a healthy myelin sheath around the nerves. A B12 deficiency is fairly common and affects at least 15% of adults over 60 — and it’s totally avoidable! Aim for 1000mcgs per day
Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid — needed for oxidative metabolism (the first part of the metabolic process) of glucose and fats, and to synthesize fats, cholesterol, melatonin and acetylcholine. Go for at least 20mgs each day.
Vitamin C — this powerful antioxidant helps make the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which works on the part of your brain where your attention is controlled. Vitamin C is needed in large amounts. Follow twice Nobel Prize winner, Dr Linus Pauling’s advice and consume 10,000 mgs (yes you read right) of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) every day.
Curcumin — this unique polyphenol from turmeric has been used for generations to “effectively manage stress in China,” according to the US government’s National Center for Biotechnology Information. Recent studies suggest curcumin can enhance the growth of new brain cells - which is essential for optimal learning - and promote healthy connections to other brain cells whilst protecting them from damage. Even small amounts of dietary turmeric is linked to lower rates of dementia. A potent antioxidant, curcumin quickly reduces and alleviates the inflammation in the brain that contributes to dementia.
Since curcumin is quite difficult for the body to absorb, it’s advised that you combine ¼ teaspoon of black pepper with turmeric to enhance its absorption. This practice actually increases its bioavailability by as much as 2000%. 1-2 teaspoons of turmeric or a curcumin extract supplement every day is what you need.
Quercetin — another substance with strong antioxidant properties, quercetin is a flavonoid, or a plant pigment that helps give fruits and vegetables their bright color. Research shows it can help with free radical damage and inflammation.
More Helpful Tips to Increase Your Focus and Get More Done…Soothe Your Emotional Stress -
Paying more attention to what’s happening to you during a stressful period actually helps you deal with that stress better. Being aware of your stress level in a particular situation is the start of mindfulness - which is the opposite of multi-tasking (multitasking is definitely something you want to avoid).
Get Outdoors - Studies have shown that people can concentrate better after communing with nature or even just looking at pictures of nature. Even if it’s just a walk in the park, this practice can calm all the stimuli that grab your (involuntary) attention. Nature let’s your focused mind rest and rejuvenate.
Meditate and be Mindful - While meditation and concentration are different, they can work together. Several studies show that meditating for 20 minutes a day improves both your concentration and attention span. If meditating and mindfulness are new to you, this description from Harvard Medical School explains it well…
“Mindfulness really does not have to be more complicated than learning to pay attention to what is going on around you — the idea is to focus your attention on what is happening in the present and to accept it without judgement.”
The simplest way to begin meditating is to first start noticing your breathing — become “mindful” of it — over the course of a few minutes. Then next time, focus more intently on your breathing for 10 minutes or so. When you get distracted, bring your consciousness back to your breathing (inhaling and exhaling). Also try practising focused attention (FA) meditation. With this type of meditation you direct your attention to an object. When your focus drifts, you bring it back to that object. FA can calm your mind and muffle distractions, and it gets easier with practice. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where you can concentrate with the least amount of effort.
Take Regular Breaks - Work in “chunks” rather than in one hit. Split your work into parcels and enjoy a timeout between each chunk. Staying on the same task or topic for too long fatigues the brain, just as too much exercise exhausts the body. Try the Pomodoro Technique created by Francesco Cirillo back in the 1980’s. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that enhances focus and concentration. It works like this…
Focus on a task for 25 minutes. Take a 5 minute break.
This is considered a Pomodoro. After doing this 4 times, you then take a longer break (around 15-30 minutes). Pomodoro requires short bursts of intense focus but the benefit and payoff is a few minutes of idle daydreaming and an increase in brain power!
Set Yourself a Goal - Establish an end goal for your task and reward yourself when you reach it with a refreshing beverage, social phone call, or walk outside. For longer tasks, plan them out in phases and take small breaks between each stage — just enough time to rest without affecting your momentum. Another approach to take when you find yourself unable to concentrate is to first take a quick break then switch to a different activity for a brief period of time. Everybody needs to hit the reset button every now and then.
Forget Multitasking - “Most of the time, multitasking is an illusion. You think you are multitasking, but in reality, you’re actively wasting time switching from one task to another.” -Bosco Tjan
Multitasking isn’t as effective as we think it is. You think doing 5 things at once is an effective use of your time and mental resources because you’ll finish faster, but it just doesn’t work this way. What we commonly refer to as “multitasking” is really task-switching, and studies show it actually decreases our efficiency.
According to the American Psychology Association, switching tasks can degrade our productivity by up to 40%. Each time you switch tasks, it requires your brain to change modes. Although this only robs you of a few tenths of a second, even over a short period of time it can quickly add up. If you must do more than one thing at a time, limit yourself to no more than two tasks. A 2010 study conducted by the French firm Inserm found that we can only do one task per brain hemisphere anyway (and of course the human brain only has two hemispheres).
Listen to Classical Music - “If I’m doing a task that’s very left hemisphere… that means my right hemisphere doesn’t have much to do and it gets bored. I find that if I have music going in the background while my left hemisphere is consciously concentrating on the work I’m doing, my right hemisphere can just kind of enjoy itself by listening to the music.” -Stephen Christman
Did you know that one side of your brain can get bored? The left hemisphere is better at concentration, logic, and reasoning. The right hemisphere is superior at complementary attention, such as responding emotionally and listening to music. So while you’re deeply focused on the task at hand, why not give your right brain something to do as well. Listening to classical music, like Mozart or Beethoven, can improve your spatial intelligence and help you concentrate better. In fact, what’s known as “the Mozart effect” was proven effective back in the early 90’s. This is something I like to do myself. Listening to Mozart while working on the computer definitely makes a big difference to your focus, concentration and memory recall abilities. I highly recommend you give it a try!
Exercise - Yet another reason to get out and get that body moving. Exercise releases powerful mood stimulating chemicals called endorphins. Mood stimulation or brain euphoria increases focus and concentration. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week. Raise your heart rate by 70% of your maximum. To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Elevate your heart rate to 70% of that total.
Sometimes it’s actually best to exercise just before a period of intense focus or when you need to concentrate on a specific task. Focusing works best when you’re highly stimulated, and the time after exercising is optimal for concentration.
Write Down Your Distractions and Pestering Thoughts - Sometimes our brains betray us. It knows you’re doing work and so it will go off on tangents about what you’re going to eat for dinner, why Joe Blogs wore those pants, how much a new car will cost, how you spell Kathmandu, and so on. Brains can be more inquisitive (and annoying at times) than a non-stop talking 5 year old. Focusing requires you to minimize distractions, but how do you do that when your own brain is the culprit? The best way is with a notebook. Whenever a distracting thought comes up in your mind, jot it down to erase it from your short term memory. You can then carry on with your task.
Zone Out – Yes, recommending that you spend time daydreaming does seem misplaced in an article about focus and concentration. However, zoning out actually improves your brain function.
About 47% of our days are spent daydreaming. According to some researchers, it may actually be the default setting of our brain. Amy Fries from Psychology Today says it’s during these daydreaming episodes when your brain is most efficient and can better solve problems. So the next time you come across a problem, take a break and start daydreaming. It can help you to be a better and more focused thinker.
Give Yourself a Deadline – Make sure you don’t give yourself too much time to do a task. When you have all the time in the world to get something done, it never really gets done until the last minute. Your brain only focuses on what needs to be done next. If you don’t think you really need to do something, you likely won’t bother. Build your focus by self-imposing strict deadlines on yourself to help you overcome procrastination.
Group Similar Tasks Together – Studies show it can take up to 25 minutes for your brain to refocus when you switch from one task to the next. This is why multitasking is so detrimental to a person’s focus and concentration. Instead of jumping around from one task to the next, group similar tasks together. For example, send all your emails at one time, pay all your bills at another time, update your social media at one time, and so forth.
Do the Most Important Task First - What’s the most important task you need to do today? The most important is always the one you’re doing right at this moment, because you’re trading a non-refundable amount of time for it. So, when you approach every task “as the most important you need to do today”, you can trick yourself into giving it the most attention. Once that task is over, the next task is now the most important thing you’ll do today, and so on it goes.
Delegate - Some tasks and jobs are not worth your time. Delegate the work you hate to do to others who can focus on those tasks efficiently. For instance, if you’re not good at accounting, get an accountant. Get rid of the tasks you can’t or don’t want to do, and instead, focus on the good stuff. Life’s too short to iron for 3 hours if you hate doing it. Even though it costs money for services, you can increase your earnings by being more focused on the profitable tasks.
Here’s a few tasks to delegate…
-Housekeeping and cleaning
-Gardening and lawn mowing
- Tuesday: Focus on the product
- Wednesday: Marketing, communications, growth
- Thursday: Development and partnerships
- Friday: Company, company culture, and recruiting
This Just In…
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