How to Improve Focus and Concentration

How to Improve Focus and Concentration

by Jef L’Ecuyer, Registered Dietitian
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How to Improve Focus and Concentration

Do you ever sit at your desk and find your mind wandering? Do small distractions derail your train of thought? You might need to be studying for that upcoming final or finishing up that important work project, but instead, you’re scrolling through social media, texting a friend, or just daydreaming. 

Losing concentration is a natural phenomenon. Using your brain for extended periods can be taxing. Like any other muscle, it gets tired. But like any other muscle, there are ways to strengthen it, to train your brain and improve your mental focus naturally—all without relying on caffeine or stimulants.

Want to know how to improve focus? 

Today, we’ll discuss some tips and techniques you can employ to do just that.    

How to Improve Concentration: 7 Strategies for Improving Focus Naturally

Peoples’ attention span, ability to concentrate, and memory vary. In some cases, being easily distracted may be their natural predisposition; some people just have a harder time staying on point. But then there could also be exacerbating factors, such as head injuries or aging. And when you have trouble focusing, that can cause stress, which only makes it more difficult to concentrate.    

Common symptoms of poor concentration include: 

  • Impulsiveness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Restlessness
  • Procrastination
  • Distractedness 

Since there may be several confounding factors—both environmental and physiological—there’s no ideal remedy for addressing this issue. What works for one person may not fix the problem for another. However, there are some natural remedies you can try to increase your focus, including: 

#1 Ditch the Electronics. Or, at Least, Silence Them 

For some, being unable to concentrate could be the result of a chronic condition like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But for most people, it’s more likely a symptom of all the distractions that come with a hyper-saturated digital world.  

Put simply, we’re constantly bombarded with distractions. Between our text, emails, and social media, there are dozens of potential interruptions—and each one is capable of disrupting your flow and impacting productivity. This is evidenced by the fact that nearly two-thirds of Americans check their phone 160 times per day. 

We’re obsessed. Addicted. Ex-Apple consultant Linda Stone coined the term “continuous partial attention,” which states: 

By adopting an always-on, anywhere, anytime, any place behavior, we exist in a constant state of alertness that scans the world but never really gives our full attention to anything. In the short term, we adapt well to these demands, but in the long term the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol create a physiological hyper-alert state that is always scanning for stimuli, provoking a sense of addiction temporarily assuaged by checking in.

If you’re working on something, don’t let your phone be the reason you’re unable to stay on topic. Instead, put it away, silence it, or switch it to Do Not Disturb if you’re wondering how to focus . Then, avoid the impulse to check it constantly. This is a bad habit that is hard to break for most people. It may be difficult at first, but by setting goals, such as only reading your messages at the top of the hour, you can minimize the need to always be connected.    

#2 How To Increase Focus? Tell People to Not Interrupt You Unless It’s an Emergency

If you’re in an office working on an important task, you may have people pop in asking for, “a moment of your time.” But it’s never just a moment of your time. That’s because for every distraction it takes even longer to get back into the zone. It’s not necessarily about the interruption itself, but rather, the post-distraction period. 

The University of California Irvine studied this phenomenon and found that it takes a while to resume your mental train of thought. In fact, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for a person to get back on task. 

Whether you work in an office or virtually, if you’re in the middle of something that requires extended focus, tell your coworkers to leave you alone until you’re done or have reached a good stopping point. By always making yourself available, you decrease your ability to concentrate.  

#3 Try Probiotics 

Your brain regularly communicates with your gut’s microbiota. What affects the gut can impact the brain and vice versa. This is what’s known as the gut-brain axis, which is linked by biochemical signaling that occurs between the digestive tract and central nervous system—all of which is connected through the longest nerve in the body, the Vagus nerve. 

Your gut produces the neurotransmitters that are used in the brain, including:

  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • GABA

Every one of these chemicals can impact your mood, appetite, and cognitive function. This is why many people use probiotics to support the gut-brain axis. 

Bio-K+® probiotics, for instance, can be used in your healthy lifestyle to ensure that you’re receiving the “good bacteria” your gut needs.  Whether you prefer capsules or a drinkable, these high-quality, premium products ensure that you’re receiving the daily support your brain and gut require.  

#4 Eat Healthily 

You know the phrase you are what you eat? The same holds true here. Your diet plays an integral role in your health. More specifically, it can impact your ability to focus and concentrate. 

By eating high-quality foods—those that are rich in vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants—you fortify the brain. Multiple studies have shown that dietary factors can have a significant impact on neuronal function and synaptic plasticity. In other words, the right foods can provide energy, support cognitive processes, and reduce the risk of neurological dysfunction.

But what foods are best for improving focus? We suggest the following: 

  • Fatty fish – Salmon, tuna, and albacore are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which the brain relies on to form brain and nerve cells. Omega 3-s are critical for improving your memory and mood. 
  • Antioxidants-rich foods – All evidence indicates that antioxidant nutrients could help prevent cognitive decline and support cognitive function. Foods that are high in antioxidants include: 
    • Blueberries
    • Dark chocolate
    • Pecans
    • Strawberries
    • Artichokes
    • Kale
    • Goji berries
    • Raspberries
    • Beans
    • Broccoli
  • Green tea – Green tea not only offers a natural caffeine source, which boosts brain function, but it also contains components like L-theanine that all support concentration.  

#5 Exercise Regularly 

Have you ever noticed that when you’re stressed or running through something in your mind that going for a run or working out often helps clear things up? 

Getting regular exercise is just as important for your brain as it is for your body. The Journal of Translational Sports Medicine discovered that even just two minutes of aerobic exercise can provide a temporary boost, but longer periods of exercise can improve cognition for a few hours. 

Regular exercise decreases gray matter thickness in the frontal cortex and increases blood flow to the brain. This reduces stress, improves cognition, and makes it easier to concentrate. 

So, how much should you exercise? 

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. And make sure that you’re sweating. Both your body and brain will thank you for that, especially as you age. 

#6 Train Your Brain 

Remember, your brain is a muscle. As such, it takes time and repetition to build it up or instill healthy habits. Their stamina and brain power will either increase through regular use or decrease from inactivity. Fortunately, there are several different ways you can stretch your mental muscles, including: 

  • Doing memory card games 
  • Playing board games
  • Filling out crosswords or sudoku
  • Completing puzzles 
  • Practicing an instrument 
  • Learning new skills  

#7 Take Breaks 

Also, like your muscles, your brain gets tired. After a while, it needs to take a breather, especially if you’re deeply concentrated on an important task.  If you're looking to improve brain function and concentration, make sure you take a short break every hour or two.

Although there isn’t a medical consensus on the exact number, most experts estimate that the average adult can spend approximately 50–90 minutes focused on something before it needs to take a break. According to Harvard Business Review: 

After working at high intensity for more than 90 minutes, we begin to draw on these emergency reserves to keep us going. In the process, we move from parasympathetic to a sympathetic arousal — a physiological state more commonly known as “fight or flight.” 

After this stress hormone is released, the prefrontal cortex starts to shut down, making it more difficult to think clearly or focus. Because of this, it’s important that you regularly take 10-20 minute breaks at least every other hour. Doing so gives your brain a chance to refocus and reset, helping you to improve focus naturally. 

Bio-K+® – The Ultimate Solution for How to Improve Focus and Concentration 

Improving your focus and cognitive ability won’t happen by simply wishing it so. You must be proactive, taking proven steps to support your mental health in new ways.  

But what if you need that extra boost in brain power? 

That’s where our Bio-K+® Extra Drinkable Vegan Probiotic can be the great differentiator. It’s packed with billions of healthy bacteria as well as Cereboost® which has been shown to support cognitive function, performance, and working memory.†

For people who want to live a healthy lifestyle, our probiotic products are the ultimate tool for supporting your gut health, and thus, your mental health. Whether you prefer a capsule or drinkable probiotic, our premium products are backed by science.

So, are you ready to say goodbye to the afternoon wall and hello to Bio-K+®?


Sources 

Wheelwright, T. (2021, April 21). Cell Phone Behavior in 2021: How Obsessed Are We? Reviews.Org. https://www.reviews.org/mobile/cell-phone-addiction/

Griffey, H. (2018, October 17). The lost art of concentration: being distracted in a digital world. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/oct/14/the-lost-art-of-concentration-being-distracted-in-a-digital-world

Wong, K. (2015, July 29). How Long It Takes to Get Back on Track After a Distraction. Lifehacker. https://lifehacker.com/how-long-it-takes-to-get-back-on-track-after-a-distract-1720708353

Harvard Health. (2019, June 8). Probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/probiotics-may-help-boost-mood-and-cognitive-function

Gómez-Pinilla, F. (2008, July 1). Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2805706/

Harvard Health. (2019, May 3). Do Omega-3s protect your thinking skills? https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/do-omega-3s-protect-your-thinking-skills

Beydoun, M. A. (2015, January 1). Dietary antioxidant intake and its association with cognitive function in an ethnically diverse sample of US adults. PubMed Central (PMC). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4597309/

Blomstrand, P., & Engvall, J. (2020). Effects of a single exercise workout on memory and learning functions in young adults—A systematic review. Translational Sports Medicine, 4(1), 115–127. http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1470784/FULLTEXT02.pdf

Schwartz, T.  (2010, May 17). For Real Productivity, Less is Truly More. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2010/05/for-real-productivity-less-is


Jef L’Ecuyer
About the author
Jef L’Ecuyer, Registered Dietitian
After her nutrition training at McGill University, Jef specialized in gastrointestinal health with a special interest in the microbiota and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. With Bio-K+, she continues on this path by making the world of probiotics more accessible to all.
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