Brain exercises for focus and to help reduce distractions is becoming ever popular, not just in kids but for adults as well. Our brains and our attention can get hijacked from time to time, whether from stress, illness or from overload of information.
We live in the age of distraction. The digital world and constant bombardment of information from TV, the internet, social media, text messages and our busy lives can mean it is difficult to focus on what really matters. No wonder our brains can often feel jumbled.
We should really think about brain exercises for focus not simply as a concept but as a cognitive training tool.
A wandering brain is commonplace, there is no reason to fight against it, t’s just the nature of the mind.
Our attention can be easily disrupted, like a beam it can be directed to whatever we chose. The problem can be that our brain wanders off, not just while sleeping but during the day as well. The daily distractions we all encounter draws our beam of attention towards them, everything from worries, the weather, news, information, beeps, rings, stress, and our habits.
Whether these disruptions are major or minor, they defocus our beam of attention away from our tasks. This lack of attention can have consequences for us all be it in our education or work situations.
The question then becomes how we take control of our beam, so we direct it to where we want it to go. Brain training for focus is about mindfulness, a brain training routine to keep our attention strong. Research has shown that people who do not undertake some form of mindfulness training experiences attention decline under stressful situations. Whereas people who undertake some form of brain training, their attention remains stable.
There is ample scientific evidence to show that those of us who regularly do mindfulness brain exercises, our attention improves over time, even under stress. Researchers have started to uncover other benefits associated with brain exercises for focus, including reduced anxiety, protection from depression relapse, and improved working memory.
The whole concept of mindfulness is about paying attention to our present moments with awareness and without any emotional reactivity. Our brain exercises for focus can be separated into two areas, focused attention, and open monitoring.
The exercise of focused attention taps into our brain’s ability to focus on a single object, usually our breathing. Anyone of any age can exercise focused attention. It simply starts by sitting comfortable in an upright position. Now we focus all our attention on the sensation of our breathing. Focus on the cool air flowing into our lungs, filling up our chest and then gently moving out. When our minds wander away from our breathing sensation (or the sounds around us) towards our internal mental images, just gently return it to our breathing sensation. Remember, do not be alarmed to find ourselves retrieving our wandering mind lots of times during our sessions. Think of our brains like young untamed foal we are training to walk on a lead, we need to calmly redirect it every time it wanders away.
We can also practice focused attention while out walking. Just focus on the sensation of walking, our feet moving over the ground as the wind blows through the trees and the sounds of life around us. The nice part is walking can be done indoors or outdoors.
Another worthwhile focused attention exercise is our body scan. Close our eyes, breath naturally, then take our beam and direct it slowly up and down our entire body. Start at the top of our heads, gently moving the beam down, noting any sensations as it moves. Do we feel tightness, giddiness, relaxed, restlessness, calm etc.?
Brain exercises involving monitoring takes more practice, it helps us to learn how to pay attention to what is happening around us without becoming involved with it. In this exercise we remain open to any experience that happens and allow it to wash over us, just like a wave. We do not think about it, we do not chase it and we do not process it. We just notice it and allow it to move away. Label anything that arises with words like “thinking”, “concerned” “noted” “remembering” or “interesting”. After you put a name on it, allow it to move away. Think of it like watching waves washing up on the shoreline and observing as they wash in and then disappear. It is just that in this practice we are watching thoughts move through our minds.
Do not worry, we all experience times when we feel like chasing the waves or the wave might overwhelm us. If we do find ourselves battling the waves, we just need go back to doing a focused attention exercise to steady our thoughts again.
Try to do these brain exercises for a minimum of 15 minutes a day, maybe five days a week. We normally can expect to see some benefits after 4 or 5 weeks. Just like any exercise, the more we do, the more we gain. When we try these brain exercises and experience any issues staying focused, know that this is commonplace, so do not be discouraged. Our beam will get distracted, and when this happens just gently redirect it back to our bodies and return to our attention.
When we start rain exercises for focus, remember the words implementation intention. That is our intention (commitment) to exercise the brain, brain training our way to improved attention and mental strength. Have a goal in mind, maybe to talk a mindfulness walk every day before breakfast for ten minutes. Whatever goals we set for ourselves, commit to that for a month and congratulate ourselves for achieving it. Over time gradually increase the practice time until we are doing it for a minimum of 15 minutes, 5 days a week.
One suggestion is to find a tool, friend or community that will help us with our implementation intention. Most of us need some support to create a new habit loop of brain exercises, whether that means setting daily reminders or finding a regular time to sit or walk.
Wave is a cool way to look at mindfulness and brain exercises for focus and attention.
W = Welcome. Welcome in our thoughts, invite them in! We cannot fight a wave.
A = Accept. Accept what our bodies are experiencing, allow all our emotions to rise and fall just like the tide.
V = Value. Value the experience, our life, friends, and family. This is about learning, sustaining, and growing
E = Embrace. Embrace ourselves in every way we can, be kind and compassionate to ourselves, let our beam guide our paths.
Brain exercises for focus is about reclaiming our own attention, to improve our brain fitness, so we can connect more fully with the world and the people who matter.