Do you feel scattered or out of control on most days? If you do, you are not alone. In our modern society, we are asked to do more, faster, and better than any generation that has come before us. The very technology that promised to make our lives simpler has only further complicated it.
Think about it? When is the last time you truly unplugged for any significant period of time? Most people cannot remember the last time. This constant bombardment of information and demands can easily turn the most focused of us into a disorganized mess if we are not careful.
Yet, having a focused mind is key to our happiness and success. Indeed, a focused mind enables us to live in the moment, be mindful, and direct our efforts to what is most important. Without a focused mind, we end up in constant fire-fighting mode.
When we allow ourselves to get in this mode, life becomes one long struggle. We fall into a state of chronic anxiety and stress. And once that happens, we begin to suffer emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Our lives become less joyful and productive. We cannot succeed in our work, or in being happy, purposeful lives.
But how do we stay focused in our chaotic environments?
The first step is to understand the nature of your mind. As discussed in previous posts, your mind is like an iceberg. It functions on a number of different conscious and subconscious levels. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of programs constantly running in your mind.
Most of these run on subconscious levels that we are not even aware of. The programs manage our breathing, our heart beats, our automatic responses to things that happen to and around us, and most of our automatic thoughts that control our emotions and attitudes. It is these subconscious responses that react to much of the information we receive through our senses throughout the day.
The more information, the higher demand on our mind’s subconscious processing power, the less available processing power is left for attending to the things that are most important. In effect, we get pulled away from those things that are most important to allocate our mental resources to other, less important, things. We become overwhelmed and unfocused.
We worry – subconsciously or consciously – about rent, something that happened at work last week, what will happen today, our health, how our kids are doing in school, etc., etc., etc…
The good news is it does not have to be this way. You do not need to be overwhelmed.
Nurturing the focused mind
There are several aspects to nurturing the focused mind. Here are a few key steps to take to develop a more focused, productive mind.
Nutrition. Our minds and our bodies are connected. We cannot have a healthy mind without a healthy body, or visa-versa. What we eat has a tremendous impact on our ability to concentrate and focus, to solve difficult or complex problems, remain alert, and generally be more productive.
Foods high in vitamins B, C, E, beta-carotene, and magnesium seem to enhance concentration and focus. Sugar and caffeine (in moderation) can also enhance alertness, and provide an intellectual boost. You will also want to remain hydrated throughout the day, and avoid over or under eating.
Exercise. Again, the mind and body are connected. A healthier body improves brain performance. Exercising in the morning, or during the day, breaks up the monotony of the day and allows the brain an opportunity to unplug. This break is rejuvenating. Indeed, vigorous exercise increases blood flow which in turn increases oxygen flow to the brain. This increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain is always accompanied by increases in mental sharpness.
Studies have also suggested that exercise may actually speed up the creation of neurons and neural connections within the brain, and protect them from damage and stress.
Train the mind. Meditation has been found to be an excellent way to sharpen mental processes and focus. Numerous studies on subjects who have active meditation programs show increased coordination across brain hemispheres, improved focus, reduced stress, and increased clarity in thinking. Meditate twice daily for 20 minutes each session for a week or two and you will see the difference.
It may seem like a lot of effort to take these three simple steps to improve your focus and clarity. This is illusion, however. The likelihood is that by NOT taking these steps, you are expending a great deal more energy for lessor results throughout your day. You may also be suffering psychologically, physically, and emotionally from the stress of having a fragmented mind. You are almost certainly not as productive as you could be if you took the time to nurture and focus your mind.
Try it out for 2 weeks and tell me I’m wrong.