You try to concentrate, but your mind wanders or you are easily distracted. What happened to the laser-sharp focus and concentration you always had?
Like a computer that slows down with use, the brain accumulates wear and tear that affects processing. This can be caused by a number of physiological stressors such as inflammation, damage to blood vessels (especially if you have high blood pressure), the build-up of abnormal proteins and naturally occurring brain shrinkage.
We list the possible factors that cause your concentration loss and how you can ensure that your concentration improves again!
Possible Factors Affecting Your Concentration
The following factors can also affect your concentration:
Underlying Causes and Conditions
Depression or sleep disorders (such as sleep apnea) can severely undermine your ability to concentrate. So are the effects of sight or hearing loss. You're wasting precious cognitive resources if you spend too much time trying to decipher what's on a page or just hearing what someone is saying.
Side effects of medication
Some medications, especially anticholinergics that inhibit impulse transmission in the motor nervous system (such as treatments for incontinence, depression, or allergies) can slow processing speed and your ability to think clearly.
Consuming too much alcohol impairs thinking and causes interrupted sleep, which significantly affects concentration during the day.
We are bombarded with information from TVs, computers and messages such as text messages or emails. If there is too much material, it puts a strain on our filter system and is extremely easily distracted. Certainly as people get older, filtering out stimuli that are not relevant to the task becomes more difficult.
More focus? Try this exercise
Do you want a way to increase your attention and focus? Neuropsychologist Kim Willment of a Harvard-affiliated hospital suggests a single-task exercise, such as reading.
“Read something for 30 minutes and set a timer that goes off every five minutes. If it goes off, ask yourself if your mind has wandered. If so, just refocus on what you're reading. By training your brain to check if your mind is wandering, you strengthen the monitoring process and the ability to focus on a single task.”
Strategies to Maintain Concentration and Focus
Consider the following strategies to improve attention.
Mindfulness is about focusing attention on the present moment, and practicing mindfulness has been shown to rewire the brain so that attention is stronger in everyday life.
The advice is to sit still for a few minutes every day, close your eyes and focus on your breathing and the sounds and sensations around you.
Automated cognitive training games are designed to improve your reaction times and attention. The evidence that this fully works is mixed.
The goal of playing these games is not to get better at them, but to get better at the cognitive activities of daily living.
There is some evidence that a person's ability to pay attention during such a cognitive training game can be improved by gradually pushing the person to higher levels of performance. Then when you reach a certain level of sustained attention, it can help to push your limits and then take it to the next level, which you can benefit from in everyday life.
A healthier lifestyle
Many aspects of a healthy lifestyle can help improve concentration and attention, starting with sleep and exercise.
There is a direct link between exercise and cognitive ability, especially maintaining attention. When you do sports and exercise, you increase the availability of brain chemicals that promote new brain connections, reduce stress and improve sleep.
And when we sleep, we reduce stress hormones that can harm the brain, while also removing proteins that damage it.
Aim for seven to eight hours sleep per night and 150 minutes per week of aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking.
Other healthy steps to improve focus: Eat a Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to improve the health of the brain supports; treat underlying conditions; and change medications that may affect your ability to concentrate.
You can't control aging, but if you do this in the healthiest way possible, it can also maintain and even improve your concentration!