Have trouble focusing on one task for long? Attention span getting shorter and shorter? You are not alone. We seem to be suffering a deficit of attention on a global scale these days. The mind’s nature is to wander, and often it is difficult to make it sit in one place to do what we need it to do.
Fortunately, with some practice, you can actually control your concentration abilities and bring your attention back where it belongs.
Here are 4 mental exercises that can help you get your focus back.
- Counting exercises
- Take a random book and start counting the words in one paragraph. Don’t count them aloud and don’t point fingers at each word. Do it a couple of times to get the count right. Then count the words in two paragraphs. When you see you are able to do two paragraphs easily, increase the number of paragraphs.
- Count backward from 100 to 1, again, mentally and not aloud. Repeat the exercise. When you are comfortable with this range, increase it to 500, and so on.
- Count backwards with variations. For example, skip the numbers by fives, such as 100, 95, 90, 85, etc. When you are comfortable with that, try a harder variation, like a count of three – 100, 97, 94, etc.
- Observation exercises
- Take any physical object – a fruit, a toy, a book, anything – and focus your entire mind on it. Observe its characters and features carefully and meticulously. For instance, if it is an apple, note what the color is, how red or how green, if the shape is crooked or smooth, the texture, the smell of it. Simultaneously, keep your mind from straying toward other random thoughts. For example, your mind might stray from the apple to your grocery bills, but don’t think of those things. If your mind strays, gently bring it back to the contemplation of the apple. Start by observing for 3-5 minutes, and increase the time to 10-15 minutes in phases.
- When you master focused observation, try observing without thinking. When we think, we are usually having a conversation in our minds. We think in languages, and those language words bring out images from our memory stores. In this exercise, you try to observe without any kind of talking going on in your head. Don’t tell yourself that the apple is red or green or smooth or crooked. Just observe without thinking anything. Increase the observation time slowly.
- Visualizing exercises
- After you have observed an object thoroughly for a few minutes, close your eyes and try to visualize it, exactly as you have observed it, from different sides and angles. Try to imagine its texture, smell, shape, color, everything that you have noted with your eyes open. If the image tends to blur, open your eyes, observe for two more minutes, then close them and try again.
- Focusing exercises
- Sit in a quiet place and choose a word to focus on. It can be anything, as long as it has some positive or inspiring connotation for you – like ‘love’, ‘success’, ‘joy’, ‘courage’, etc. It can also be a phrase or a motto, whatever works for you. Now repeat this word or phrase constantly in your mind with complete attention for 5 minutes. Try to keep your mind focused on just the word/phrase and nothing else. When you find that comfortable, increase the time to 10 minutes.
Now, just like physical exercises, mental exercises too need a bit of preparation and warm-up. Follow these ground rules before starting any mental exercise.
- Choose a comfortable place to sit with minimal disturbances, visual or auditory.
- Sit with your spine straight. You may sit cross-legged in a Yoga posture, or just sit in a chair. What matters is that you sit straight and comfortably.
- Increase the intensity of the exercises slowly, and move to a bigger count only when you can comfortably and easily perform the previous amount.
- Remember these exercises are not about success, but consistency. If you can’t get your focus back after 3 days, you are not supposed to. Keep at it and the effects will show.
Our mind is no different from our body. The parts get rusty if we don’t work them out. With so many things screaming for our attention these days, our concentration often does not get the workout it deserves. So give your focus that extra boost with these simple exercises.