Increasing mental focus
Recent studies show that people who enjoy reading novels are more easily able to empathize with others, a sign of a strong and well-rounded mind. If you want to work on increasing your mental strength, read a variety of things that you enjoy.
- You don't have to jump straight into reading Ulysses if you want to improve your mental strength, and in fact trying to read something too difficult might turn you off reading entirely. Instead, focus on reading things you enjoy. Westerns, romance novels, and long-form magazines are all good ways to read.
- Try replacing an hour of television each evening with reading, instead. Invest the time that you might normally spend idling, chatting with friends, or watching the tube in reading a good book.
- The more regularly you pick up a new skill, or study a new subject, the stronger your mind becomes. Try to pick up one new thing every week, then continue working on it as you learn new things. Build up your mental strength gradually.
- wikiHow is a great resource for learning new things. Learn how to play chess, change your oil, or play guitar.
- Have complicated conversations instead of gossiping. Talk about things that are important to you, or things that you've been learning. Try starting or joining a book club in your area.
- Try to meet lots of different kinds of people. If you're in school, don't stick to just one social group, but move around. If you're an adult, try to meet people from socio-economic situations different from your own. Hang out with your plumber, and hang out with your doctor.
- Video games are a mixed bag when it comes to mental strength. Some research shows that video games aid in problem solving, fine motor skills, logistics, and analysis. Other research points to the negative effects of violence and social isolation associated with video games, decreasing moral sensitivity and attention span.
- Nourish yourself with complex entertainment, and avoid click-bait. If you've ever seen a long newsreel and thought, "Jeez, TLDR" then it's probably time to unplug a little. Reading Buzzfeed or watching YouTube videos of epic fails is like eating three Skittles at lunch. Reading a book or watching a documentary is like eating a meal.
- Even just doing a cross-word puzzle or a sudoku every day may decrease your chances of losing mental awareness as you become older while increasing your verbal fluency.
Part 2Improving Concentration
- Do one thing at a time. Splitting your attention among multiple tasks makes the quality of thought that you're giving to each task less. A recent social and psychological study revealed that chronic multi-tasking in a variety of interactive media makes us poorer students, workers, and less efficient learners.
- Start prioritizing the most important things you have to do each day, and just focus your attention there. Write out a list to start the day, and work through it.
- Finish one thing before starting another. Even if you find something challenging, stick with it until you're done. Switching between tasks is often more difficult than finishing something you've started.
- Take frequent short breaks. Recent studies show that as short a break as five minutes every hour results in more efficiency than a single long break in the middle of a workday. Let your brain rest and refresh, to give yourself the best chance of staying mentally strong throughout a difficult task.
- Get rid of distractions. For lots of people, the chatter of the radio in the background, or the noise of the television is part of almost every minute. If you have a lot of white noise and static in your life, try replacing it with soft relaxing music. Let yourself focus on doing one thing only, instead of trying to entertain yourself while you work.
- Focusing more on what you're doing will have the added benefit of letting you finish your work more quickly. If you're trying to watch a show at the same time, it'll take longer.
- Want to really eliminate distraction? Get off the Internet. When you're trying to study and Facebook is only a click away, it's awfully tempting to mess around. Use a web-blocker or a site-blocker if you can't unplug yourself.
- Be here now. It may sound overly simple, but one excellent way of focusing your attention back to a task when you find your mind wandering is to remind yourself, "Be here now." Don't think about what you're eating for lunch, or what you're doing later tonight, or what's going to happen this weekend. Just be here now and do what you're doing.
- Try using a keyword mantra, if you don't like "Be here now." Pick a password or a keyword from what you're doing. If you're doing math homework, make it "math" or another related vocab word. When you notice your attention waning, repeat the keyword until you can re-focus.