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Give your brain a workout: 10 concentration exercises to up your focus

August 30, 2022 - 13 min read

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What are concentration exercises?

Why are concentration exercises important?

5 benefits of concentration exercises

10 exercises to improve your concentration

6 tips for practicing concentration exercises

4 concentration exercises you can do at work

Moving forward: Go easy on your concentrating abilities

Goldfish get a bum rap when it comes to attention span. But in this era of buzzing phones and pinging laptops, are your own concentration skills feeling weak? 

The truth is that your brain has an incredible ability to focus. 

But of course, sometimes you’ll fall off track, and your concentration will slip. You’ll shift from writing an email to wondering if you locked your front door when you left home. 

This is natural, and it happens to everyone. 

Plus, if you feel like your concentration abilities need a tune-up, you can work to build up your focus with concentration exercises. Warning: It's not the simplest task to boost your focus.

Studies have found that mind-wandering is the brain's default mode. And of course, there are times when it’s okay for your brain to drift — just not when you have important tasks at hand.

So if you’re looking for a fix and a better way to stay on track, read on to discover the benefits of concentration exercises and exactly how to get started. 

 

What are concentration exercises?

Concentration exercises are activities you practice to help improve your focus and concentration

Think of it as brain training. Your goal is to exercise and strengthen your brain's ability to focus and pay attention to things. Sharpening your cognitive skills takes practice, just like strengthening other muscles in your body. 

Over time, and with sustained effort, you’ll begin to see the benefits of your self-improvement. Once your focus muscles are stronger, your Mental Fitness will thank you.

These exercises can be simple concentration tasks, or they can really work your brain. You can do them at home, at work, on a walk, or anytime you have downtime. Even two minutes a day can lead to improvements. 

Some exercises will require tools and resources, like crossword puzzles, while others only need your mind. That means you can easily incorporate them into your daily routine to see the benefits faster.

You can do these exercises at any age. Whether you’re a young adult or more mature, just go at your own pace. Be aware: As you get older, your working memory and ability to hold attention begin to decline, along with how fast we can do both

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Why are concentration exercises important?

If you’re like most people, you have a ton of things going on. You’re managing work and family responsibilities, while also looking after your own emotional well-being. Some tasks require a lot of thought and care, and when you’re low on time or energy, the quality suffers. 

Brain exercises can help limit the effects of distractions, such as people chatting nearby.

Concentration exercises also show the benefits to halting multitasking so your brains can focus on one task at a time. Multitasking can seem helpful.

After all, don’t you accomplish more tasks in the same timeframe? But in fact, multitasking increases stress while decreasing efficiency and productivity. Your brain is actually quickly switching between two tasks, which wastes valuable energy. 

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Building concentration also means building mindfulness. Being mindful of yourself and your surroundings transforms how you interact with the world. Research has shown that practicing mindfulness boosts executive functioning and lessens impulsivity. Bottom line: with mindfulness, you’ll think things through more and focus on being intentional with your actions.

5 benefits of concentration exercises

Strengthening your brain's ability to focus leads to all sorts of benefits. Being able to concentrate helps your mental health and self-esteem, and can also motivate you to set new goals. When you know you can focus on the tasks you set out for yourself, you’ll feel powerful.

These are some of the benefits that accompany practicing concentration exercises:

  1. Trust in your abilities: When you know you can focus, you learn how to trust yourself. You can feel confident you won't succumb to procrastination or let distractions win.
  2. Greater self-confidence: With more ability to focus, you’ll accomplish more, faster. That means you’ll feel confident when new tasks come your way, even if the deadlines are tight. 
  3. Coping with complexity: Washing dishes requires minimal concentration compared to writing a research report. Your concentration exercises will help you manage even tricky, complex tasks. 
  4. Strengthens emotional regulation: Concentrating helps mindfulness, which in turn helps you understand and control your emotions. Strengthening emotional regulation skills boosts your professionalism and how you treat others.
  5. Helps boost your performance: Studies show that using physical activity as a concentration exercise is beneficial for improving the attention span of children and young adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Those with ADHD performed better in school if they learned new things after intense physical activity.
    You’ll see similar benefits if you’re getting in a workout before the workday starts.

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10 exercises to improve your concentration

As you can see, exercise improves concentration alongside a greater sense of self-awareness. 

Some of the ways to boost concentration might be a little surprising, and some of these exercises may not be for everyone, but that's okay. Stick with the methods that work for you. 

Here are 10 concentration exercises to try:

  1. Take a cold shower to make your brain and body more alert
  2. Practice concentration meditation exercises, like mindful breathing
  3. Read long-form pieces of work at a slow, deliberate pace
  4. Use flashcards to practice memorizing and recalling information
  5. Make an effort to sit still as you do things that don’t require movement, like listening to podcasts
  6. Play a counting game where you skip numbers as you count down from 100 or count words on a page
  7. Spend time visualizing an object and then describing it in detail
  8. Complete crossword puzzles or sudoku
  9. Create a to-do list of tasks or goals you want to accomplish
  10. Learn new concepts or theories that force you to think hard

6 tips for practicing concentration exercises

Basic concentration exercises may appear straightforward, like counting, but they demand practice. They can become frustrating, annoying, or even dull. Some days you might struggle to complete them, and they can become something you easily brush off in your daily routine.

Building focus isn’t supposed to be easy. If it were easy, everyone would be an expert. 

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If you're unsure how to practice your exercises or you're having a hard time doing so, review these tips:

  1. Fuel yourself with food that'll energize you to concentrate
  2. Find an environment to do your exercises with minimal distractions
  3. Begin by taking deep breaths and making yourself comfortable
  4. Practice one exercise at a time so you don't overwhelm yourself
  5. Try your best to be patient, and trust your process
  6. Start by devoting five minutes to your exercises, then increase your time slowly

4 concentration exercises you can do at work

A great place to learn how to focus better is at work, where there are so many distractions, from co-workers to issues in your personal life that linger in your mind.

When you can't concentrate and overcompensate, you’ll become emotionally exhausted. Instead, try practicing concentration exercises at your workplace. 

These concentration exercises may not require many tools, but they still impact how you work. They’ll help you focus on work and be intentional with your actions. 

Here are four examples of concentration exercises to try at work:

  1. Bring puzzles like a Rubik's Cube to do during lunch breaks
  2. Practice attentive listening during meetings
  3. Write and recite a purpose statement for your work each day
  4. Take a moment to focus on relaxing each part of your body

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Moving forward: Go easy on your concentrating abilities

Concentration exercises are an excellent practice to incorporate into your routine. 

Strengthening the brain's ability to focus and harnessing the power of concentration is a skill that'll benefit you for years. These attention exercises can be done at home or at work. And whenever you have the time, you can be intentional with your brainpower and strengthen your emotional health.

But all of this talk about working hard to concentrate and becoming super focused does come with a warning. You can learn how to make concentration exercises work out for you, but you must do it sustainably. 

Research has found that prolonged attention actually harms our focus and your performance. So when you tackle long, detailed tasks, remember to take breaks.

Your focus has a limit, and understanding that you can't maintain the same amount of focus over long periods is important. Like you would when training any muscle, make sure to rest.

With enough practice and effort, you can sharpen your concentration skills to be top-notch. But don't forget that you also do that by slowing down, taking a break, and being proud of your abilities.

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Published August 30, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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