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10 ways to: Improve your attention span

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

‘Are you paying attention!’ is an exclamation that’s often shot at us. If you find your focus drifting easily, Pearl Mathias brings you 10 ways to improve your attention span

The magic of meditation
Researchers at the University of California conducted an experiment on undergraduate students. They to take either a mindfulness class or a nutrition class. It was found that those who opted for the former scored higher on memory tests and exercises requiring attention than those who took the class on nutrition. So, minimise distractions, allow your mind to rest naturally and focus on your breathing a few times a week.

The effectiveness of exercise
Scientific evidence of this comes from research conducted on school students. Interspersing lessons with 20-minute bouts of aerobics exercise was shown to improve the attention spans of Dutch school pupils. Other research findings suggest that physical activity may increase students’ ability to pay attention. But, you don’t necessarily need to get pumping. Even 10 minutes of playful coordination skills, like bouncing two balls at the same time can improve your attention.

Give gum the glory
Struggling to stay focused during an assignment or meeting? Chew on a piece of gum. A study published in the British Journal of Psychology found that those who chewed gum had higher accuracy rates and faster reaction times than those who didn’t. Chewing gum increases the flow of oxygen to regions of the brain responsible for attention. More oxygen helps you stay alert and improves your reflexes.

The benefits of black tea
From the several foods that boost concentration, black tea is one of the most easily available. According to a study conducted at Unilever R&D Vlaardingen, tea compounds L-theanine and caffeine, at levels obtained in a single cup of tea, may improve attention. Findings from various studies also suggest that the improvement was not only in visual attention but also in hearing attention.

The music mantra
Tuning in to music has shown to uplift mood, but it may also improve attention span. However, the kind of music matters. Classical music and music without lyrics is found to significantly boost concentration.

Breaking free
You know those times when your body tells you to take a break? If you don’t heed it, you are contributing to your poor attention span. According to a study conducted by the University of Illinois psychology professor, Dr. Alejandro Lleras, the brain is built to detect and respond to change, and prolonged attention to a single task can hinder performance. He draws a study conclusion: “When faced with long tasks, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself.”

Levelling up your lifestyle
By this, we mean getting enough sleep! And good quality sleep, too. A study conducted by the Society For Neuroscience found that lack of sleep can affect an individual’s memory, their ability to perform simple daily tasks as well as their attention span. So, establish a night-time routine and adhere to it for better concentration.

Ask, and you shall receive
Jon Acuff, author of ‘Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work and Never Get Stuck’, suggests that asking at least one good question during a meeting or lecture. This will not only keep your mind engaged in what is being discussed, but also help you learn something new and contribute to the conversation.

Hydration advantage
According to a piece in Bottom Line Health newsletter, low-water intake is associated with short-term memory loss and a decline in attention span. An article published in the AEC Living newsletter states that our brain is 75-85% water. Dehydration affects mental performance and has been shown to decreased attention span and focus by as much as 13%.

Training with technology
The Internet can be full of distractions, but did you know that it can also serve as a medium to improve attention? Instead of mindlessly scrolling through social media, install puzzle games and brain training games such as Lumosity, Elevate and Brain Yoga Brain Training, which provide you with puzzles and exercises to help with attention and better performance daily tasks.

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