Concentration training is once again becoming popular with the generation that grew up with Nintendo’s Brain Age. We’re all a little older and wiser now, and treating our brains like the muscle it isn’t makes even more sense after growing body hair.
After a long day at work, exercise is hard enough –and often at the top of the list for things we do on the side to improve our health. But what about that fatty blob in our heads we call our brain?
You can’t really flex or train your brain for the‘Grams. And as a result, for many of us, it’s the last thing we make time for in terms of exercise.
Well, if you’re like me –climbing ever so rapidly to the big 4-0, you’re starting to realise it’s never too late to stop misplacing your keys.
Concentration Training for Normal People
Before I get into the top concentration training exercises I’ve learned to make part of my weekly schedule, I cannot stress enough the importance of eating right.
As in, healthy fats. Reducing carbs which cause inflammation and oxidisation. And of course, taking the meat sack that surrounds our brain to the gym on a regular basis.
For me, it was keto. I’m on fire. I’m making more money because of it. I feel better, I’m quicker, and I reach Peak Flow much more frequently and intentionally than I have in the past.
I’m older and wiser, but I only feel the latter. And yet, ketosis is an article for another day and maybe another blog.
Here is a collection of my own “best” concentration training exercises.
1. Increase Your Focus
Focus is a pillar of flow state, and like working your chest muscles, it takes awhile to build up gradually over time.
In order to increase focus, attention, and intention span while avoiding distractions from even the smallest, cutest, cuddly of squirrels, I suggest you apply the Pomodoro Technique.
Of course, you won’t be able to go an hour without a break right off the cuff. Start off with smaller goals or tasks, just as discussed in the 17 Triggers of Flow State –line them up, and knock them down, and keep them within your ability.
Focus on a simple task until it hurts, take a break and record how long you focused on said task. After your break, surpass that amount of time. Rinse, repeat.
Before you know it, you’ll be able to focus on a task as long as it’s healthy to sit or stand in one place. Perhaps one day the only time you’ll break your focus is for other bodily needs and not because you got a Push Notification.
Meditation for mindfulness can dramatically boost your attention span. Even while you allow your mind to float, the very act of committing to meditation for any period of time is enough to increase concentration.
I do this by choosing something in the room and staring at it. I’ve been known to stick a happy face sticker on a wall in front of me and just stare into those cold, black eyes for extended periods of time. At some point I’ll close my eyes and fall into it. Even 20 – 30 minutes will do.
Just don’t choose a person to stare at, you might wind up with a restraining order.
3. Play Games
Playing brain games like you did as a kid really helps. Even those addictive ones on your phone like Bejeweled can do worlds for your ability to concentrate.
Games are easy to make time for, too.
On the road in Thailand, I’ve never met a bar server that didn’t want to kick my butt at Connect Four or those metal snakey things that you need to try and separate and put back together.
Just don’t put any money on it, Thai baht is not Monopoly money and it adds up quickly.
4. Be “Acid Trip” Mindful
That’s a really great fruit smoothie you’re enjoying sir. Now follow it down your throat. What does it taste like? Are there beets in it? Does the texture feel like they left the skin on? Boiled them first?
Oh, no where did it go? Feels a little chilly around the solar plexus. What organ is it in now?
Being mindful ad nauseum is good for your mind, and it can also help you connect dots in really strange ways. When you mindfully consider all the mysteries of the universe, those thoughts can re-emerge in the strangest or most helpful of ways.
Like observing the gait and speed of someone walking to the bathroom and knowing which tables to go around to beat them to it.
Yeah, that was weird. But life’s like that. Sometimes you can mentally draw little diagrams like football plays over top of your reality. Why? Because mindfulness. That’s why.
5. Read Slowly
Forget Tim Ferris and his Four Hour hot pile of book. Read slowly sometimes.
When you’re reading a long form article, consider slowing it down. It’s not a race. Take the time to chew on each sentence, mentally picture it, empathise with it, the writer, and the people in it. Maybe there’s a squirrel. Does it have a hat? What does that hat look like and is the embroidery double-stitched? That’s the mindfulness part of this point.
The next mini-point is to choose to read longer content. Maybe some with less subtitles, where it takes a while to get to the bloody point. Sort of like an older film from before the 1990’s, where they did plot and character development before killing people.
If you keep reading like Michael Bay makes movies, you’ll have the focus and intention span of Michael Bay movies.
And that’s a scary prospect.
How do you improve your mental focus?
There are so many ways one can increase their mental focus and clarity. What are your personal favourites?
Yes, mine were a little weird. But that’s the mind and concentration exercise of a writer. Does your calling affect how you exercise your mind?
Let everyone know in the comments, you might even make a friend.