Mental health can often seem either ambiguous or inaccessible to many people. This is truly unfortunate, given that your mental wellbeing is just as critical, if not more so, as any other part of your body. Indeed, the same way you can train your body to be stronger, you can similarly train your brain. To set yourself up for success, here are five simple steps to encourage meaningful growth in your ability to focus.
Set the Right Kind of Scene
It is important you are able to work with, rather than against, your environment. Far too often, people take for granted their ability to improve their surroundings. There is almost a sense of inertia when it comes to grappling with small but regular external distractions in places like the classroom or office. It is common for individuals to feel as though the onus is on them to work through a distracting situation, regardless of the way in which it costs them productivity or even general enjoyment of the task at hand. Make creating a positive environment for yourself a priority.
To accomplish this, it is important you also take time to get to know yourself and the way you work best. Do not assume what works for other people should or would work for you! For example, dead silence can be even more distracting for certain individuals with conditions like ADD or ADHD. That such instances, exploring the ambient noises which have the most calming effect on you is an absolute must.
Take a Breather
Many individuals with learning disorders of all kinds find it difficult to keep sustained, unbroken focus on a specific task unbroken for extended periods of time. Do not worry! The honest truth is that this is challenging to some extent for everyone! If boredom begins to poison your productivity, one the quickest solutions is to take a quick break and allow your brain time to recuperate. A brief walk, stretch, or cold drink of water can be enough to re-focus and get back to work with fresh eyes and renewed enthusiasm. You should be comfortable permitting yourself that opportunity to recharge a little bit. Just be disciplined about holding yourself accountable and not letting a quick break deteriorate into an extended amount of time off-task. It may be a little bit of a challenge at first, but building that skillset, where you can step away and come back to a task as needed, is invaluable. Consider setting a timer so that there is never any question about what you should be doing at any given moment. Learning how to “chunk” your time up efficiently can result in vast improvements in performance.
Treat Yourself Like a Champion
It helps to know you are working towards something great. A figurative light at the end of the tunnel can make the challenge of staying on task more manageable and enjoyable overall. Often, the fruits of our labor can seem so disconnected from the nitty-gritty reality of the work itself. You may know your work matters in the abstract sense (e.g. studying now will help you pass a test with flying colors in two weeks), but sometimes staying confident that the payoff is worth the current discomfort is difficult. The solution, then, is to give yourself a reward that is just as immediate and tangible as the work currently being accomplished. Great incentives can even be small. Arrange dinner with a friend at your favorite restaurant as a treat for making it through an especially long day at work, take a scenic stroll at a park you love after you finish all your homework, or splurge on something small that makes you happy but does not often warrant your indulgement.
These three tips may seem simple, but mastery of each can absolutely transform your ability to stay focused and achieve your goals. Great routines take time to settle into ingrained habits, so take it slow and allow yourself the opportunity to take it one step at a time. Eventually, if you stay patient and committed, you will find yourself enjoying the excellent results that come from consistency.