3 Easy Ways to Improve Your Focus and Attention

Meditation helps to strengthen the brain. Shutterstock

Any discussion about a lack of focus and attention, impulse control problems, disorganization, poor decision-making, and so forth, really requires a look at the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Located in the very front part of the brain, the PFC is a lot like a personal CEO; it’s your very own control and command center that helps you supervise your own behavior, including your choices and actions.

Through the use of brain SPECT imaging, my colleagues and I found that problems in the prefrontal cortex commonly correlate with the symptoms mentioned above.

The SPECT images typically show a pattern of decreased activity in the PFC, especially during concentration tasks. This pattern is often seen in the brain images of people with ADD/ADHD, as well as with other conditions, such as concussions or traumatic brain injury (TBI), toxic brain injury, or certain types of dementia.

With dedication and practice, however, it is possible in most cases to strengthen and improve the function of the prefrontal cortex so you can focus better, be less impulsive and make better decisions. So, I’d like to tell you about 3 of the common techniques I have found to be really effective with my patients.

1) Neurofeedback: This therapy helps your brain function better by retraining certain brainwave patterns. With neurofeedback, you essentially get to play a video game using just your mind. While doing it, a computer continuously monitors your brain’s function and provides feedback.

When your brain responds the way it’s supposed to, the computer rewards you, and when you get distracted or lose focus, the computer lets you know so you can get back on track.

It is through repetition that the brain can retrain itself; therefore, a neurofeedback program will involve multiple sessions, but it’s worth it.

Neurofeedback has been shown to help improve focus, impulse control and aggression, and memory along with other cognitive functions. The American Academy of Pediatrics even gave neurofeedback a high scientific evidence rating for ADD/ADHD treatment.

2) Then What? Before saying or doing something you regret, ask yourself this question: Then what? This will help you to teach yourself to think about the potential consequences of your behavior and choices before acting on unchecked impulses and getting yourself into trouble. For example:

If I do________________________, then what?  How will it affect my relationship or job, etc.

If I say _______________________, then what will happen?  What will the repercussions of my words be?

When you activate your prefrontal cortex in this way, you improve the “brakes” of your brain which can help you have better forethought and judgement in your daily functioning.

3) Meditation: There is an abundance of peer-reviewed scientific literature describing how meditation can strengthen the brain.

It has been shown to improve attention and planning, and it helps protect the brain from cognitive decline associated with normal aging. It also can provide stress relief, reduce depression and anxiety, and make you feel more alert.

If you’ve never tried meditation, there is no need to shy away from it. It’s easy to learn, and you do not necessarily have to sit cross-legged on the floor and light scented candles or burn incense. You can meditate almost anywhere, any time—even at work! Simply close the door to your office, sit in your chair, close your eyes, focus on your breathing and relax for a few moments. At home, you can sit on the floor, a chair or couch and do the same. The more you practice, the easier it becomes and the more it fortifies your brain. There are many free many meditation videos on the web, so learning to meditate doesn’t cost anything. I really encourage you to give it a try.

Taking care of your brain is the single most important thing you can do for your health, your life and the lives of those around you. Having a prefrontal cortex that works well helps you to be smarter, healthier, happier—and even wealthier—because you develop the ability to think before acting and to make better decisions. Remember, it’s never too late to have a better brain!

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