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How Mindfulness Can Improve Our Focus and Productivity

How Mindfulness Can Improve Our Focus and Productivity

Mindfulness has become a popular and fashionable activity in recent times. The act of focused awareness on the flow of the present moment. It brings us into the here and now so that we are conscious of what we are doing when we are doing it. It may seem both simple and obvious but when we focus our awareness on our thoughts we will find that we spend most of our day thinking about past and future events. Or if we are lucky enough, sitting around day dreaming rather than focusing on what matters.

Most people have a natural time perspective and their thoughts are dominated by either past, present or future events. What we don’t want is that past or future events dominating our present experiences or that we live too much in the present that we don’t learn from past experiences nor plan for the future. So like most things in life we seek balance.

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The practice of mindfulness teaches us to become aware of our thoughts and the present moment. It is a habit we need to nurture because our natural tendency is to stray from the here and how to tomorrow, next week or next month. When we practice mindfulness we keep calling back our wandering mind to rest on the current moment.

Some of the benefits of Mindfulness

Below are some of the many benefits of mindfulness and how they can improve our focus and productivity.

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Greater Focus

One of our biggest challenges to getting things done is the distraction of the mind, while we try to get one job done, our mind reminds us of ten others that still need doing. We quickly check our email because our mind alerts us to the fact there may be unread emails in our inbox and if the remain unchecked we may be missing the fact that the Earth is shortly to be demolished by an alien construction crew!

As this thought comes into our head we then remember that our copy of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was lent to a friend so maybe we should shoot over to Amazon and buy a fresh copy. Mindfulness jumps in the way of all these distractions of the mind and says “Hey, come back to the present moment, get what needs to be done, done!”

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More Effective Planning

On the outset, mindfulness may appear to conflict with the concept of planning but in fact they complement each other greatly. Planning allows us to practice mindfulness by reducing the burdens that the mind needs to worry about. If we are to schedule and plan all our responsibilities and duties we have less to distract us from our daily tasks. When applying mindfulness techniques planning can be a much more effective process and not be delayed by the disruptions of other activities and ideas.

Stress Reduction

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A lot of stress is brought about by imagining negative future scenarios, if we were to live completely in the present we would not suffer from this stress. But the human brain has the ability to cast itself into the future, so for now we are stuck with this capability, and will have to learn how to manage it. Stressing about future scenarios that haven’t happened is a pointless habit; mindfulness can teach us how to redirect these negative and worrying thoughts back to the present moment and remind us that the future hasn’t happened and so far is not controlling our present circumstances. Mindfulness can also help with the insomnia that often accompanies stressful situations.

Whenever we lie awake at night thinking about the poor sales figures or the bills that need to be paid, we need to bring our focus back to our physical body and the fact we are lying comfortable and warm in bed and the things that are occupying our minds have not happened yet.

Take this moment to remember that the future hasn’t happened, the past is gone and the present, the wonderful present, is all we have and all that is guaranteed. Make sure you are part of each moment that you live and experience to gift that is the Now.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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