Meditation For Enhanced Focus And Concentration
Since being a high-achieving, super productive individual is one of the keys to success, everybody’s looking to improve focus in hopes of achieving top results.
Unfortunately, these days, boosting our attention to get things done faster isn’t easy.
Because we live in a world full of distractions!
Everywhere we look there’s a flashy billboard or advertising banner catching our eye. Everywhere we go someone is asking for five minutes of our time. Every time we try to focus on a given task for a more extended period we get interrupted by countless notifications.
It almost feels like we’ve completely lost sight of our priorities. We spend less and less time in contact with ourselves, and we waste countless hours on trivial activities.
Fortunately, there is an easy and effective way to improve focus. A wonderful practice that people in the East have been using for thousands of years to achieve increased focus and serenity.
How Does Attention Work?
For a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that drive attention – which is the voluntary, selective mobilization and focus on a specific object or phenomenon – let’s take a closer look at the main characteristics of this process.
- Stability – refers to firm and clear maintenance of uninterrupted attention to the same activity, object, or phenomenon.
- Concentration – refers to the ability to achieve selective orientation with a well-defined purpose. This feature gives clarity and a specific intensity to attention.
- Flexibility – is the quality that allows movement and rapid shift from one activity to another, with minimal effort.
- Distributivity – allows the inclusion of two or more simultaneous processes or activities. This usually occurs when one of the ongoing processes is familiar enough to be carried out almost automatically.
- Volume – is the expansion force that allows our attention to embrace a wider sphere of processes, activities, or phenomena.
As you can see, attention is a much more complicated process than you thought. It is a mechanism that involves complex mental processing and training it requires tons of patience and practice.
But with the help of meditation, you can increase your attention span and achieve laser-like focus.
Regaining Your Focus in a World Full of Distractions
All our achievements, all the experiences we’ve been through have unfolded and received some attention from us.
The degree of attention that we spontaneously demonstrate in our existence is the measure of our own level of consciousness. On the other hand, it is obvious that, as we develop this quality, we begin to feel more present and therefore, more aware.
In other words, there’s a connection between our ability to focus and the state of “being.” The more we practice self-awareness, the more we improve our ability to focus and vice versa.
How Does Meditation Improve Focus?
Many of those who’ve added meditation to their daily habits know that this practice can bring unimaginable benefits to their personal and professional life. From improved health and well-being to better sleep and increased focus, meditation seems to have a tremendously positive impact on our lives.
But how exactly does meditation improve focus? Are there any neurological changes that could explain the improvements in attention that seasoned meditators often report?
First of all, as one study clearly explains “meditation refers to a family of complex emotional and attentional regulatory practices, which can be classified into two main styles – focused attention (FA) and open monitoring (OM) – involving different attentional, cognitive monitoring and awareness processes.”
At first glance, many of us might think the focused attention style is the ideal way to improve focus. But attention is not a standalone process that functions independently.
To understand how meditation leads to increased focus, we must look at the entire mental architecture involved in our day-to-day tasks.
The same study mentioned before suggests that meditation-related changes that occur in the brain and lead to an overall reorganization of patterns for focused attention and cognitive monitoring need constant practice.
In other words, we can’t expect to achieve improved focus and boost our attention after just a couple of sessions.
So, what are some of the brain areas that reorganize when we turn meditation into a constant practice?
A 2007 article published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine revealed that “meditation produces long-term increases in the efficiency of the executive attentional network (anterior cingulate/prefrontal cortex).”
In other words, the positive effects of meditation are long-lasting thanks to the changes that occur in specific brain areas – anterior cingulate and prefrontal cortex.
While the prefrontal cortex is involved in complex cognitive processes like decision making, the anterior cingulate cortex is responsible for attention allocation and impulse control.
But which meditation style helps us improve our attention? Focused attention or open monitoring?
According to a 2008 study, both styles play a crucial role in the development of attention. While focused attention allows us to focus our attention on a specific task or object voluntarily, open monitoring helps us observe a given object, task, or process from moment to moment, without getting lost in details or distractions.
Finally, it appears that meditation helps us achieve focus not only by improving sustained attention but also through impulse control.
If you think about it, one of the reasons why we lose focus is because we often get distracted by notifications, and we can’t resist the impulse to check them. By helping us exercise better control over our impulses, meditation keeps us disciplined and focused on the tasks we need to complete.
Overall, it seems that both focused attention and open monitoring meditation lead to improved focus in three distinct ways: (1) by reorganizing the brain areas responsible for attention; (2) by restoring our sense of self-awareness and clarity; (3) by helping us keep our impulses in check.
It Takes Perseverance to Improve Focus
Through the systematic cultivation of meditation practices, you will be able to “rewire” your brain and gain control over your mind. That way, you will take the role of the pilot, without being dominated by trivial distractions and the false maneuvers of non-reflective thinking.
Don’t rush it! Practice meditation at your own pace; adapt it to your own rhythm. The key is consistency, not duration.
While meditating, make sure to focus your attention on a single ‘point’ throughout the entire session. It can be your breathing, a mantra, a part of the body, a mental image, or an object.
As you advance, your ability to remain focused on a particular ‘point’ will become stronger, and distractions will cease to ruin your flow. Both the depth and stability of your attention flow will develop significantly.