The Betterment Project

How To Concentrate To Improve Your Mental Clarity

Mental clarity is when your mind is clear. You don’t have that jumbled-up feeling to your thoughts. You know what you’re thinking, and you have very little room for doubt and no indecisiveness. It’s a great feeling to be able to think clearly and focus on what you’ve got going on. 

If you can’t remember the last time you had mental clarity, you may be wondering if there are ways you can improve your mental clarity. Thankfully there are several ways to improve your mental clarity. One area that you can work on to improve your mental clarity is your concentration. 

Understanding what it means to concentrate and knowing what blocks or deters your efforts to focus can help you to avoid pitfalls and find ways that work for you to improve your concentration.


What Does It Mean To Concentrate? 

Have you ever been working on a project for school, writing a paper, or trying to meet a deadline for work, and you just can’t focus on the task? Something that should be so easy is suddenly challenging because you can’t pay attention or focus. You may have wished for the ability to concentrate on command. 

Concentration is your mind’s ability to direct attention or mental effort to help you focus solely on what you’re working on or learning. How long you can concentrate is known as your attention span, and the two are often linked. However, they are not the same thing, and a deficiency in either can be frustrating.

So, if concentration comes from your mental effort to focus on a task or subject, what could affect your concentration levels? 


Focus Factors: What Affects Concentration? 

Concentration, like attention span, can vary from day to day, task to task, and person to person. For some people, distractions are hard to ignore or dismiss, making concentrating much more difficult. It can be embarrassing and frustrating for people who struggle to concentrate even when they want to focus when they just can’t “get it together.”

Other factors, like aging or lack of sleep, can impact people who usually don’t struggle at all. This can be alarming as a new sensation. For example, when people have memory loss, they can also experience a lapse in concentration. This feeling can make them feel disoriented more easily. 

Head injuries, brain injuries, or head trauma in the form of a concussion can all affect concentration. That’s one of the many reasons that you should be examined by a medically trained professional in the event of a possible injury to the head area. 


Other less serious factors can also impair your concentration as well. If your concentration levels come from your mental effort, what are the other factors that could affect your ability to concentrate? 

You can probably remember a time when you were struggling to concentrate. What was going on at the time?  Here are some common factors that can be to blame:

 

  • Hunger
  • Stress
  • Not enough water
  • Loud noises
  • Boredom
  • Depleted energy levels
  • Constant text message or email notifications
  • Too much background noise
  • Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube
  • Emotional well-being
  • Pain
  • Being over-or under-stimulated
  • Sleep deprivation

There’s a lot that can break your concentration in life, and it can be so frustrating when you can’t focus, despite your best efforts. In some situations, an inability to concentrate can even be dangerous, so it’s important to learn ways to improve your concentration.


Ways You Can Improve Your Concentration 

There are lots of ways that you can help improve your concentration. Each is worth exploring if you’re tired of being frustrated with yourself because you can’t seem to focus. Find what works for you and your brain so you can concentrate and complete your tasks and get back to life.


1. Exercise … Your Brain 

If you were going to compete in a race, you’d train for it. If you were going to compete in a baking competition, you’d practice baking. If you wanted to build a relationship with someone, you’d spend time with them. Why would you do those things?

You train or spend time on projects or with people to make yourself more skilled, make yourself stronger, make yourself smarter, or just to make yourself better. If you’re unhappy with your brain’s performance lately, spend some time working on it to make it better.

Like exercise, it doesn’t always have to be hard work to be effective. Sometimes you can get a great workout while you’re just having fun. Training your brain can be fun too. Here are some great games you can play to help improve your concentration:

 

  • Sudoku
  • Word searches
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Chess 
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Coloring
  • Memory games

Like exercise, spending a little time on your brain can help improve your concentration, like lifting mental weights each day. You can even gain benefits from playing video games.


2. Get Some Sleep 

If you’re experiencing new lapses in concentration with no clear reason, consider your sleep schedule. Even if you allow yourself the standard eight hours, are you getting eight hours? Or, do you take a while to fall asleep, wake up frequently, or struggle to fall back to sleep? 

The little pauses in sleep can really add up, and for some people, that can mean that they aren’t getting quite as much sleep as they think.

 

Our brains rely on sleep, quality sleep, to help them recover and restore each night. Occasional deprivation may not have a big impact on you, but repetitive deprivation can affect your cognitive functions. 

Here are some tips for getting the best sleep you can:

 

  • Use a sleep schedule
  • Give yourself a good sleep environment - cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable
  • Consider a supplement to help you fall asleep naturally
  • Keep caffeine consumption limited in the latter part of the day
  • Turn screens off about two hours before bedtime

Getting enough sleep will ensure your body has the time it needs to recover. Most importantly, with proper rest, your brain can perform its routine maintenance to give you improved cognitive functions and help you concentrate more easily to achieve mental clarity.


3.  Concentrate On You

Part of what clutters the mind is all the stressors in our daily lives. We can’t avoid all stress, and we shouldn’t try to avoid it all either. However, sometimes we take on too much. 

It feels next to impossible to concentrate when you feel pulled in a thousand different directions. Perhaps to regain control of your ability to concentrate and improve your mental clarity, it’s good to reevaluate your workload. 

It’s possible that you just need to take care of yourself and your mental health to restore your concentration levels. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

 

  • Am I eating regularly?
  • When I eat, are they usually healthy options?
  • Am I exercising?
  • Am I drinking enough water?
  • Do I make time to relax?

If you’re noticing a pattern of neglect, it may be time to focus on yourself. When we don’t eat or choose unhealthy options, the gaps that naturally occur in everyone’s diet grow larger, and you need to boost concentration to help you feel better in the interim while you get back to the basics of caring for yourself. 

Here are some helpful ways to get back to the basics:

 

  • Practice deep breathing
  • Turn off any unnecessary notification from apps
  • Set a timer when you’re working to give yourself frequent breaks
  • Practice mindfulness meditation or yoga
  • Limit phone calls
  • Take a minute break when you feel brain fog descending
  • Clear clutter from your workspace
  • Remove temptations like your phone and just relax
  • Listen to white noise or nature sounds before going to bed

Our surroundings can really impact our ability to concentrate, and it’s not always possible to step away from the distractions in our lives. However, when we concentrate on our own well-being, we can start to see what’s been keeping us from attaining mental clarity, and improving our self-care can help quiet our minds and improve our mental health.

While it might seem impossible to complete a single task sometimes, procrastination can decrease as you practice the above tips.


Summary

Lots of things can impact your ability to concentrate. Distractions can be internal or external. There are steps you can take to improve your concentration and your mental clarity. 

To help clear your mind, you can play games to improve your concentration, prioritize your sleep to repair and restore cognitive functions, and concentrate on yourself to make improvements to your overall care to help clear your mind.

Life is full of things that break your concentration, but mental clarity comes when you can tune those distractions out, and your overall mood and mental health improves. The next time you notice that you’re struggling to concentrate, take a break and evaluate your situation. If you power through a task despite concentration difficulties, reward yourself. 

 

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Sources:

Concussion Signs and Symptoms | HEADS UP cdc.gov 

Health Benefits of Coloring for Adults | beaumont.org

Taking Time for Yourself | mhanational.org 

Meet our Experts

This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.

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