Increase Focus Concentration Well-Being Awareness

Beyond Mitochondria: 5 Ways to Intensify Mind Focus

It happens to all of us – your mind needs to stay focused – when all of a sudden you realize you have not been paying attention, and your mind has wandered off.

A Drifting Mind Is An Unhappy Mind

Two Harvard psychologists, Matthew Killingsworth, and Daniel Gilbert developed a smartphone technology to track behavioral data. At random intervals, the app contacted 2,250 volunteers asking them four basic questions.

  1. What are you currently doing?
  2. What are you presently thinking about?
  3. Do your thoughts have anything to do with your current task?
  4. Are your thoughts happy, neutral, or unhappy?

The result of this Harvard Study time-lag analyses:

  • Close to 50% of the subjects’ thoughts traveled elsewhere rather than being in the present moment.
  • Thinking about other things rather than being focused on the task as hand, typically made them unhappy.

In his study to discover what makes life worth living, Matthew Killingsworth, Ph.D. concluded that how often our minds wander from the present, and where they tended to go, was a better predictor of our happiness than the activities we are doing.

Energy Charging Mitochondria

If you are a health conscious person you have most likely heard many times the importance of building up your mitochondria – the body’s electrical generator – and how important it is to power your mind for focus.

The Mitochondria produces energy for the body using the energy of sunlight and oxidation of foodstuffs. The mitochondrion also takes in oxygen and releases CO2, making it is easy to think this marvelous micro-world ‘breathes’.

What are the factors that help mitochondria to produce higher levels of energy? If you think about it, you might come up with a list that looks something like this:

  • Get your sleep
  • Eat your veggies
  • Take vitamins and minerals
  • Go low carb
  • Don’t eat sugar
  • Get rid of gluten
  • Drink lots of water
  • Exercise

The mitochondria system is a fascinating, a more recent discovery, that is essential to the body. It is important to keep it healthy for a strong mind.

There are, however, many other science-backed things we can do –– to train the mind to stay more focused.

5 Ways to Help Build Your Attention Focusing Skills

These are not new ideas but they are time-proven and easy to do. Even though it may not take a lot of effort to do, do not underestimate the power of using these techniques to strengthen your mind focusing capabilities.

  1. Active Curiosity

Curiosity should continue throughout life as it did when we were first learning to talk. The more you have a passion for probing – the more curious you are – the greater you will be able to concentrate your mind upon any endeavor. Create an active habit of asking questions with real intent.

Nobel Prize winner Isadore Isaac Rabi was questioned once as to why he decided to become a physics scientist.

He answered that his mother did not know it but that she was the reason he had become a scientist. When other parents’ children came home from school they would ask them, 'What did you learn today?'

When Isadore came home, his mother would ask him, “Izzy, did you ask a good question today?” He said it made all the difference,  “Asking good questions made me into a scientist."

“It is easier to judge the mind of a man by his questions rather than his answers.” — Pierre-Marc-Gaston, duc de Lévis (1764–1830)

Asking questions is an act of faith – a belief there are answers to be found. When you ask yourself or someone else a sincere question, it opens up the alchemy of the brain, focusing the mind to receive an answer.

  1. Shape Your Thoughts

Increase your vocabulary by learning new words. Having more words at your disposal enriches your ability to express your thoughts. It opens your world to new ideas, composing new experiences, improving upon your faculties.  

We shape our thoughts with words. Our words have great influence, and new words create new emotions and experiences, even causing chemical reactions within the body.

Experiment on this: imagine you are licking a tart lemon. As you envision a lemon in your mind’s eye you will find yourself begin to salivate. Something just occurred – beyond your control -- simply through the power of your mind focusing on a lemon.

Start with one word you have never seen before or are unfamiliar with. Practice it in your everyday conversation until it becomes a part of your speech.

  1. Weed Out Twaddle

Do not let your words get ahead of your thoughts. Slow down and think before you speak. Weed out meaningless words and filler phrases such as “Um,” “like,” “basically,” “you know,” or “I just wanted to,”.

‘Stuffed in’ words are recycled in when someone doesn’t know what to say next. Thoughtless words become habits – and are used as a crutch – particularly when the speaker feels discomfort in the presence of silence.

Feeling uneasy in a silent pause is a learned behavior. Be still and embrace the quietude that allows you to focus, think clearly and form your sentences. When you cut out weak language your brain can gain greater mindfulness as in this example:

I, um, just wanted to give you an idea of where we really are on this project. I hope that’s okay  and I will really do my best to keep it short.”

Now, without the unnecessary twaddle:

“I will give you an idea of where we are on this project and I will keep it short.”

The brain easily tires of hearing and speaking meaningless words. With half as many words, you use half the energy of your mind, reserving vital mitochondria for more important tasks.

  1. 10 Minutes of Joy Every Day

Take a minimum of 10 minutes each day and do an activity that you brings you joy. It can be as simple as breathing with purpose, going for a walk, doing something for someone, or playing with your kids on the floor. When you operate on a higher level of joy you are exponentially more focused, productive and effective.

  1. Give Yourself Novel Challenges Along Your Way

The brain is highly malleable and yet the faculty of the mind is one of the most underdeveloped resources available at our command. Invest 15 minutes a day to learn something new you can be an expert in a year according to Einstein.

When we get stuck in everyday routines we get into subconscious mode requiring very little brain energy. Proactively shaking up your routine such as learning a new skill is the key to creating new connections and increasing neurogenesis. Break out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to learn in a novel way.

Try simple exercises like:

  • Switch hands, e.g. if you are right-handed, brush your teeth with your left hand
  • Sit in a different spot than you regularly do
  • Read books out loud
  • Do something upsides down or backward, e.g. turn a clock upside down

Or step it up and:

  • Try a new hobby that is out of character for you
  • Do something you have never done before
  • Make a new friend
  • Volunteer, e.g. give a family with a special needs member some time away

Or push yourself to greater heights:

  • Excel in a skill you already have
  • Limit or eliminate media distractors, e.g. playing video games, T.V. viewing
  • Stop or create a habit you know would be life-changing
  • Learn to play a new instrument

Think of the mind as a muscle – an attention muscle – the more you use your brain and body the more you get increased focus and concentration.