Did you know you now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish? The average human attention span has shortened from 12 seconds in 2000 to just eight seconds in 2015, according to a study by Microsoft. And your phone might be to blame.
In today’s digital era, communication happens in 140 characters or fewer, and most people can’t make it through a meal without checking their phones. With your attention constantly pulled in different directions, the digital lifestyle can take a toll on your ability to focus.
Take Time to Unplug
Taking breaks from your devices helps to limit distractions and the temptation to multitask. When you really need to focus, turn off the TV, silence your phone and log out of your inbox. Set a specific tech-free time during your day and use weekends for digital detox. Spend that time with family and friends, reading a good book or taking a walk instead.
Spend Time in Nature
Hiking, gardening, camping and other outdoor activities help boost concentration. Psychologists from the University of Michigan found that spending one hour interacting with nature improves memory and attention spans by 20%.
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Exercise More Often
Physical activity isn’t just good for your body; it also provides a mental boost by increasing the number of blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to the brain. Researchers from the University of Illinois found that just 20 minutes of exercise helped students with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) focus longer and score higher on reading comprehension tests.
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Eat a Healthy Diet
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, such as salmon, leafy greens and berries, have been linked to improved concentration and decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, according to the American Heart Association.
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Get Enough Sleep
Make sure to get adequate rest every night. Sleeping fewer than six to eight hours each night dramatically impairs memory and concentration. According to the American Psychological Association, two weeks of limited sleep — about four hours per night — causes mental impairments as severe as if you hadn’t slept for three nights in a row.
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You can train your brain to focus using meditation techniques. Researchers at the University of California at Santa Barbara found that students who took a mindfulness class and then meditated for 10 to 20 minutes four times a week for two weeks improved their reading comprehension scores, working memory capacity and ability to reduce distracting thoughts.
Stress causes a “fight or flight” response in the brain, which triggers the production of a hormone called cortisol, according to Psychology Today. This gives you a quick burst of energy, but too much cortisol prevents your brain from storing or accessing memories. Over time, chronic stress damages the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for learning, memory and concentration. Limit stress by taking time to relax and unplug, both from work and technology.
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