Why Can't I Focus?
Most of you would have heard the term ‘Brain Baby’ or ‘Epiphany’. It’s moments in time where your brain manages to clarify and truly understand concepts or develop ideas and suddenly you feel as though you just… get it. But then it goes away, and your brain goes back into completing tasks and thinking thoughts by habit, in a way that is subliminal and unenlightening. It’s true that we can’t have this kind of clarity, intellect or self-actualisation constantly. But the reality is, not only are these ‘Brain Babies’ far and few between, we often find it hard to concentrate on the simplest of things, or make sense of something that we know shouldn’t be difficult to wrap our heads around. Imagine what you could achieve if you could reach a level of clarity and focus in your mind, to understand at a deeper level not only everything around you, but yourself. It would be easier to make healthier choices, to be kind to people, to sleep at night knowing you had a fulfilling and stimulating day.
It’s not a health concern we give a lot of attention to, because it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t fundamentally affect how healthy we look, and often, we aren’t even aware of how much more focus and understanding our brains are capable of, so we don’t consider ourselves to require improvement in this area. So how do you improve your focus and attention? Well, we’ve had lots of personal experience with this at Inner Earth, and we’ve certainly done our research. After being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I realised how little I could focus. I had previously loved reading philosophy and could no longer make sense of anything I was reading. My entire day would go by without a single exciting, nuanced thought. All of this in turn made my life more dull, I felt like a robot, going to work, doing what I knew I had to do, eating whatever gave me quick energy (chocolate, chips, sodas). I no longer found people as interesting and enticing. I only recognised this difference because prior to this diagnosis, prior to the symptoms begun, I was known for my constant epiphanies, I was constantly curious, I studied philosophy at University and I loved talking to people because they all had something interesting to add to my understanding of life and of people.
We all have this curious, energetic, intellectual capacity within us. Unfortunately the world we live in has just made it very easy for us to check out, and the more and more we check out, the more we feel too tired to be curious, our brain begins to wire itself this way. The good news – you can rewire it. You can discover this child-like excitement, improve your focus at work, school, re-discover your curiosity to learn about the world, listen deeper to your body, understand the trajectory of your relationships, where your life needs more work. You just have to work on it day-by-day, bit-by-bit, to rewire your brain. Here’s some tips we have, learnt from both personal experience and from a mass of research.
Harvard Health in 2009 published an article on links between mental health and sleep. They reported that numerous studies looking at various methods and populations estimated that between 65% to 90% of adults and 90% of children with depression also experienced some kind of sleep problem, found to be a causative and perpetuating factor of their symptoms. These numbers have been similarly reported in those suffering anxiety disorders, ADHD and bipolar. There’s a lot more to a good sleep than just being ‘well-rested’. At a physiological level in our bodies and brains, sleep builds up what is easiest to understand as positive wiring to significantly help us achieve greater focus, attention, EQ, IQ, it makes us think more positively, stress less, it makes us physically stronger, much less susceptible to illness, and much more.
HOW? There’s a few things you can implement. The first, and the one that worked best for me, was a regular sleep schedule. My routine (with the exception of a weekend night) is lights out by 10pm, lights on by 7am. Your body will learn when to expect to feel tired and when to wake, allowing it to enter a deeper sleep. Another very important habit to implement is no screens an hour before sleep. I read or write in a journal, I sometimes even just lie there and stare at a ceiling.
In a very interesting scientific journal article published in 2008 by Michael McGee (which you can read here), he describes studies where Electroencephalograms (EEG) and imaging studies found changes in EEG patterns and regional cerebral blood flow with meditation. Our brain literally changes when we meditate, in a good way. One study of Zen masters showed a failure to habituate to a repetitive stimulus, meaning that they can show meditation enhances perceptual receptivity and openness (or perhaps, mindfulness). Meditation itself is a practice of concentration, you are spending time training your brain to attend to one thing, to concentrate deeply.
HOW? Apps like Calm and Insight Timer make it very easy to meditate, and it can be as short as 3 minutes. Similarly to setting strict sleep and wake times, pick a time (morning, lunch time or evening) that you feel suits you best and just sit down and try. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do it, if you feel as though you are unable to meditate. Just sit there and do it every day. Eventually, trust us, you will reach a point of meditation, and you will notice a vast improvement in your concentration and stress resistance.
'Nootropics' is a recent term coined for supplement ingredients that focus on your brain health. The term encompasses everything from man-made synthetic compounds, nutrients, vitamins, minerals and neurotransmitter precursors. Ingredients such as Citicoline and Bacopa Monnieri have been subject to numerous studies on humans, finding consumption of these ingredients for minimum periods of 28 days positively impacted focus, attention, working memory and psychomotor speed tasks.
HOW? Tru Niagen, Enhance Nootropic, Mucuna Pruriens Elixir & PERFORM are some of the supplements we stock considered to be Nootropics. I began taking Nootropics late last year and I haven’t turned back. Trials on nootropic ingredients are increasing in numbers, as are carefully, scientifically formulated ingredients such as these. As a guinea pig myself speaking from my personal experience with Nootropics, I highly recommend.
Don’t offer yourself excuses to avoid implementing small things, it won't always feel triumphant or exciting. It will be really hard to enact tiny changes in your lifestyle like this, there will be many times where you just don't want to turn off that TV show at night, where you can't get out of bed at your alarm, where you can't seem to force yourself to open the Calm app. That's human. The more you push yourself to enact these daily, it will become as important and as intrinsic to your brain as going to the toilet. Your brain will recognise the physiologicsal rewards of these habits, and eventually, you won't be able to go without.
Inner Earth Founder