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Unplug From Your Screens To Recharge Your Mind

Believe it or not, this is the week to unplug from your screens to recharge your mind. Why? Because this is Screen-Free Week (from 30th April to 6th May).  You may wonder, in that case, why I continue to write on this site.  However, Screen-Free week which is directed towards children and sponsored by Commercial Free Childhood is about unplugging from screens for entertainment purposes, not for work purposes.  The idea is that screens over time can drain your brain, or children’s brains to be more specific.  Today, screens are used more and more for entertainment purposes and it’s damaging.   This article, which was originally written by James Wood for examiner.com explains how screens can be detrimental to our minds.  I have excerpted 2 areas of attention that are inline with my posts on this site.

Unplug From Your Screens To Recharge Your Mind


Multitasking

It’s not possible. Most people think they can multitask, but they can’t. What actually happens is that the brain switches rapidly from one task to the next. Each switch uses energy and decreases productivity. Trying to work on a project while the TV is on is a recipe for poor results and a fatigued mind.

Exercise

Dr. Ed Gray, PhD and licensed counselor, has said that exercise functions like a reset switch for brain chemistry. The chemical imbalances that cause mild depression, anxiety and loss of focus can all be corrected with physical activity. Professor Medina writes that humans are designed to think best while walking and moving. Screens make people sedentary, which not only affects the body, but the mind as well.

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If you’ve read the entire post, you’ll see that sleep and attention are also affected by the use of screens.  Why not give it a go yourself?  Unplug from your screens to recharge your mind just for 7 days.  You may find you do more exercise, play some sports, socialise with friends more, do something you wouldn’t normally do, add a little variety into your life.  Variety is the spice of life, right?

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8 Ways To Help Your Child Concentrate And Focus

If your child is struggling to concentrate and focus at school or at home, then these 8 ways to help your child concentrate and focus are worth a read.  I have excerpted two of my favourite points about nutrition and exercise – both of which I’m a huge advocate.  I believe everyone should exercise regularly/daily, not just kids, and I think it’s particularly important that kids are fed the right types of food so they get a head start in life.

8 Ways To Help Your Child Concentrate And Focus

Promote a healthy diet— Nowadays, children have an increased intake of processed foods, saturated fats and sugary foods. Studies have shown that a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and veggies will help your child’s brain functions. As well, studies have shown that parents should shy away from foods that have food colouring in them, as they may increase hyperactivity in children.

Exercise more often—Both mental and physical exercise are very important to help your child concentrate better. For mental exercises, try playing board games that stimulate your child to think strategically and focus. Guessing games or even allowing them to help you cook by reading or following recipes. For physical exercise, it has been scientifically proven that children that do at least 30 minutes of exercise per day are more likely to do well in school, focus better and generally be more positive.

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Of these 8 ways to help your child concentrate and focus I also like the point about controlling TV and the use of video games.  When I was a kid, my parents didn’t allow me to have a games console and I’m highly grateful for that.  I was encouraged to be outdoors, learn musical instruments, take up sports and socialise with friends.  Nowadays kids are spending hours a day on pointless games consoles that I’m sure are not doing their brains any favours.  What do you think?

 

 

 

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Eliminate Stress In Order To Focus

Small amounts of stress can lead to increased productivity but sustained high levels of stress can be harmful to your health, your brain and your ability to focus.  This is why it’s essential to eliminate stress in order to focus.  This short but sweet article written by fitness and nutrition expert, Kate Eason for ReporterNews.com explains how to deal with stress and focus.

Eliminate Stress In Order To Focus

Delegate your time. Decide what must be done first, and how you can accomplish that first task. Is there someone that can help you? What time specifically during the day can you work on it, and what exactly do you need to get done? Figure out how to put focus on the task to see it to completion.

Move down the list. Once you have a feasible plan written out, it gives you a focus, so you don’t feel like your just flailing around staying busy, but not getting anything done.

No matter how crazy things get you, must make some time for yourself. It might seem crazy in the midst of a stressful situation, but it’s a must. Don’t give up the things that help you relax. It’s amazing how just taking a moment to regroup can refocus you. Close your eyes for 10 minutes, hit your workout, go for a walk around the block or do something good just for you. Love on yourself for a moment.

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I believe it so important to eliminate stress in order to focus. It’s all too easy to allow yourself to get stressed which is why I fully agree with her closing paragraph.  For example, we’re faced with challenges every day.  If we let each and every one of those challenges become a “stress” then we’re going to be very stressed out people  – and this is detrimental to our health, let alone our ability to focus. Take a step back, look at the big picture, break things down into smaller, more manageable chunks, and Robert’s your father’s brother (Bob’s your uncle).

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Tools To Help You Focus

Sometimes it’s just easier to use tools to help you focus. Here, Lily F. Karlin has written for TheCrimson.com (Harvard University life blog) explaining some of the great (free) tools out there that can help you as a student to focus, but these tips can be applied to anyone really.  I have excerpted two out of five tools which I found most interesting.

Tools To Help You Focus

Spreeder.com

How often do you wish you could just read faster? Spreeder is an easy-to-use website that allows readers to do just that. The website posits that humans can consume text faster than does the inner reading voice—that is, the voice that aligns with how fast one can read a passage out loud. To use the website, just upload a chunk of text into the provided box. The program will flash the words onto the screen at an increased speed, forcing you to consume them before they disappear from sight. Determine through trial and error the speed that works best for you, and then set your preferences. Increase the speed setting periodically to further sharpen your skills.

Focus Booster

Focus booster is an application based on the Pomodoro Technique, a method of studying that promotes timed intervals of focus interspersed with brief breaks for the brain.

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Why not try these tools to help you focus? Spreeder sounds like a great idea and totally original.  Another one I came across which I featured on this site was called GetFocused – an add-on for Google Chrome web browser.  You can apply time limits to websites where you don’t want to waste too much time.  If you try to extend the time limit greater than what is suggested, a jokey message will say something along the lines of “dude, are you absolutely sure?”

 

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How To Stay Focused During Finals

This is a post especially for students as the semester has come to and end which means those dreaded finals are looming. Here, I have excerpted 3 of 5 steps that Arielle Piat-Sauve has written on how to stay focused during your finals for HerCampus.com.  It makes me nervous just thinking about it for other people, even though it’s been six years since I took an exam.  I found exam times very stressful, largely because I’d have a tendency to leave all my work to the last minute.  Apply these tips, and you may just avoid stress, or reduce it substantially, and significantly improve your grades.

How To Stay Focused During Finals

Work environment
Practicing good study habits is a must, and I find that where you choose to study is key. Although I do love the comfort of my bedroom, during finals I definitely feel the need to get out of my apartment. Getting dressed (even if it’s to jump into your regular end-of-semester sweatpants) and making your way outside, will already make you feel as if you have accomplished something. I usually am the most productive while studying at the library. The law library is usually my first choice.

Take a break

With all those long hours spent at the library, it is important to remember that you are allowed to take a break. Taking a break will actually renew your energy flow and allow you to focus better the next day. Sleep is also very important during finals.

Stay positive and motivated

Stress can sometimes bring out the worst in people and you may even find yourself at the brink of an emotional breakdown (trust me, I’ve been there). When you are overwhelmed with school and all the work you have to do, everything always appears worse than it is and as a result you may find yourself increasingly irritable. This is when you want to stay positive and motivated. Sometimes talking to a friend, or calling a family member can help you relieve some of that built up stress and anxiety and help you stay focused.

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I couldn’t agree more with every step here of how to stay focused during finals.   The last point on staying motivated is key as it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  If you do get to that point, take a break, do some exercise.  That’s what I’d like to add – exercise is so important during these times.  It raises your mood, clears your head, feeds your brain with oxygen and enables you to refocus after times of near burnout.  Exercise helps your memory too as you may have read on this site.  I’d get to a stalemate sometimes, tear my hair out a little, tell myself I was going to fail, and then go for a run for half and hour.  I’d then sit down at my desk (after a shower) and solve problems I couldn’t solve before, almost immediately.

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Meditation Increases Focus and Reduces Stress

If you haven’t already tried meditating in order to focus, then this article might just entice you to do so. Meditation increases focus and reduces stress according to Heidi Thompson who has recently written a book called CALM FOCUS JOY: The Power of Breath Awareness.

Thompson writes, “The world’s most valuable resource is the human mind. Let us do everything within our power to protect, nurture, and develop this precious commodity. We know that happiness and health are achievable through the cultivation of calmness, focus, and joy; therefore, by establishing peace and happiness within, and empowering children in the same way, we will have taken a giant step in transforming our world into a better place.”

I think a number of people turn their noses up at meditation without having a full understanding of the benefits it can bring to your life. This is not the first time that I have read how meditation increases focus and reduces stress. It may just be worth picking up a copy of this book to see how it could make a difference in your life. What are your thoughts on meditation?

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Focus On Being Good To Yourself

It’s all too easy to beat ourselves up when things aren’t going totally to plan.  This excerpt written by Juliana Breines for  Psychology Today explains how to focus on being good to yourself by paying more attention to self-compassion.  A lot easier said than done you may think, but here are a few pointers.

Focus On Being Good To Yourself

1. Step outside yourself. It’s often easier to be compassionate toward someone else than it is to be compassionate toward yourself. To trick yourself into treating yourself better, pretend that someone you care about is in your shoes instead—what would you say to them?

2. Find your inner caregiver. For those who had compassionate caregivers growing up, self-compassion may come more easily (Neff & McGeHee, 2009). But when models of compassion are not readily available, all hope is not lost. In a chapter of Paul Gilbert’s edited volume, Compassion: Conceptualisations, Research, and Use in Psychotherapy, Psychologist Deborah Lee discusses an intervention that involves drawing comfort from a “perfect nurturer”—a person or spiritual being who is unconditionally loving, and who possesses whatever characteristics one would hope for in a caregiver. Similarly, Paul Gilbert and Sue Procter developed an approach called Compassionate Mind Training that includes generating images of warmth and directing them toward the self.

3. Remember that mistakes make you human—and more likeable. In a classic study of the pratfall effect, researchers found that participants liked a person who spilled coffee on themselves better than a person who didn’t spill, as long as the spiller seemed otherwise competent. When other people make mistakes, they often seem more human and accessible, even endearing. They also make us feel like it’s okay if we too are imperfect. So if you make a blunder, not only might it make you more likeable, but you can think of it as an altruistic act, allowing others to let their guard down too.

I recently set myself a goal which I didn’t actually meet so I beat myself up over that.  I do think it’s important every now and again to take a step back, look at the bigger picture, reevaluate and focus on being good to yourself.

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5 Tips To Recharge Your Willpower And Focus

Willpower is often a reason why people lose focus, as I have found myself many a time.  It’s all too easy when something gets difficult to lose the will to continue and try to find something that works better for you.  Here is a snippet of 5 tips to recharge your willpower and focus, according to Kelly Mcgonigal, directed at students but can be applicable to anyone.

5 Tips To Recharge your Willpower And Focus

Watch Some Reality TV

Willpower can be contagious. We don’t watch reality TV, but apparently watching reality TV shows about people overcoming obstacles and achieving goals can help you find your own strength. Just beware of some of the lowering-the-bar reality programs you may already watch, like Jersey Shore or one of the Real Housewivesflavors. Temptation is also contagious, which means you should steer clear of the programs that specialize in promoting spectacular lapses of judgment and self-control.

Caffeine gets a bad rap for things like energy crashes and jitters — especially when overused by college students who don’t get enough sleep or are pulling all-nighters because they procrastinated — but if you consume caffeine in reasonable doses it can actually reduce stress. Keep it to a cup or two of coffee or tea a day and you’ll stand a good chance of balancing your autonomic nervous system, which will help make you both calmer and more alert. For best results and to avoid a caffeine hangover, stay away from sugar, whipped cream, caramel toppings, and those 20-ounce cups from your local coffee shop.

Of these 5 tips to recharge your willpower and focus, I thought it was amusing that she suggest that watching Reality TV can improve your willpower.  It makes sense though, as you can develop admiration for the contestants who stick to something with laser sharp focus.  As she says though, steer clear of the Big Brother type programs or Made in Chelsea (UK) which drain your brain of intelligence in my opinion and couldn’t be more of a complete waste of time!

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Brain Foods To Help You Focus

We all know that our brains need feeding for them to function properly. It’s important to eat the correct brain foods to help you focus, as the wrong types of food, may have an opposite effect.  Here are a few natural tips for boosting your ability to focus.

Eat breakfast

It turns out that breakfast is one, if not the most, important meals of the day.
Studies have shown that students who eat breakfast perform significantly better than students who do not.
Researchers have found that dairy, fruits and high-fiber whole grains are the best for concentration.
So, make sure to think twice before skipping breakfast.

Fish

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for proper brain growth and function.
Incorporating it into your diet has been linked with lowering dementia and increasing memory overtime.
Popular foods that contain omega-3s are fish, seeds and nuts.
Always strive for a balanced diet that is filled with a variety of different food groups.

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When I first read that drinking caffeine was one of the brain foods to help you focus, and late at night, I thought this was rather controversial. I therefore was not going to include this article, even though it’s exactly what I used to do when I was studying at university late at night, as late at night was my effective time.  Caffeine is great earlier on in the day, but it can obviously affect your sleep, which in turn will affect your ability to focus the next day.  I’d therefore take the caffeine suggestion with a pinch of salt, and if you do drink caffeine, then green tea is the broccoli of teas in my opinion.  (I say broccoli, as broccoli is a well known super food.)

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Exercise Makes You Focus

If you’re one who does make exercise a priority, then hopefully, having read this article, you’ll realise that exercise makes you focus. Here, Virginia Winder explains in some depth as to why exercise is so important for a healthy brain.

Ratey says it’s already known that exercise increases levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, which are important neurotransmitters that deal with thoughts and emotions. Many people may have heard of serotonin and know that a lack of it is associated with depression……

…….“In fact, the brain responds like muscles do, growing with use and withering with inactivity. The neurons in the brain connect to one another through leaves on tree-like branches and exercise causes those branches to grow and bloom with new buds, thus enhancing brain function at a fundamental level……

How Exercise Makes You Focus

“If you can’t fit in exercise before or during work or school, evening fitness sessions also work wonders. This is especially important for students sitting exams or who have heavy study loads. Exercise first, if possible, then come home and study hard. Your brain will be in a perfect state to focus.

Exercise makes you focus – it’s as simple as that. I found that during my studies, I’d always be far more productive after a run, or cycle or game of tennis or squash. And I totally agree that you can have the best ideas when you’re active and away from your work zone.

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