Life Style

The Psychology Behind Focus

The American Psychological Association Dictionary cites focus as the ability to concentrate on a certain stimulus or the ability to centre attention on an object or a stimulus. As we all are well aware, focus and concentration are not something that can be easily mastered by an individual. It takes people years of developing habits and taking care of their schedules so intimately to ensure they master the elements of focus and concentration.

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As we saw in the above-mentioned definition, focus requires one to attend to a particular stimulus or object, and thus, equals cancelling out all the other stimuli in the surroundings towards which their attention could be diverted. This overt elimination that we perform upon the multiple stimuli in our surroundings is the primary prerequisite of focus. However, this does not mean that the individual must completely stop attending to the stimulus, rather all it requires is a temporary elimination.

Symptoms of not being able to focus:

There are multiple manifestations of an individual’s inability to focus on one or more stimuli. Every individual may experience different symptoms thus exhibiting their lack of focus. Some of the symptoms may include difficulty recalling recent events, sitting still, and thinking effectively, frequent misplacement, difficulty remembering where items are, and difficulty making judgements, inability to complete complex tasks.

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Reasons Behind Lack of Focus

Various mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, ADHD, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, dementia, insomnia, Cushing syndrome etc., all cause a huge dearth in the affected individuals’ ability to focus or concentrate. Apart from the above-listed mental disorders, various lifestyle factors can also act as a huge stimulus to one’s attention issues. Some of these lifestyle factors include lack of adequate hours of sleep, lack of adequate and complete nutrition, exhaustion, lack of regular exercise, heightened levels of personal and professional stress, etc. Multiple medications that individuals may consume daily such as benzodiazepines, opioids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants etc can all cause a decline in one’s attention or focus level.

Multitasking – A Myth or the Truth?

As humans, technically, we can do two things at the same time. It is conceivable, for example, to watch television while cooking dinner or to respond to an email while on the phone. What is impossible, however, is to focus on two projects at once. Multitasking pushes your brain to quickly move its focus from one task to another. This wouldn’t be such a big concern if the human brain could easily switch from one task to the next, but it can’t.

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Multitasking requires you to pay a mental fee every time you interrupt one task and switch to another. In psychology, this mental expense is known as the switching cost. The switching cost is the disruption in performance that occurs when we shift our concentration from one area to another. One study, published in the International Journal of Information Management in 2003, discovered that the average individual checks email every five minutes and that it takes 64 seconds to return to the previous job after checking email.

How to improve Focus?

1. Try and measure progress in goals:

Focus frequently fades due to a lack of reinforcement. Your brain has a natural urge to know whether or not you are making progress towards your goals, which is impossible to determine without receiving feedback. This denotes the inevitability of measuring progress. We all have parts of our lives that we believe are essential to us yet do not measure. However, the long-forgotten fact is that measurement helps one focus and concentrate. The things we measure are the ones we improve. Only via numbers and accurate tracking can we determine whether we are improving or worse.

Read More: Psychology Behind Goal-Setting

2. Fall in love with the process:

All too often, we regard success as something that can be accomplished and done. Many people regard health as an event: “If I just lose 25 pounds, then I’ll look so fit and pretty too.” Many people view entrepreneurship as an event: “If we could get our company featured in the X Magazine, we’d be set. These are only a few of the several ways we define success as a single occurrence. But if try and observe those people who stay focused on their goals, you’ll see that it’s not the events or the outcomes that set them apart.

It is a dedication to the process. They fall in love with the daily practice rather than the individual event. If one desperately wants to work on their attention span, one should first start indulging oneself in something they are truly passionate about because with love towards the work comes the urge to be a part of the process or the very “urge to work.” One must fall in love with creating the identity of someone who performs the job, rather than simply dreaming about the outcomes they desire.

Read More: The Psychology of Procrastination: strategies to boost Productivity

3. The anchor task:

Select an anchor task. An anchor task refers to the only single task that one chooses to anchor their day on. The individual might have many other plans to complete on the given day but they ought to prioritise the completion of the one particular task that they have chosen. It serves as the foundation for the remainder of the day. The advantage of focusing on one objective is that it naturally influences your behaviour by pushing you to organise your life around that obligation.

4. Leave your phone:

whenever one enters their room to work, it would be of absolute importance for them to switch off their phone and keep it aside to reduce or eliminate the distraction. However, if the person finds that this does not eliminate their distracting stimulus, leaving the phone switched off in another room or in any place that is far off from the person’s place would do the trick.

Read More: How to Boost Your Productivity with Pomodoro Technique

Miscellaneous tips and tricks – Some other tips to improve focus would be to
  1. Keep an eye out for when you lose focus. Identifying a pattern may help you solve the problem and improve your concentration.
  2. Do puzzles or other hobbies that require you to think actively.
  3. Examine the side effects of drugs. A variety of medications might produce sleepiness or brain fog.
  4. Exercise and a varied, nutrient-dense diet can improve both your physical and mental health.
  5. Makes lists and sets achievable targets.

There are multiple reasons as to why an individual loses their attention from time to time. These could range from the daily professional and personal stressors that one may encounter in their life to even undiagnosed mental disorders. Similarly, there are multiple ways in which people can try and improve one’s focus levels. All one has to do is try and implement some personalized sets of tips and tricks to work wonders on their attention span. However, if one still finds trouble focusing, they should not hesitate to consult a doctor or a psychologist who could help them diagnose some underlying mental or physical health condition that may have been hindering their attention span.

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