In our busy, modern world it's all to easy to get distracted from the task in hand. Ann Vrlak outlines how meditation practices can improve your focus and boost concentration levels so you can get the job done and feel happier. 

 

A desire to improve mental focus is one of the most common reasons people want to learn meditation. In fact, improving concentration and focus may be more relevant to your everyday life than you think!


There are two ingredients in a strong ability to focus: being able to direct your attention where you want it to be and keeping it there for a sustained period of time, regardless of anything else that might want to grab your attention.


So, you need a stable, calm focus for things like: 

  • A work project you’re in charge of at the office.
  • An important conversation with your partner or child.
  • A creative project you're excited about.
  • Thinking about work life balance, what’s most important to you and how you want to spend your precious time and energy.

 

In all of these everyday situations, you just can’t be at your best when your mind is scattered:

  • You won’t be able to move your project forward without the ability to focus on one thing at a time.
  • If you can’t focus in a conversation, people won’t feel heard and that can cause disconnection and conflict with the people closest to you.
  • Creativity invites you to go beneath the surface and connect with something deeper inside you that wants to be expressed. It’s very hard to do that when your mind is cluttered.
  • To make wise, meaningful life decisions you need to hold many things in your focus: your intentions, values and hopes.

meditation-for-focus.jpg

You can improve focus at work with meditative techniques


Luckily, focus is one of the core skills you learn through meditation. Each time you sit, you practise both parts of focus: putting your attention where you want it and keeping it there, in spite of any distractions. 

 

Why you might find it hard to focus

When you practise meditation for focus, especially if you’re a beginner, you start to recognize what focus feels like and what lack of focus feels like, too! You learn what your unique distractions are:  it could be anxiety, boredom, food, worry, or something else. You’ll learn, each time you sit to meditate, what keeps you from being present and focused.


Related: Meditation for beginner's – our Top 6 videos

 

That’s because meditation is a mirror, and it will show you how your mind operates, but usually outside of your conscious awareness. Once you are aware of it, you can begin to investigate, to understand and, if you want, to change or to heal. 


I don’t want you to think that your imperfect ability to focus is a personal failing. There are many pressures in the modern world that make it extra hard for us to see focus as something worthwhile, never mind being able to improve our focus.


First of all, multitasking is very much the norm these days. Add in anxiety and stress, which are increasing in all age groups, even including children, sadly, and the ability to focus becomes harder still. 

 

“Focus is one of the core skills you learn through meditation. Each time you sit, you practise both parts of focus: putting your attention where you want it and keeping it there, in spite of any distractions.” 


Furthermore, thanks to the overabundance of information and entertainment channels available to us, we have all become conditioned to high levels of stimulation and information input. Experts say this information onslaught just isn’t healthy for our nervous system: it radically shortens our attention span and although we often turn to these outlets to relax, in fact, they increase anxiety levels. You can see how all these factors could work against your desire to strengthen your focus!

 

Meditation for focus

The great news is there are many meditations to strengthen your focus, and help calm your overstimulated brain. Practising meditation for focus also increases your confidence and self-esteem. When you’re able to stay with the task in front of you and bring more of your skills and resources to it, you’re not only more productive, but more satisfied with the process. The journey is as enjoyable as the destination.


You can use just about anything as an object of focus in meditation, but I’ll describe two proven practices you can try. There are many more, but you can do these practices anywhere and anytime you have a few minutes – even when you’re sitting in traffic or waiting at the doctor’s.

 

Mantra

  1. Repetition of a mantra is the oldest form of meditation and is used in Vedic meditation. You choose a mantra, which traditionally is a Sanskrit word but doesn’t need to be, and repeat the mantra out loud or silently to yourself for a period of practice. Mantra practice takes you into a focused space of sound and sensation. 
  2. OM, the primordial mantra, is one simple and powerful mantra to use. It is said to be the sound of the universe that animates everything on earth.
  3. If you prefer to use words you’re more familiar with, you can repeat words or phrases like, “Peace,” “May all beings be happy” or “Be kind in all things.”

So Hum meditation for focus YouTube/Chopra

 

Breath 

  1. Meditation for focus practices that use the breath are the most common. They’re wonderful practices because wherever you go, you have your breath! Focusing on your breath is incredibly calming for your nervous system, while also leading your attention away from your mind.
  2. One of my favourite breath practices is the Box Breath. Each side of the box represents one part of a breath cycle–the inbreath, holding your breath, your outbreath and holding your breath again – and each is done for count of four. This practice is so powerful that even Navy SEALS use it in high stress situations where it’s crucial to relax and jumpstart their minds into a high level of alertness.


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Meditation for focus through breathing YouTube/MyLife

 

For both practices, the instructions are the same. 

  • Sit in a comfortable, but also alert position, ideally with your eyes closed.
  • Start to pay attention to your chosen object of focus and do your best to keep your attention there.
  • When your attention moves to something else, which it definitely will, the practice is to notice and gently, without judgment, bring your attention back to your object. 
  • Repeat, for as long as you like.


That’s it! This practice is harder than it sounds, however. One reason is the overstimulation I mentioned that makes it quite difficult to focus on one thing for long. Another reason is almost everyone who tries this practice will think they’ve done something wrong when their mind wanders. They criticize themselves and feel reassured of their inability to focus.

 

“When you practise meditation for focus, especially if you’re a beginner, you start to recognize what focus feels like and what lack of focus feels like, too!” 


So, there are two keys to this practice:

  • To understand that a wandering attention is exactly what the practice is about; it’s not something you’re doing wrong.
  • When you notice you have wandered and bring your attention back, be kind and matter-of-fact about it. Don’t let negative self-talk creep in to your mind and heart.


Conclusion: meditation for focus

Modern culture really doesn’t value being focused on one thing very much. Many of us have learned that more is better and multitasking is best.


If you find that meditation for focus is hard, remember that “it’s not just you.” Give yourself a chance to relearn the benefits of an uncluttered, focused mind for your productivity, well-being, creativity and connections with people that are important to you. 

Main image: shutterstock/WAYHOME Studio
 

 

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Written by Ann Vrlak

bert.jpgAnn Vrlak is Founder of OneSelf Meditation and a meditation practitioner for over 25 years. She’s a Certified Meditation Teacher for adults and for children (the best job ever!). She loves to share how the perspective and practice of meditation can support people with their everyday stresses and on their journey of self-discovery.


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