Everyday, we need to concentrate on projects and tasks in order to do, be, create, and attain what we desire. We need concentration especially for fitness: to keep our head in the game, to choose the next play, to know the next yoga asana, the next move in a kata, to be in sync with a teammate, a dance partner, or a sparring partner.
Everyone knows, for example, that getting in motion improves muscular and cardiovascular fitness and helps you look great, but not everyone realizes that it can actually improve concentration.
Do you ever have trouble concentrating? How would you like a few quick things you can do in any moment to improve concentration not only for fitness, but in any area of your life?
Here are the “Top 3” on my list:
1. Put attention on your physical and emotional feelings for a minute or more.
This sounds a bit funny, but is actually very important. A lot of times, we don’t realize that we have a physical sensation, such as pain, hunger or thirst that is unquenched. When such a sensation is in your space, it takes up attention, like memory on your computer. Making sure you have plenty of water, healthy food, and a nearby bathroom is great. When you have a physical pain, it is like a “check engine” light on the dashboard of your car. If you stop for a minute to acknowledge it, and make plans to take care of it, you free up your mind to focus more attention on the project you are working on.
Also, lots of times we may have an emotion floating around somewhere in our subconscious. It could be an anxiety, a fear, a resistance, a sadness, a doubt, an anger or anything ranging from slight discomfort to pure fear. An emotion, an anxiety for example, is similar to a “wrong way” sign, or a GPS notification in your car letting you know you’re going the wrong way. Our emotions are our guides. That is why wise people always say “follow your heart” or “follow your bliss.” Taking a minute to feel what is there, and acknowledge emotions in our space, gives us an opportunity to turn off the alarm and plan to dig deeper later on in our private time. It frees up attention to be focused on the project at hand.
If you take some time to focus within, even for 2 minutes, you give yourself the opportunity to free up lots of attention—like turning off unneeded applications running in the background of your computer—to concentrate on the project or task you’re working on.
2. Get up and move for 1 minute, 5 minutes, or 15+ minutes.
Moving—the more the better—gets energy and blood flowing through your body. When energy and blood is flowing through your body—guess what—ideas, thoughts, and inspirations flow better in your mind and soul. You have the opportunity to bring yourself into a state many people call “flow.” The opposite of this is feeling “stuck” or stagnant. So, if you’re writing and feeling “writer’s block,” get up and do some jumping jacks, stretch, dance, shake your body out, move freely. I promise you’ll feel better. I’m writing this article right now after going to 2 parks today, where I ran up hundreds of stairs, ran through trails, danced in the grass, hung upside down from a tree branch (not recommended alone), and ran up a hill. This also works for art, moving through monotonous tasks, moving through large and daunting tasks, studying, and any project or task that takes concentration or mental focus.
3. Eat brain foods (omega-3s, Medium-chain triglycerides[MCTs]) and brain supplements.
These are brain fuel, cell communication support, and neurotransmitter support.
Your brain uses omega-3 fatty acids for brain cell communication, which supports “flow” through the cells of your brain. The most common sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fish (salmon), chia seeds, and flax seeds.
It is currently believed that your brain can use two things to burn as energy: glucose (sugar) and ketones (metabolized from MCTs). MCTs are a type of fat that your turns into ketones, which can be used by your brain as energy.
Glucose is best eaten, in my opinion, in small dosages. If you eat too much glucose at once, you spike your blood-sugar, which can cause a physical and mental crash. The best forms of glucose for the brain, in my opinion, are fruits and veggies. MCTs, on the other hand, can be a more sustained form of brain energy. They are found in coconut oil, coconut milk, palm fruit oil, and grass-fed butter.
Of course brain supplements can help you with concentration. Brain supplements are concentrated forms of nutrients that your brain can use as energy, or raw materials to produce neurotransmitters. In my opinion, the best brain support supplements are the ones that contain the building-blocks for acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that enables you to learn, create and recall memories, and concentrate for long periods of time. Your brain needs an acetyl molecule, a choline molecule and vitamin B5 to produce acetylcholine. In my opinion, the best supplement for an acetyl molecule is acetyl l-carnitine. The best supplement for choline is alpha-GPC, known to enhance memory and cognition (1). Then, add some B5 and you’ll notice an immediate difference.
I regularly consume everything in this section and my only challenge is getting my brain to slow down!
Each of these things will improve concentration for fitness and in all areas of life, and utilizing all three steps at once is a sure-fire recipe for concentration success!
Maintaining brain health and mental fitness are key to having the concentration so your mind is not taken out by yesterday’s drama or tomorrow’s deadline–so you can focus on your commitments and choices at hand, like today’s fitness!
To your empowerment,
Sam, a Brain Health Entrepreneur, is the CEO and developer of BrainJuice, a food-derived brain supplement (www.NaturalBrainJuice.com). He is a regular contributing author for TodaysFitnessTrainer.com. Stay tuned for more enlightening information in the upcoming months!
- (1) Takashi Kawamura M.S. a, Takeshi Okubo Ph.D. b, Koji Sato Ph.D. a, Satoshi Fujita Ph.D. a, Kazushige Goto Ph.D. a, Takafumi Hamaoka M.D., Ph.D. a, Motoyuki Iemitsu Ph.D. (2012).”Glycerophosphocholine enhances growth hormone secretion and fat oxidation in young adults”.Nutrition 28: 1122–1126.