A Quick Tip to Improve Mental Focus

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A challenge that my clients, myself, and lots of other people deal with frequently is lack of focus. This happens a lot before doing work you’ve been trying to avoid, a particularly important performance, or even just throughout the day. While it’s easy to say “just focus”, putting the “just focus” advice into practice is not always achievable.

Here’s a really simple technique I picked up from Jason Selk, a sports psychologist in St. Louis. His book Ten Minute Toughness (yeah, it’s an affiliate link, but I really do recommend you check it out) is a quick, awesome read on perseverance, focus, and sports performance. There’s no weird psych-bullshit, just nitty-gritty strategies for mental toughness and a quick action plan to make use of them all.


One of the most useful tricks I snagged from the book was to take a “centering breath” before doing anything that required focus and attention. Jason has a particular protocol that he uses for this that I won’t divulge (read the book), but here’s the quick and dirty version.

The Centering Breath

Think about the task at hand that you’re about to accomplish. This could be attempting a one-rep max deadlift, taking a shot to sink the 8-ball in a pool tourny, sitting down to knock out a blog post (*wink*), or having a “talk” with someone that you don’t want to have. Whatever the objective is, if you can benefit from more focus, then this technique will work.

Now, with the action and objective in mind, breath in slowly and deeply. Really fill your chest cavity.

Hold that breath for a slow count of five. This is where the magic happens. It’s normal for us to “take a deep breath” before trying something hard, right? The difference is that most of us just breath in deeply and let it out. This works, but if you’re not holding that breath in there you’re missing a lot of of the focusing benefits.

After your hard five count, let the breath out slowly, paying attention to your breathing and mentally cued to the task at hand.

You should find that your heart rate has started to come down, you’re more relaxed, and your focus is dialed in. If not, repeat the process until you start to calm down and focus.





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How do you focus? Comment below!

Comments on A Quick Tip to Improve Mental Focus Leave a Comment

September 8, 2011

MOM @ 2:05 am #

One reason this works is that the held breath( I usually recommend 2-5 seconds, as tolerated , and don’t make yourself dizzy or faint) stretches the stretch receptors in the lungs, which triggers the release of endorphins in the brain, which relaxes the mind and body, better equipping it to focus . The increased oxygen also fuels the brain, and makes it circulate more efficiently. The mental self talk helps to direct the focus desired. I used to further recommend that if one would practice this exercise every 20 – 30 min. throughout the day, the person would develop the skill to the point where they would do this automatically when stressed, and therefore hone the ability to be able choose a stress management technique that will work for the given situation. It is stressful to procrastinate, especially if you know that you have to do a certain thing. Don’t forget to give yourself the positive feedback for a job( whatever it is) well done! Great post Isaac! LOVE, MOM.

Isaac @ 3:41 pm #

Mom, thanks for the info!

For everyone else: My mom used to own a massage therapy and stress management business. She’s definitely the expert on this!

It’s amazing she ended up with such an uptight kid!

Isaac

September 9, 2011

MOM @ 12:10 am #

Isaac, you are doing great, and I am so pleased and proud of you! I didn’t know that you were going to post my comment! I couldn’t seem to help but spout the education I had learned and loved to share. We are a lot alike in many ways. yet we are each ourselves as individuals as well. Keep up the good work! LOVE, MOM.

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