So many people of all ages report feeling unfocused and like they have a heavy brain fog hanging over them.
Americans are incredibly sluggish mentally and physically for so many reasons. We often don’t even realize the far-reaching effects of being unfocused and lacking in cognitive sharpness in our lives.
Brain fog, a lack of clarity, and feeling unfocused can impact your career and your relationships and even create safety risks. For example, in 2019, more than 3,140 Americans lost their lives due to distracted driving accidents. More than 48,500 accidents involved distracted driving.
We can feel like we’re doing more than ever before, yet unable to achieve anything in all the tasks that pull us in different directions. Many people find their minds wandering even at inopportune times, like when they’re behind the wheel.
Modern living is taking its toll, but the following are things to know about improving focus and your sense of mental sharpness.
Figure Out What’s Causing Your Fog
Sometimes, dealing with brain fog and a lack of focus or attention depends on identifying the underlying cause.
There are a lot of different reasons.
For example, it could be that when your mind feels fuzzy, you’re experiencing a vitamin or hormonal deficiency. Hypothyroidism is an issue increasingly affecting Americans. If you have a thyroid hormone deficiency, it reduces cellular function and blood flow in certain parts of your brain.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is another common culprit.
Before doing anything else, if you’re feeling like your cognition, memory, or general brain function aren’t what you’d like them to be, talk to your health care provider. They can run tests and make sure there isn’t a physical health condition that needs treatment.
Your diet can generally affect your mental clarity in major ways. When your diet isn’t healthy and nutritious, it can lead to hypertension, obesity, and other factors that inhibit cognitive function. Anything good for your cardiovascular system, like healthy eating and regular exercise, tends to be good for your brain.
Get Outside Regularly
Many of the things we can do to be more present, sharp, and focused aren’t difficult, nor are they expensive.
One of the simplest free things you can do to improve your brain function is going outside more.
Natural surroundings are good for concentration and productivity. You can also add plants and greenery to your home and workspace.
Taking a walk or eating outside a few times a week could go a long way to helping your concentration.
We’re trained to think multitasking is the best way to get things done.
The reality is that multitasking doesn’t work. Our brains are wired to focus on one task at a time. When we think we’re juggling multiple things at once, what’s happening is that we’re task-switching at a rapid rate without realizing it.
When our brain is constantly moving between tasks, we’re more prone to making mistakes and less efficient.
When you divide your attention, you’re not giving your full attention to any one thing. In some studies, doing additional tasks during a driving simulation led to worse driving performance.
Multitasking can detrimentally affect our learning ability because we have to be able to focus on learning.
Overall, the more we multitask, the less we accomplish.
Get Physically Active
Above, we talked about the fact that movement is something that’s good for not only your heart but also your brain.
Physical activity shows significant benefits for cognition and overall brain health research. The hormones that increase during exercise, for example, may improve memory.
Researchers in one study correlated blood hormone levels with aerobic health and found positive effects on memory that stemmed from exercise.
Researchers at Dana-Farber and Harvard released a study in 2013 showing that a molecule released during exercise protects the brain against degeneration and improves cognition.
The molecule is irisin, and it is thought to have neuroprotective effects. When raising irisin in the blood, exercise may activate genes that play a role in memory and learning.
Prioritize At Work
If you feel like you’re not present and focused at work, start to think about how you can be more efficient.
For example, not all tasks require the same level of mental attention. You want to work smart and utilize time management skills.
You can begin to prioritize at work by setting goals. These should be manageable things that you aim to finish each day. Then, the more you’re able to complete these tasks, the more positive and motivated you will feel.
Give yourself five to ten minutes every morning to assess what needs to be done for the day.
Decide what your highest-priority tasks are and move down from there, creating a list that ends with the lowest priority tasks. Now, you have a list each day that you can work from top-to-bottom. Having a list broken down by priority can help you avoid multitasking and promote focus.
Removing distractions from the things we need to do each day can be easier said than done. There are both external and internal distractions that we have to deal with daily.
External distractions are anything that happens outside of your own thoughts. External distractions can include other people, social media, emails, and phone calls.
Removing external distractions requires you to create an environment conducive to work. How you do this depends on your style and priorities. If you work from home, maybe you have a sign on your office door that lets your family know when they should avoid bothering you.
You can also set your phone on silent mode while working on tasks that require a lot of concentration, or you can use interval timers on your phone that let you know when you work and when you can take a mental break.
Finally, you can set deadlines for yourself as far as internal distractions. Give yourself a reward when you accomplish big and small goals and take regular breaks throughout your day.