Four easy ways to train your mind like a muscle

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When individuals express, “I get distracted easily,” they are essentially acknowledging that they experience a lower degree of the extraordinary phenomenon known as “focus” compared to others. This acknowledgment is rooted in the overwhelming influx of sensory data and spontaneous thoughts that the brain processes every second.

While focus might seem like a miraculous ability given these circumstances, research suggests that it can be cultivated and enhanced through training, much like developing a muscle over time.

Dr. Amishi Jha, a professor of behavioral neuroscience, delves into this concept in her book titled “Peak Mind: Find Your Focus, Own Your Attention.” Her studies reveal that individuals in high-demand professions, such as soldiers, elite athletes, or emergency personnel, can significantly improve cognitive and emotional health, including attention, by dedicating just 12 minutes a day for four weeks to simple mindfulness exercises.

According to Jha, the initial step toward improving focus involves accepting a fundamental truth: unfettered attention cannot be summoned at will. Contrary to some Western perceptions of mindfulness rooted in Eastern religious meditation practices, Jha emphasizes that attention training can be achieved through straightforward exercises, avoiding the complexity of more complex meditation sessions.

Jha’s book introduces various brain workouts designed to strengthen attention, such as:

  1. Focused Breathing: Paying attention to the breath and identifying where in the body one feels it the most, treating focus as a metaphorical flashlight.
  2. Mental Rigor: Viewing these exercises not as tranquil reflections but as rigorous mental workouts.
  3. Active Observation: Shifting focus from achieving calmness to imagining oneself alone in the center of a busy intersection, observing thoughts passing like pedestrians at crosswalks.
  4. Present-Moment Awareness: Spending three minutes daily solely focused on the sensation of the current activity, whether it be showering or any other task.

In essence, Jha’s approach emphasizes practical and accessible exercises to enhance focus, making it a trainable skill rather than an elusive quality.

It doesn’t have to start with 12 minutes a day either. 1 minute is good enough to build the habit, and then adding time gradually, still gives great benefits, so why wait? Try it right now!