A powerful brain energizer, Peppermint stimulates the mind, supports memory, focus, concentration, and mental performance. Fragrant and familiar, Peppermint will wake up the mind and help boost your productivity. Studies show that Peppermint can help reduce mental stress, help with focus and assist in keeping you on task.
Citrus essential oils have a fantastic ability to help perk us up and Lemon is no exception. It is great for uplifting your mood, providing a boost of energy, and promoting mental clarity and focus. Lemon can also help promote feelings of happiness so you can go forward with your studying with a positive attitude.
Basil Linalool is also an excellent choice if you’re looking to improve focus and refresh your mind. Besides being a popular culinary herb, Basil also helps restore mental alertness when inhaled. It helps clear brain fog and has a refreshing aroma that helps reduces excitability, helping you settle down and focus better on a singular task.
And don’t forget to check out a few blends designed especially to help your mind stay sharp!
Incorporate other practices to help maximize your brain power!
Attention is not just the ability to focus on a single task without being distracted, but in fact, is comprised of several different elements that must be effectively managed. Research has shown that individuals who can sustain their attention for long periods of time perform better on all sorts of cognitive challenges than those who cannot. Your mind is a muscle and you must flex it!
1. Increase the strength of your focus gradually.
Start out with a pretty easy goal and work your way up from there. Set a timer for 5 minutes and focus completely on your work/reading for that time period. Then take a 2-minute break before going at it again for another 5 minutes. Each day, add another 5 minutes to your focused work time, along with an additional 2 minutes to your break time. In 9 days, you should be able to work for 45 minutes straight before you allow yourself an 18-minute break. Once you get comfortable with that set-up, you can work to lengthen your focus sessions a little, while shortening your break times.
2. Create a distraction to-do list.
Because the internet has made any bit of information instantly accessible, we tend to want to look something up the moment it crosses our mind. “I wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow?” “What year did that movie come out?” “I wonder what’s new in my Facebook feed?” Consequently, we’ll toggle away from what we’re working on the instant these questions or thoughts pop into our minds. Problem is, once we get distracted, it takes on average 25(!) minutes to return to our original task. Plus, shifting our attention back and forth drains strength. So to stay on task, whenever something you want to check out pops into your head, just write it down on a piece of paper next to you (or perhaps in Evernote for you tech types), and promise yourself you’ll be able to look it up once your focusing session is over and your break time has arrived.
3. Build your willpower.
Voluntary attention and willpower are intimately entwined. Our willpower allows us to deliberately ignore distractions while staying focused on the task at hand.
Not only does meditation help keep you cool, calm, and collected, research has also shown again and again that mindfulness meditation can boost your attention span significantly. In one study, 140 volunteers took part in an eight-week course in meditation training. After the eight weeks, all the volunteers showed measurable improvements in attention span, as well as other executive mental functions. You don’t have to spend your days meditating in a monastery to take advantage of its attention-boosting power. Research has shown that just 10 to 20 minutes of meditation a day will do the trick. What’s more, you’ll even see improvements in your attention after just four days. So if you want the power to focus on your studies for hours at a time, start your mornings off just focusing on your breath for a few minutes.
5. Practice mindfulness throughout the day.
In addition to dedicating 10 to 20 minutes a day to mindfulness meditation, attention experts recommend finding opportunities to practice mindfulness throughout your day. Mindfulness is simply focusing completely on what you’re doing, slowing down, and observing all of the physical and emotional sensations you are experiencing in that moment. You can practice mindfulness when you eat as you take time to really chew your food and concentrate on its flavors and texture. Incorporating short sessions of mindfulness throughout your day will strengthen and expand your attention span for the times when you really need it. Mindfulness can also help you push back against distractions as they arise. If you’re working on a task and feel that restless itch to go do something else, think to yourself, “Be here now.” In that moment, bring your awareness to your body and your breath. After a few seconds of focusing on your breath, you’ll notice that the distraction is no longer present and that you’re ready to get back to work.
6. Exercise (your body).
Not only can you compare exercising your mind to exercising your body, doing the latter actually directly benefits the former. Researchers have found that students who engaged in moderate physical exercise before taking a test that measured attention spans performed better than students who didn’t exercise. The researchers found that exercise primarily helps our brain’s ability to ignore distractions, although they aren’t exactly sure why. I would venture to say that the discipline it takes to push through the pain of a workout strengthens the same supply of willpower that we use to ignore the itch of distractions in order to keep working/focusing.
7. Memorize stuff.
Besides being a cool bar trick and providing you a fountain of poems to recite at the drop of a hat, memorizing stuff is an excellent way to exercise your mind muscles. Make it a goal to memorize a poem or a verse of scripture each week.
8. Read long stuff slowly. Fight the TL;DR culture.
With the rise of tablets, e-readers, and smartphones, some studies indicate that reading of e-content in general has gone up nearly 40%. This is a good thing, right? You’d think so, except that Slate recently did some research with the help of website analytics company Chartbeart that determined that only a paltry 5% of readers who start an article online will actually finish it. What’s more, 38% of readers never scroll beyond the first few paragraphs. So to say that reading in general has gone up would be misleading. What we’re actually doing is more scrolling, and less engaging. At the same time, we’re reading less books; a recent study showed that 25% of Americans didn’t read a single book last year. This is truly a shame. While long definitely does not automatically equal better, there are certain complex ideas that are impossible to condense into short list posts and require an entire book (or several books) to flesh out. To skip something simply because it is long is to miss out on a whole world of knowledge available only to those willing to dive deeper. There’s definitely a place for skimming online, and learning a little about a lot. But you should also make room for plunging into a few subjects whole hog. Besides books, make an effort to read one or two long articles a week. Longform journalism, as it’s called, is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, and the amount of quality, in-depth content available is at an all-time high. A few of my favorite sources of longform articles:
- Arts and Letters Daily
- The Economist
- The New Yorker
9. Stay curious.
The more curious you are about the world, the greater the stamina of your concentration will be when it comes to any endeavor. Charles Darwin was a master of this concept. His contemporaries marveled at his ability to spend an entire day just staring at animals and plants. Darwin’s secret was his unflagging curiosity – he could discover more and more about a single object by homing in on various details, examining it in different ways, asking new questions. Bit by bit he would peel back its layers.
10. Practice attentive listening.
Focus isn’t just useful for intellectual endeavors. It’s also an essential interpersonal skill. The ability to be fully present with a loved one or friend builds your rapport, intimacy, and trust and with them. At the same time, making an effort to focus all your energy on someone else strengthens your concentration muscles overall. It’s win-win. So next time you’re talking with your main squeeze, put away your phone and listen as attentively as possible.
11. Perform concentration exercises.
The above exercises not only boost your focus, but offer other benefits as well. Every once in a while, however, it’s good to do some exercises that are aimed purely at boosting your concentration. (1) Sit still in a chair adn see how long you can stay there without moving. (2) Fix your gaze on an object for one minute and keep your thoughts on the object. (3) Concentrate on the movement of slowly opening and closing your fist. The chances are that the above exercises will at first make you “tired,” but it is important for you to practice these monotonous exercises so you can train your attention. It also gives you control over your muscular movement. The attention, of course, must be kept closely on each movement of the hand; if it is not, you of course lose the value of the exercise.
You may think these exercises very simple and of no value, but I promise you in a short time you will notice that you have a much better control over your muscular movements, carriage and demeanor, and you will find that you have greatly improved your power of attention, and can center your thoughts on what you do, which of course will be very valuable.
- Mojay, G. (2005). Aromatherapy for healing the spirit: A guide to restoring emotional and mental balance through essential oils. London: Gaia. Pg. 115.