Meditation can help improve your focus by reducing stress, improving mental agility, and helping you feel calmly in control of your thoughts. Rather than struggling and getting agitated when your focus seems off, through meditation, you’ll learn to calmly redirect your mind and find peace within your body.
To jumpstart your meditation training and specifically work on improving focus, here are four techniques to begin incorporating today.
Grounding with a 5-4-3-2-1 Observation
The goal of grounding activities is to assist your mind and body with coming back to the present and feeling calmer and more in control of the current situation. They can also help improve focus. An easy grounding activity is one where you use your five senses to:
5 – Notice five things you see.
4 – Notice four things you hear.
3 – Notice three things you feel/touch.
2 – Notice two things you smell.
1 – Notice one thing you taste.
Once you complete all five, breathe deeply and return to the present. For an added variation to specifically target your ability to focus, try to write down the things that you observed about 10 minutes after the grounding activity ends. Over time, remembering your 5-4-3-2-1 items will get easier.
To directly exercise your focus, try this deceptively simple activity. Choose an object around your house (a picture frame, a bowl, a flower, etc.) and observe it for a full 5 minutes. If you find your thoughts wandering from the object, gently bring them back.
Your goal here isn’t perfection; it’s strengthening your ability to bring your attention back to its rightful place. If you get stuck and don’t have more observations, make sure you’ve mentally checked off all five senses; yes, you can taste your object (or imagine what it would taste like if it’s too dirty!).
After the 5 minutes, slowly let your mind wander to other topics rather than immediately disengaging from the object. If this activity seems difficult, try to notice what makes it hard—are you tired, hungry, or thirsty? Are there too many distractions? Are you just not interested in staying focused? When you discover your personal obstacles to focusing, you’ll be able to avoid them more easily in the future.
Meditating on your own can be beneficial because you can use the techniques anytime, anywhere. Sometimes, a guided meditation is helpful (especially for beginners) as you learn to calmly redirect your focus and strengthen your mental acuity. There are many apps available with free and paid guided meditation libraries. These range in style and duration, so try several to see what’s best for you. Declutter the Mind has specific focus-oriented selections that are a good starting point, and Calm has both audio and visual options for those looking to improve focus in multiple ways. For a collection of free guided meditations accessible from your computer or phone, try Tara Brach. Searching for “focus” in this library will give you many options. Use a guided meditation at home when you can devote your full attention to the activity.
A “body scan” is a mindfulness activity that can help you improve your body awareness and connection while also improving your focus. Starting at your toes, mentally scan each part of your body (squeezing and releasing the muscles can help physically direct your attention to that spot if you’re having trouble) and note how it feels. Is there discomfort? Does it feel hot or cold? Does that muscle feel tired or stiff? How does my skin feel in that spot?
Not only are you sharpening your ability to focus on a very particular sensation, you’re also connecting your mind and body in a way that helps to improve overall wellness. A body scan is also a good activity for evening hours when you’re trying to wind down and relax. Focus often wanes at the end of the day when we’re tired, and this activity is a calm and easy way to recharge before bed.
Whether you’d like to rebuild some of your focus or get ahead of the game and strengthen your skills, these four meditation techniques are easy ways to achieve that goal.