By E.C. LaMeaux
Meditation is a popular technique for relaxation and stress relief that can significantly increase your ability to concentrate and focus. Focus is the ability to pay attention to one thing at the expense of all others, which can be very difficult in a society that emphasizes multitasking and success. Increasing your ability to focus can foster creativity, promote problem-solving skills and decrease the stress associated with handling more than one task at once.
Step 1: Listen to your breathing
When you’re meditating, the point is to focus on one thing and allow your other thoughts to pass by, according to Mayo Clinic. For someone who has difficulties paying attention to just one thing (which includes most of us), that can be daunting. An easy way to get started is to simply listen to your breathing.
- Sit comfortably so you’re not distracted by physical pain, then close your eyes and listen to your breath.
- Breathe in and out through your nose, but don’t otherwise try to control the rate or depth of your breath.
- When thoughts try to crowd in on your meditation, let them fade as you refocus on listening to your breath. Feel how it flows down your throat. Feel your abdomen expand. Stay here as long as you can.
Step 2: Don’t move
Most people are fidgety. Sitting perfectly is still a pretty foreign practice, but it can help you focus by putting you in control of your physical body instead of being controlled by your comfort. Sit as comfortably as you can, but don’t worry about listening to your breath. Close your eyes, and try to not move a single muscle. You’ll find yourself bombarded by itches, hairs tickling your face and your joints protesting. Unless you’re experiencing pain above regular discomfort, don’t succumb to anything. The focus required to ignore your body and sit perfectly still will calm your mind and increase your ability to concentrate over time.
Step 3: Use a mantra
Once you get comfortable with sitting still and you can listen to your breathing for extended periods of time without difficulty, try to introduce a mantra. A mantra is simply a repeated syllable, word or phrase that helps you focus. During your meditation session, repeat your mantra over and over.
A simple one is the sound vibration “ohm,” which you say on the exhale of each breath. When you inhale, thoughts will try to rush back into your mind, and you will have to focus on keeping your mind still as you go into the sound. This will develop your ability to continually concentrate on one thing, even with interruptions.