Wellbeing

6 Easy Ways To Increase Your Attention Span

A recent study found that the average human’s attention span is less than that of a goldfish – and it’s all thanks to our smartphones. But hope isn’t all lost – there are a few tricks to get your brain back on track.

Smartphones are the ultimate attention grabbers, so it’s really no wonder we find it hard to concentrate when our lives are ruled by a device that has the answers to all our questions. Who am I kidding – it look me several minutes to write the first line of this piece because I decided I needed to know immediately what the average lifespan of a goldfish was and what actually is in fish food and how do fish sleep and why– ugh. See? It’s bad, you guys.

If you’re just as easily distracted or you’re unable to concentrate fully on the task at hand, try these six tips to help you close all 20 of the open tabs in your brain.

#1 Get to know the ‘Do Not Disturb’ function on your phone

This function was explicitly made to help you out, so don’t kick it to the curb like you did the Stocks app. The Do Not Disturb option stops notifications, alerts and calls from making any noise or vibration and stops the screen from lighting up when your phone is locked. By limiting the number of notifications that interrupt you throughout the day, your brain can focus on one task at a time and not get caught up switching between contexts and tasks.

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Try turning on the Do Not Disturb function before you go to sleep and during office hours to limit the habit of checking for notifications. If you’re worried about not getting notified for emergencies, there is a function that allows for specific people to still contact you even when your phone is on Do Not Disturb.

#2 Take some time away from your phone

We all cringe at the thought of a digital detox. Away from my phone? For an extended period of time? Nope. But we’re not talking a week without your phone here – but how about a small break? Releasing your hand’s vice-like grip on your phone – even for a few hours – is proven to do wonders for your mental health.

Small periods of being phone-free will help ease other stresses, especially if that time is spent in nature. Even if it’s just 30 minutes to go for a walk or a swim without it stashed in your pocket or bag, it’s enough. As mentioned before, smartphones are serious attention grabbers, and they make it hard for us to be truly alone, so contemplation and reflection are often affected as a result.

Being alone with your own thoughts, while a little daunting, is pretty important part of your psychological development. If you’re having difficulty, try some meditation or yoga to kick things into gear.

#3 Drink more water

There are myriad reasons you should be drinking more water, the crux being it’s vital for pretty much every biological function in your body. But being dehydrated isn’t just bad for your body – it’s also horrible for your attention span. A recent study found that mild dehydration (something as little as 2%) can negatively impact on your ability to concentrate.

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If you’re not drinking enough water, dehydration can lead to headaches, fatigue, a major strain on your concentration and mess up your mood. In fact, a 2% drop in dehydration isn’t even enough to trigger thirst, so you might not even know why you’re feeling extra crabby that day. To be safe, load up on plenty of water if you find yourself in a situation where you need to focus. They don’t call it the elixir of life for nothing.

#4 Ask more questions

If you’re finding yourself getting distracted in meetings a good way to stay focused is to plan to ask one really good question. Author Jon Acuff says that a “good” question is one that will “give you information that helps you improve your job performance.” A bad question on the other hand, is one “where you already know the answer or just want to look smart.” Asking good questions not only helps you stay alert and engaged, it also allows you to contribute to the conversation and keep on top of things.

#5 Exercise

Any form of physical activity can improve your attention and focus because it releases chemicals in the brain that help with memory and learning. Running or swimming can provide a short-term boost to your mental and cognitive performance thanks to the dose of dopamine and serotonin that enters your bloodstream when exercising. This ultimately makes it easier for you to focus on the task at hand.

#6 Chew gum

A study from Cardiff University found that chewing gum can actually increase your alertness and improve your attention span. The study goes on to suggests that chewing gum might only enhance attention when the person has been performing a task for some time. While the study isn’t definitive proof, at least you’ll have fresh breath while you focus ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Rebecca Russo is a freelance writer, editor, community radio dabbler, occasional hiker and celebrity autobiography enthusiast. She has written for online publications including Junkee, AWOL, Fashion Journal and Tone Deaf. Find her online here.