Health Matters – Focus Factors

Focusing on a task?or a list of tasks?can be challenging for many of us. And for AU students, distance learning without the ?traditional? structured classroom approach can pose an even greater difficulty for effective focus. If You’re not convinced that your brain is as sharp as you might like, check out some of these options below.

Brain Food

Are you feeding your brain? Our muscles and cells require fuel to function effectively, and our brain is no different. Possibly the most important macronutrient for effective brain function is moderate amounts of ?good? (healthy) fats in your diet. Such healthy fats include fish oil, olive oil, nut fats, and avocado. Animal fats should be kept to a minimum, and trans fats excluded completely.

In addition to supplying your brain with healthy fats, you should also be aware of how other aspects of your diet can impact brain function and, consequently, your ability to focus. For instance, food allergies often result in insidious symptoms of fatigue and inability to concentrate (often referred to as ?brain fog?). Gluten, found in wheat, spelt, and rye, can trigger this in some susceptible individuals. Nor is gluten the only culprit; even a basic allergy to almonds can have the same effect.

Brain Blood Flow

Is your brain receiving sufficient nutrients and oxygen via blood flow? Even a modest reduction in blood flow to the brain can negatively affect your focus. To ensure optimal blood flow, try a daily dose of 200 mg of Ginkgo bilboa, a well-researched herb that has been found to improve cerebral blood flow. One note of caution, though: if your blood pressure is high, or you are taking blood thinners or are anticipating impending surgery, don’t use this herb.

Sleep

Is your sleep optimal? Are you getting a minimum of seven full hours of sleep, preferably starting at 11 p.m.? Traditional Chinese medicine uses the concept of the organ clock, in which different organs actively rejuvenate themselves at different times. According to this clock, being in bed by 11 p.m. each night maximizes full-body repair.

Additionally, the quality of your sleep can affect your ability to focus on that assignment or put in the last few hours of studying for an exam. If You’re waking multiple times during the night or tossing and turning in your sleep, you may need to do some relaxation exercises or meditation before bedtime to ?calm? your brain activity, with the goal of more restful sleep.

Reward

Sometimes the problem is less physiological and more psychological, and all That’s needed is a reward system in place to keep you hanging in there. Small, short-duration rewards are the best way to improve focus on an at-hand task and still get the job done quickly. Rewards can be as simple as taking a five-minute walk around the block or allowing a timed Facebook check-in for a change of pace. I don’t recommend food rewards, as this can lead to overeating and unhealthy weight gain.

Focus problems may be a challenge, but there is help. Envision the goal ahead (that finished assignment, or those post-exam celebrations) and use some of the tips above, and you may be amazed at how effectively you can use your time.

Katie D?Souza is an AU graduate and a licensed naturopathic doctor. She currently practices in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for personal interest only; it is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Readers are always encouraged to seek the professional advice of a licensed physician or qualified health care practitioner for personal health or medical conditions.

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