How to Improve Focus & Concentration
Poor focus is the gateway to Anxiety
Not being able to focus is often the gateway drug to anxiety. If you’re anything like me, and many others who face anxiety you might’ve suffered from severe problems with focus…
Each day at school or work would be a mental dance in my head where I would try my best to genuinely care and pay attention, but without me even knowing or realizing it all of a sudden I would drift off!
As I would lose my focus, I would get even more nervous because I wasn’t aware of what was happening in the conversation or the social situation. I would try to focus but by then it would be too late. So I’d rather not say anything, which perpetuates the cycle of social anxiety even more. Next day, the same thing would happen again and again.
I justified this by self-diagnosing myself with ADHD and thinking oh this is just who I am. Wow I guess I just can’t focus as good as everyone else for some reason.
What I learned is that your attention and ability to focus is not an innate ability.
It’s a programmable muscle that must be built.
It’s important to work on this muscle because if you can’t harness your attention in interactions with people your focus will go all over the place and usually default to paying attention about the signs of anxiety and what you DON’T want to happen.
So, how do you program your attention muscle?
In this article I will layout three different ways to build this muscle!
PS. Before we get started I’m running another group cohort for anxiety coaching group over the course of 9 weeks. Spots are limited and early bird pricing ends next week: https://www.markmetry.com/group-coaching
1. Mindfulness Meditation
I never was able to focus until I started practicing mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is a daily exercise that builds your attention muscle overtime.
Some of you may have heard of this, while others are rolling their eyes saying “Mark, why do you keep mentioning this and want me to meditate so badly?”
First off, you can do whatever you want. You can close this article if you would like to, doesn’t affect me or my life.
I preach and champion meditation because it’s one of the few things that is actually verifiable by the science and that works for the vast majority of people, to not only improve focus, but decrease social anxiety, better sleep, and increase your energy levels.
Mindfulness meditation is NOT the same as going for a walk, or praying, or running or reading a book, or whatever activity people say that works for them to meditate.
Mindfulness meditation is the specific act of sitting down, closing your eyes, and focusing on nothing but the present moment, by focusing on the sensation of your breath flowing in and out of your body.
You will get distracted. That’s the point.
Each time you realize you are distracted, the act of realizing your focus has shifted and then going back to focusing on your breath is what rebuilds your attention muscle.
2. Get Out of Your Head & In the Environment
I spent most of my life in my head. I mean it makes perfect sense. On top of social anxiety and being an introvert which is defined as “a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.”
By default most of you are probably the same as me. Most of your life was spent thinking and feeling in your own mind bubble vs paying attention to the physical environment and expanding your bubble to the world.
A common example is driving a car.
In the middle of driving between the lanes on the road, your brain automizes driving so you can think about things - usually floating somewhere in the past or future. You arrive at your destination, and you think wait what just happened I don’t even remember the route or drive I took to get here. If this happens to you frequently, it means your attention muscle hasn’t been sharpened and is all over the place.
A simple exercise is to be more mindful of your environment.
Look up and around, what do you see in the physical environment with your vision?
Feel your body’s contact sensation touching the ground, or your butt on the seat.
Smell, use your nose, what do you smell? What do you hear?
Another great trick is to go to the bathroom and wash your hands and let yourself feel the water sensation on your hands for about 15 seconds. Next, try to imagine or think about something you are grateful for to help pull you emotionally up.
3. Practice the Art of Surrender
To truly be able to focus means you must drop everything in your mind and focus on what’s in front of you.
Which means, you must learn how to surrender to the present moment of life without incessantly wanting to escape the past or predict or guess the future or what might happen next.
Which means, you must learn how to trust the universe, and yourself, and understand everything will be ok.
I totally understand you may have no idea what I’m talking about as it’s quite difficult to articulate through written words, however if you experiment with meditation you will start to realize what I’m talking about!
For Example: in the past before meeting with someone, I would think about it for weeks and weeks and weeks, which results in overthinking, which leads to social anxiety.
Now? I literally don’t even think about it anymore. I just show up and amazing things happen. Today I’m going to be a guest on over 5 podcasts, have over 7 meetings and aside from preparation, I don’t really think about it. I just live in the present moment.
What’s the result?
I show up to the meeting in the present moment, which enables me to be myself and truly listen and understand the other person I’m speaking with which leads to a deeper richer sensation of life with almost no anxiety.
We often think if we don’t think about something beforehand it will be disastrous, not true. Of course critically thinking is important, but aside from that your thoughts won’t really help you. It’s better to step into the present moment flow of life that enables you to be yourself.
Keep in mind, everything I’m saying took and continues to take effort. I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation almost daily for the last 5 years alongside many other habits & tools.
If you made it this far in the article, please let me know your thoughts, feedback, etc by responding directly to this email and I’ll get back to you shortly.
💬 I am opening my calendar right now to work with 1 more person 1-on-1 on an ongoing basis to manage anxiety and heal your mind more effectively.
Interested? Schedule a free call with me to see if it’s right for you or not :)