If you have trouble focusing, you’ve found the right resource.
Keep reading to learn 20 scientific and practical tips to enhance your focus from every angle imaginable.
#1: Start Your Day With Exercise
Along with the many other health benefits of exercise, it can also enhance your attention span and dopamine levels.
We require proper dopamine function for “the ability to orchestrate behavior in accord with our goals,” and it’s likely the most crucial neurotransmitter for focus and motivation[*].
So if you want more focus, here’s why you should exercise regularly[*]:
- Physical activity increases dopamine levels
- Exercise reduces inflammation in your body, helping your brain work better
- Getting fit helps protect specialized neurons that make dopamine
The benefits of exercise on dopamine and focus are immediate, but they also get better with time–if you exercise routinely[*].
Although more intense forms of exercise may work faster to boost focus, you’ll want to find out which kinds of exercise work best for you, then stick with those. A balanced approach wins out long-term.
#2: Do the Hardest Thing First
Starting with the easiest items on your to-do list is one way to get some small and immediate wins, but if you have too much on your plate, you’ll never get to the challenging items.
Instead, try starting with the hardest or most important task. Once you make progress there, you’ll have the momentum to cruise through the rest of your list.
This tip is counterintuitive, but it’s a great way to power through procrastination.
Not only that, you may even find that starting with the more difficult tasks on your agenda leads to better solutions to easier ones.
#3: Prevent Nutrient Deficiencies
Deficiencies of vitamins or minerals can make it harder to focus by lowering your neurotransmitter levels.
Your body requires all of the following nutrients to make or use dopamine, so ensuring you get enough may boost your concentration:
- Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)[*]
- Vitamins B6, B9, and B12[*]
- Vitamin D[*]
- Omega-3 fatty acids[*]
#4: Eat These Foods
Some foods can boost your focus in other ways besides providing vitamins and minerals.
For example, foods that contain the amino acids l-dopa or l-tyrosine may support focus by raising dopamine levels.
Other foods may have a similar effect by raising nitric oxide levels, which in turn increases dopamine.
And finally, certain foods can help preserve dopamine-producing neurons by increasing antioxidant activity in your body.
- Animal products like meat, eggs, and dairy
- Chocolate or cacao
- Fava beans
- Leafy greens
- Olive oil
- Sesame and pumpkin seeds
Now that we’ve covered the effects of food and nutrition on focus, it’s time to take a look at what impact supplements can have.
#5: Try Cognitive Enhancers (Maybe)
These supplements are in a different category from supplements like vitamins or omega-3s because their effects do not derive from supplying nutrients your body requires.
Here are the ones that stand out the most for better focus:
- Bacopa monnieri may increase cognitive function.
- L-Tyrosine and DL-phenylalanine, amino acids that your body converts to dopamine, are available as supplements[*].
- L-Theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, promotes brain alpha wave activity (a state of “alert relaxation”) and may boost dopamine levels[*][*].
- Ashwagandha and Rhodiola rosea may increase dopamine production
- L-Citrulline and L-arginine raise nitric oxide levels and may boost dopamine levels in other ways[*][*]
- Mucuna pruriens extract can raise dopamine dramatically, and one study found it works better than some ADHD drugs for treating ADHD[*]
If you take medication, have a health condition, or are unsure how to use them safely, talk to your doctor before trying cognitive enhancement supplements.
#6: Avoid These Supplements
On the other side of the coin, here are some supplements that may have adverse effects on dopamine in your brain:
- Melatonin interferes with dopamine release[*]
- 5-HTP depletes dopamine levels[*]
- Magnolia bark or its extracts can interfere with the function of dopamine[*]
Also, if you currently take supplements and want to focus better, do some research to be sure none of them lower dopamine.
#7: Maintain a Healthy Gut
Having reduced gut microbiome diversity and more Bacteroidaceae, Neisseriaceae, and Neisseria spec. bacteria is associated with ADHD, possibly due to decreased dopamine levels[*].
#8: Avoid Sugar
Regularly eating sugar causes oxidative stress and insulin resistance in your brain. It also spikes your blood sugar, which can result in a “sugar crash.”
Along with quitting sugar, going keto to improve your insulin sensitivity is a great way to improve concentration.
#9: Try Intermittent Fasting
#10: Keep a To-Do List
You might have a to-do list already, but here’s how to supercharge it:
- Write your goals for today on a separate, brand-new sheet of paper. Try to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Usually, having fewer goals means more focus.
- If a particular goal is lofty or requires multiple steps, write out each step.
- Make sure to cross off each item when you get it done.
Only writing what you plan to accomplish today can reduce your stress and help you focus.
And writing out multiple steps and crossing each one out when you’re done can keep you on task and reward you with minor victories (more dopamine!).
#11: Declutter (Mentally and Physically)
When we feel overwhelmed, it’s sometimes easy to let clutter build up.
Decluttering can be a rewarding temporary distraction, and it also makes being at home or the office feel less stressful. Here’s a starter list of ideas:
- Store, donate, or toss the clutter
- Do the dishes or laundry
- Close your browser tabs
- Clear out your inbox
Just don’t let making space become a form of procrastination. Remember to focus on any other tasks you need to do, too.
#12: Optimize Your Workspace
Beyond decluttering, let’s take a closer look at your work environment.
Do you enjoy the colors? Are there plants or other signs of nature? How is the air quality? What about the ergonomics of your keyboard, chair, and desk?
If you’re less than enthusiastic about any of these environmental factors, you may have identified an area for improvement.
And when you’re more comfortable somewhere, you’ll be able to focus better and work effectively.
Even if you can’t migrate outside for all your work, try taking short breaks or doing parts of your work outside.
#13: Work From Home If You Can
One study found that working from home increases productivity by up to 13%[*].
If you’re an experienced employee, it can’t hurt to run this and similar findings by your boss for a win-win proposition. And working from home also makes it easy to work outside!
#14: Reduce Your Inflammation Levels
Chronic inflammation is behind many seemingly unrelated health problems, and it’s also bad for your focus.
A recent study from Trends in Cognitive Sciences found that chronic inflammation can reduce brain dopamine, which may decrease the “willingness to expend effort for reward”[*].
In other words, inflammation can sap your willpower and make focusing difficult.
#15: Sleep Well and Enough
It’s not hard to see the connection between sleep and focus, but did you know even a single night of sleep deprivation can temporarily decrease dopamine receptors in your brain[*]?
The effect may get worse over time with prolonged lack of sleep.
You already know a million other reasons to get plenty of sleep, so make it happen.
#16: Breathe Better
Breathing with proper technique – slowly, using your diaphragm – can oxygenate your brain and improve cognitive performance[*].
Or, if you’re stressed, slowing your breath to as little as 1 breath per minute might help you get back on track by reducing stress levels[*].
And beyond the basics, these breathing techniques might help focus, too[*]:
- Kapalbhati or “breath of fire,” a type of yogic breathing, may increase brain alpha wave activity (a state of alert relaxation)
- Single nostril breathing may improve task performance
Regardless of which method you choose, it pays to be aware of your breath if you want more focus.
#17: Take a Cold Shower
One study found that a shower with water 57°F (14°C) boosted dopamine by as much as 250%[*].
If you aren’t ready for a full cold shower yet, you can try ending a regular shower with an invigorating blast of cold water.
Or if you don’t have water that cold, try dunking your face in a bucket of ice water a few times in a row each day.
At the more extreme end of the spectrum, cold water swimming isn’t for everyone. However, it is a fantastic way to boost dopamine[*].
While controlled cold exposure can be good for your health, some people should use caution. Talk to a doctor first if you aren’t experienced with cold exposure yet.
Fundamentally, meditation is about sustaining focus or ignoring distractions.
That’s why it’s no surprise that regular meditation practice could enhance your focus in other areas, too.
One study estimated a 65% increase in dopamine levels from mindfulness meditation[*].
You can learn to meditate from apps, free local groups, or books. The best form of meditation is whichever one you enjoy and practice regularly.
#19: Use Tech Wisely
As social media executives have shared recently, many apps are purposely designed to hijack your dopamine.
And if you’re addicted to checking notifications or scrolling, it may affect your focus similarly to ADHD. In fact, a 2017 study found brain anatomy alterations occur with addiction to social networking sites[*].
Your smartphone, tablet, or computer can also affect your focus in other ways:
- Artificial light at night can impair dopamine function, which may lead to depression[*]
- Light at night also reduces melatonin production, which disrupts sleep quality[*]
- The pulsed electromagnetic radiation from your phone or router has been shown to disrupt neurotransmitters (including dopamine) in rats[*]
Fortunately, if you’re mindful about how and when you use devices–as well as expose your eyes and skin to light–you can mitigate their downsides.
Another way to build a healthier relationship with tech: try a “digital detox” at least one day a week, or whenever you have an opportunity.
#20: Deep Work
Deep work might be the nuclear solution to distractions.
Author and professor Cal Newport calls it “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.”
That’s essentially the ideal form of focus, so how do you get there?
According to Newport, the first rule of deep work is to engage in deep work every day. Even if you don’t succeed 100%, you’re practicing the skill.
Increase your uninterrupted focus periods as time goes on. You’ll get better at focusing, and short periods of time will become long periods.
Newport’s other tips for deep focus resemble some of the tips in this article (quit or limit social media, choose a few wise goals at a time, and similar productivity hacks).
Now you’ve got a list of ideas for experimentation.
Try one focus booster at a time, or combine several. Different tips work for different people, and addressing focus issues from multiple angles is a fantastic idea.
What’s your favorite productivity tip? Let us know in the comments!