Concentration and Your Body
Your ability to concentrate at your optimal level depends on your entire body being healthy. The pressure of deadlines and expectations may lead one to ignore the needs of your body. However, the more you look after and respect your body, the more your body will do for you. The body needs adequate nourishment, rest, exercise and sleep; here are some tips:
- A healthy, balanced diet is a must. Take time to enjoy your food; use mealtime to unwind. Avoid eating a big meal before a study session, or a meeting. Too much food will send your body into a ‘rest’ mode. On the other hand, don’t starve yourself either. Frequent small meals are best.
- A sudden high intake of sugar will cause your blood sugar level to rise and then drop sharply. Consequently, you may feel tired, drowsy and have difficulties in concentrating. Sugary foods are good for physical activities; they are not so good for mental work. For snacks, try fruits or nuts.
- Drink plenty of water during a study session, especially when you feel sluggish
- Caffeine may help you to stay awake, but it can increase your anxiety – use it in moderation.
- Your body needs to rest and relax periodically every day. Regular breaks are essential for good concentration and memory. There is some research evidence to support the theory that catnaps promote concentration and memory. It is advised not to associate your bed with work by studying on your bed. Your body will get confused as to whether the bed is for work or for relaxing.
- Regular bedtimes discourage insomnia. If you must cut down on sleep, try to go to bed at your regular time, but get up earlier instead.
- Regular exercise can improve your concentration. Choose an exercise that you enjoy. A regular exercise program, steady workouts of 45 minutes each, can also hone your power of concentration. When researchers at the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine put women on treadmills and had them walk until they burned 350 calories, the women reported feeling more clearheaded afterward. This amounts to walking three miles in about 45 minutes, a rate of four miles per hour.
Exercise seems to improve the vital flow of oxygen to the brain. It can also help alleviate distracting anxiety and depression.
Very few students make it through high school and university without having to cope with issues causing concentration difficulties. Students experience even something as commonplace as a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend can cause a major disruption in the ability to concentrate. Also, irregular sleep, exercise, and eating patterns can be the unsuspected cause of concentration difficulties.
Many students do not realize the strong connection between physical health and intellectual functioning. Sometimes difficulties with concentration can be attributed to uneasiness about a course, a major, or just being at university. For the most part, these disruptions are short term, and the ability to concentrate normally returns quickly.
According to research presented at the 2005 March 24 conference, California’s overall high school graduation rate is approximately 71 percent. The graduation rates for African-American and Latino students are even lower, 60 percent for Latino students and 56.6 percent for African-Americans. “Large urban school districts in California have become ?dropout factories’,” said Gary Orfield, Director of the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University and author of the new book Dropouts in America: Confronting the Graduation Rate Crisis.
The economic and social impacts of this dropout crisis are too enormous for Californians to ignore. The State must make schools accountable for graduating their students and provide resources to help students whose careers would be wrecked by leaving school.? Although there would be many reasons for the high school drop outs mentioned from this research, it seems prudent that students learn how to study, concentrate and memorize their studies.
The Wayne State University at the National Center for Academic Transformation, Saratoga Springs, New York confirms that many students arrive at the university unprepared and therefore require greater attention. From fall 2000 to winter 2004, of the students who took Beginning Algebra, 28% withdrew and only 39% of the total passed. Of those who took the final, only 53% passed. Lack of concentration is one of the frequent complaints among students.
Because of the growing problem of students leaving school or university before completion it seems prudent to focus on good study habits for this huge population of young people.
Following are some key points to maintain concentration while studying:
Get into Good Habits for Studying Study
Study at the same time and at the same place, devoted to study only. This helps you to associate the time and place with studying and concentrating. You will find that you get into a habit of studying as soon as you sit down. You can carry out a small ritual at the start of every study session, such as taking out a figurine, wearing your study cap, or putting up a sign. This helps to tune your body into a study mode when you carry out the ritual. It also serves to tell others that you are studying and that you should not be disturbed. Do not choose an activity, such as reading your email or checking the stock market that may lead you to procrastinate or distract you
Prepare Your Mind
Avoid exciting activities just before you start to study. At the beginning of a study period, spend a few minutes to calm and relax your mind and body. Be positive! Believe in your ability to overcome any challenges.
Approach Study Effectively
Spend a little time to plan what you are going to work on. Be precise and realistic. ‘I am going to work on my assessment’ is not very helpful ‘I am going to spend the next two hours gathering notes on commercial contracts for my assessment. I’ll work on chapter two of this book first, and if I have time, I’ll start on chapter five’ is much better. Break down your work into small manageable chunks, and then focus on a smaller task. Writing a paragraph is not as scary as writing an essay.
Vary your activities to keep your mind from wandering: make notes, highlight, underline, ask yourself questions, prepare questions for discussion, associate new material with old material, visualize a concept, etc. Change the subject/topic you are studying every two hours or so to maintain your interest.
Take Regular Breaks
Reward yourself! It is important to take a break before you feel tired and lose your concentration completely. Regular breaks at least once an hour helps to sustain your concentration. If the work is not going too well and you have difficulties in concentrating, you may need a long break and go back to it later. Alternatively, you can try working for shorter period of time, such as 20 minutes, and have more frequent short breaks.
Plan regular breaks! Most people’s concentration is radically reduced after 20-30 minutes. Get rid of the initial distractions, study for short periods of time and take five minute breaks.
When you sit for long periods, gravity draws the blood to the lower part of your body. When you take a break, take a few deep breaths and get more oxygen to your brain: try walking around and doing some light stretching for a few minutes. It will help to release tension in your body, and help your circulation. If you have been working on a computer, relax your eyes by focusing at a distance, and relieve your eyes from the glare of the computer by covering your eyes with the palm of your hands for a moment.
Review – The secret of Good Memory
Concentration and memory work together but one does not lead to the other. To concentrate is to direct your mental powers or your efforts towards a particular activity, subject or problem. The secret of good memory is frequent review and recall. As the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” After a break, spend a moment to remind yourself what you worked on. Going over the main points is sufficient. Do the same at the end of a study session, and recap on the main points. The feeling that you have achieved something will help to motivate you which in turn will help with your concentration.
Memory is the ability to remember information, experiences and people. There are some specific skills that can be learned to enhance both concentration and memory. Practicing these skills is likely to improve one’s success as a student.
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