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It’s no secret that finding a state of prolonged focus and mental clarity can foster productivity. The challenge is often creating an environment in which this mental state can regularly thrive.
I have worked with some of the greatest minds in Hollywood, from Jerry Bruckheimer to Kerry Washington to Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, to expand their well-being and vitality. Through this work, I have discovered a blend of holistic techniques that effectively support productivity and success. This state can’t be forced, but in my experience, there are certain lifestyle shifts that can lay the foundation for consistent flow, focus and concentration.
1. Avoid inflammatory foods
Food and focus might not seem connected, but research shows that diet can absolutely affect cognitive function. Inflammatory foods, specifically, have been linked to mental sluggishness and brain fog. According to Cleveland Clinic, the five most inflammatory food categories are added sugars, trans fats, red and processed meats, too many omega-6 fatty acids, and refined carbs.
It is also recommended to steer clear of anything processed and fast food. Instead, choose foods that reduce inflammation, such as fresh vegetables and fruit, whole and ancient grains, and plant-based fats and proteins. These types of foods help with increased mental clarity.
Meditation is an ancient practice that elicits immense benefits that have become widely recognized and respected in corporate circles. Research shows that aside from stress and anxiety relief, improved focus is one of the main benefits of regular meditation practice.
A daily meditation practice can greatly increase concentration. Even sitting for five minutes a day before checking messages and emails can help with mental focus and productivity. I find that after my morning meditation, I gain an innate sense of what needs to be prioritized and am able to concentrate on achieving my big-ticket items without distraction throughout the day.
Allowing time for rest and rejuvenation might not be the first thing to come to mind when thinking about focus and success, but they are, in fact, crucial. Researchers understand that rest is imperative to productivity and that sleep deprivation impairs attention, working memory, decision making and emotional balance, among many other functions.
To improve sleep quality, consider spending time without screens before bed, removing all light from the bedroom and refraining from eating or drinking alcohol for at least three hours prior to going to sleep. Relaxing practices such as meditation, restorative yoga or journaling can enhance the benefits of a nightly wind-down session.
It is widely known that working out can elicit feelings of happiness and energy, but somewhat less frequently discussed is how it can help boost brain function. Researchers have found that exercise supports and improves cognitive function.
While most exercise will support cognitive function in some capacity, coordinative workouts may increase cognition the most. Head to the basketball court, or try a new dance class to keep your brain working while you move. Taking phone calls while walking around the block can be a creative exercise strategy for people who might feel too busy to workout.
5. Drink more water
Hydration is important to all bodily functions, and brain function is no exception. The human brain is composed of about 73% water and needs proper hydration to create hormones and neurotransmitters. Research has found that just a 2% loss of hydration can affect brain functions such as alertness and cognition.
I recommend drinking at least 100 ounces of filtered water each day and limiting dehydrating beverages, such as coffee, caffeinated teas, sodas and alcohol.
6. Know your medicine
If you are taking medication, it is possible that it might be affecting your ability to concentrate. Medicine prescribed for common ailments, nutrient deficiencies, motion sickness and allergies may cause side effects that affect clear thinking. Some over-the-counter allergy medications may also have deleterious effects on brain function.
Take note of any strange symptoms, such as brain fog, confusion and fatigue, and discuss with your doctor other alternatives that won’t impair cognitive function.
7. Eat foods that support focus
There is evidence that, in addition to a well-balanced diet full of anti-inflammatory foods, phytonutrients and antioxidants, certain foods and supplements can specifically help boost concentration and focus.
Add foods and high-quality supplements such as turmeric, omega-3s, vitamin B12, ginkgo biloba, phosphatidylserine, citicoline and acetyl-l-carnitine to enhance mental clarity and cognitive function.
8. Spend time in nature
Researchers have found that natural environments have the capacity to improve cognitive function. Interestingly, even exposure to images of restorative environments can restore attention post-burnout.
Time in nature can be enhanced with noticing exercises. Use all five senses to engage with the environment. Listen to the leaves crinkle, notice the colors of flowers and foliage, and feel the sensations of the breeze. All of this can be achieved on a brief stroll around the block.
9. Organize your office
Researchers have found that working in a clean and organized environment helps nurture cognitive function, focus, decision making and emotional well-being. They also note that clutter can lead to procrastination, emotional exhaustion, stress and anxiety.
I like to think of my environment as reflecting my inner world. If my office is clean and organized, my thoughts will be, too.
10. Improve your gut microbiome
Incredibly, the health of the digestive system plays a huge role in brain health. Researchers have found that gut microbiota found in the digestive system sends signals to the brain via a pathway called the gut-brain axis. Signs of an imbalance in the digestive tract may show up as bloating, gas, migraines, anxiety and brain fog.
The gut microbiome thrives off prebiotics, probiotics, fermented foods, vegetables, fruit, fiber and omega-3s. Digestive balance also requires proper hydration, stress management, ample sleep and exercise.
I find that it is common for successful people to compartmentalize lifestyle and productivity, but the truth is that everything is connected. Seemingly small, daily choices can make a significant impact on focus, productivity and subsequent success.