3 Exercises for Training Your Ability to Focus

In order to train yourself to focus, you just need something to focus on

In order to train yourself to focus, all you need is something to focus on. Traditionally, we use our breath to train ourselves to focus, but we can use anything. We can focus on a squished bug on the wall in front of us, we can focus on a random spot in our body, like the very tip of our big toe, or we can focus on a specific sound (provided it doesn’t disappear while we’re training our focus). But since the breath is our most treasured possession, and since eons of spiritual practices have focused on it, let’s start with that as the first of three cool exercises you can do to train your ability to focus.

1) Sit in a quiet place and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in and exhale naturally and slowly. You want to catch the end of the exhale and the arising of the inhale. Make it your mission to focus on that part of your breathing. You’ll be surprised how hard this simple thing is to do. If you get really good at it, try doing it with your eyes open, with all those visual distractions entering your brain for processing, it’s like you’ve suddenly increased the difficulty setting on your mental video game.

2) I learned this next exercise from a book by Don Miguel Ruiz Jnr. I have to tell you, it drove me nuts. He teaches it to help students strengthen their will power. Sit down in a chair and set a timer, for a minute or two, whatever you can bear (or spare). Your mission is to sit absolutely still, regardless of whatever happens, until the time is up. Have you ever tried to ignore an itch while meditating? Your ability to focus, in this exercise, will be trained when the desire to move is mitigated by your greater desire to fulfil your mission of sitting still for the duration.

3) Well, there is nothing better to teach you to focus than learning a new motor skill. For this one, we would have to think outside the box. Unless balancing exercises are your thing, then a balancing exercise is perfect for getting you to focus! Grab a balance board at your local gym and frustrate yourself with the effort to balance for a few minutes. Grab a rope and learn how to tie complex knots by looking up how-to videos on YouTube. Walk a ledge (it doesn’t have to be risky). In short, learn something new and/or do something extremely unfamiliar.

Dr. Samar Habib is a writer, researcher and educator who lives in California. She’s passionate about reducing suffering and increasing compassion in the world, one mind at a time. When she’s not busy figuring out how things work and how they could be working better, you’ll find her sharing what she’s learned in seminars, public lectures, books and online courses. In fact, you can check out more of her lifestyle management hacks by taking her course Quantum Mind: Stop Suffering and Take Back Your Life. You can get in touch with her on drsamarhabib [at] email [dot] com

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