We spend half of our waking hours with wandering minds. If your mind tends to wander, good news, you are not alone! Turns out human brains are in the moment for just over half of our waking hours –a sad 53% according to a study from Harvard University. The other 47% of the time we are zoned out, thinking of something else.
To increase your mental alertness and focus for more than half of your day, here are some tips:
Meditation is one of the best ways to increase your alertness, as it is the mental training of your attention. In a study done at the University of California at Santa Barbara, undergraduates who took a mindfulness class and meditated for 10 to 20 minutes four times a week for two weeks scored higher on memory tests and exercises requiring attention.
Exercise does not just improve your physical fitness; it increases your alertness and a short brisk walk will do. A study from the University of Illinois found that physical activity increases cognitive control.
3. STAY HYDRATED
Being dehydrated is not just bad for your body, it is also bad for your attention span. Water regulates the body temperature. Don’t take water only when you’re thirsty. As a student that is engrossed with so many academic work, when you need to focus and be alert, make sure you take plenty of water.
4. ASK QUESTIONS
Stay alert by planning to ask at least one good question. Asking questions not only keeps you engaged; it allows you to contribute to the conversation and learn something new. Good questions give you information that helps you improve your performance.
5. TAKE NOTES BY HAND
If you’re trying to pay attention in a meeting or in a lecture, leave your laptop or I-pad at home and take notes via pen and paper. When students take notes by hand, they listen more actively and hence, are able to identify important concepts. The laptop or I-pad only provides an easy distraction.
6. CHEWING GUM
While you want to skip bubble gum and go for something minty. A study done at Cardiff University in the U.K found that chewing gum can increase your alertness. Chewing itself is arousing because it tells the body that nutrients are on their way to the brain, and gum can reduce hunger pangs. So grab a stick of Doublemint and improve your breath and focus.
7. DRINK TEA
Coffee might make you alert but tea can help you pay attention. Caffeine is a stimulant naturally found in coffee and it is added to products such as soda, energy drinks and dietary supplements. Negative effects of caffeine can range from nausea, jitteriness, and nervousness to high blood pressure and rapid and irregular heartbeat. While caffeine is commonly believed to increase alertness, it may actually be contributing to the very problem it is trying to fix. Caffeine can disrupt sleep patterns, which can lead to a cycle of increasing caffeine intake to stay awake during the day, causing more difficulties sleeping at night. This is the reason most students resort to taking coffee rather than tea. However, tea gives you the boost you need and increases your alertness.