Learn how to increase mental focus for a healthier body, soul, and spirit with practical ideas to build brain-healthy habits in your life. In today’s digital world, we all struggle with interruptions and distractions, making it hard to maintain mental focus. Lack of mental focus can impact us on both a practical and a spiritual level. Boost your brain power with nutrient rich foods, focus-building activities, and spiritual practices for greater mental focus. This post is adapted from The Wellness Project, a free email series to you develop healthy habits in your life.
Attention and mental focus is a gift from God. An important way to live well and honor God is cultivate brain-healthy habits into our daily routines for body, soul, and spirit.
Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention.
A Funny Story About My Lack of Mental Focus
To be honest, mental focus has not come easily for me. I used to jokingly refer to my self as a professional airhead. Now that made for a good laugh when speaking at events, but it isn’t a helpful thing to say to myself. However, I admit my lack of attention to detail created some spectacular moments. The kind where you are horrified and embarrassed in the moment, but later…they are hilarious.
What I’m about to share is a true story. Yes, I actually had this lack of mental focus.
In 1988, I left town for the weekend with a group from church. To save time, I parked my car in a McDonalds parking lot to pick up a carpool. I made sure to look the door of my car. Good for me–very focused.
We had a great weekend. When I returned to my car on Sunday afternoon, I saw a note tucked under my windshield wiper: “You left your keys in the car door. Please come to the office to sign for them.”
A momentary lapse of attention. . .
I left my keys in the car door–sometimes I stun myself with my lack of mental focus! God was watching out for me. The parking lot “just happened” to be next to a police station.
My distraction and lack of mental focus could have been very costly!
The ages of 15-30 were my glory days of being disorganized and inattentive to details. By the time I had the responsibility for keeping three small children alive and well, I new I needed to develop my mental focus. Increasing mental focus can involve work, but there are many activities and habits we can incorporate into our daily life to boost our attention span.
The Market for Your Mental Focus and Attention
Did you know that your attention is now a high-value commodity in an information driven and tech saturated culture? Studies conclude the average iPhone user touches the phone 2,617 times a day, with the highest users touching the phone up to 5,400 times a day. Social media developers have been reported to not want their children to use social media. Platforms are designed to compete for your attention, keeping you scrolling, liking, and commenting. The market for your attention and focus is real and impacts us in many ways.
Other research states that attention spans are down from 12 to 8 seconds, just one second more than a goldfish. In The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, John Mark Comer writes, “There are literally thousands of apps and devices intentionally engineered to steal your attention. And with it your money.” He asks the vital question many overlook, “What is all this distraction, addiction, and pace of life doing to our souls?” (affiliate link)
Why You Should Develop Your Mental Focus
Mental focus benefits far more than your physical brain function. Your ability to think, interpret, remember, learn, relate, and work require mental focus for optimal performance and wellbeing.
Mental focus is the art of sustaining our attention. In the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport warns that constant distractions of social media, email and instant messaging make deep concentration difficult, but also diminishes our capacity to do deep work requiring sustained periods of concentration. (affiliate link).
There is no shortage of distractions in our lives. Culture worships at the altar of hyper-efficiency by multi-tasking. The reality is focusing on two or more tasks at one time interferes with working memory and can potentially lead to long-term memory issues. Washing the dishes while watching TV might not be a big deal, but texting while driving can be deadly. Madore, a multitasking researcher writes, “When you have competing sources of attention, your task performance is often going to be reduced.”
Not only does distracted driving cost society $40 billion a year, but statistics show the human cost:
- Nearly 4,000 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.
- Distracted driving was the reported cause of death of 3,450 people in 2016.
- An estimated 391,000 drivers were injured in distracted driving crashes in 2017.
I’ve been rear ended by someone while they were texting at a stop light. Fortunately it was a minor incident. These statistics are a sobering reason why we need to fight distraction.
Brain-Healthy Habits to Boost Mental Focus
Fortunately, there are a variety of things we can do to support and improve mental focus. As you read this section, consider specific ideas to practice this week. Take note of other tips to try later. Improve your physical, mental, and spiritual health by cultivating habits that increase your mental focus. How many of these can become brain-boosting habits in your life?
- Daily physical activity
- Mental puzzles, games, and activities
- Read and learn new things
- Play an instrument
- Learn a language
- Practice mindfulness
- Pray and meditate on Scripture
- Don’t put off making decisions
- Practice healthy stress management
- Develop systems to stay organized
- Limit TV and digital entertainment and social media
- Get adequate sleep
- Enjoy in person social interactions
- Limit distractions and multitasking
- Don’t touch your phone when driving
- Use digital apps for alerts and reminders
- Add important birthdays to your calendar with yearly alerts
- Don’t over schedule appointments and activities
- Take mental breaks during long periods of deep concentration
- Change tasks when you experience mental fatigue at work
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Schedule time for rest after completing projects or extra-busy weeks
- Take frequent breaks when driving long distances
- Get adequate vitamin D and other brain-boosting nutrients
- Put phone away at mealtime
- Share worries or concerns with a supportive friend
- Avoid procrastination
- Reduce clutter in your environment
- Memorize Scripture
- Make eye contact when conversing with people
There are many apps designed to train your brain. If you’re going to use digital media, brain training is a better choice many digital games. Here is an article listing the top apps to train your brain. Research shows mental games and brain trainings improves mental focus and memory. The good thing is mental games and learning new things can be fun as well as boost your brain function!
“The true art of memory is the art of attention.” Samuel Johnson
Please Note: Seek help from a medical professional memory loss or brain fog if disrupts your work, daily life, or well-being.
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Mental Focus Empowers Spiritual Growth
In today’s digital age of distraction, it is difficult to focus our attention on God. How many times have you meant to read your Bible but responded to texts, emails, and social media instead?
Technology, communication, and entertainment aren’t the only source of distractions in our lives. The pace of work and family life often squeeze out time and mental bandwidth for staying connected to God.
Sometimes, it feels like a total win to sit down and open my Bible. Remembering the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit helps us focus. We live in connection with God in all that we do, not just when we pray and read our Bible. A deeper life increases as we learn to be attentive to God in all of life. We can start now to develop a deeper relationship with God.
Making the effort to focus our attention on God places us in a heart posture to receive all the Lord has for us today. Bring the holy into your moments with deeper spiritual attention. You can entrust your battle with distraction to God’s loving care.
Intention and attention go together. Prayer, listening, and meditative Bible reading can train us to pay attention to God in all we do. There is also current research finding a connection between memorizing Scripture and improved memory.
Like Moses, may God give us the “capacity to see the bush burning in the middle of our own life and having enough sense to turn aside, take off our shoes and pay attention! The burning bush was, after all, a most ordinary object that became extraordinary because it was on fire with divine activity.” (Ruth Haley Barton, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership). affiliate link
The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
-Proverbs 18:15 NASB
Tips to Increase Mental Focus for Spiritual Growth
Let’s not miss what God has for us today because we were too distracted. Consider these ideas to increase spiritual focus in spiritual practices. Each of these ideas can both improve your spiritual attention and become brain-boosting habits.
- Silence your phone and put it out of sight.
- Take a few deep breaths, letting go of tension as you exhale. Breathe in the life of God and exhale your distracting thoughts.
- Give yourself time to transition from activity to attentiveness from doing to being present. Stillness and silence helps turn our thoughts to God. Praying this phrase from Psalm 46 is helpful: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
- If you get distracted, just come back to focusing on God.
- Keep paper handy to note tasks that come to mind. Writing relieves us from fear of forgetting something important.
Which of the ideas and truths in this email inspire a goal you want to work on this week?
Join the Wellness Project to Cultivate More Healthy Habits
There are many ways to boost attention and mental focus in your life. Use this article to raise awareness and pinpoint a few new healthy habits you can incorporate into your life. For more information and encouragement to build healthy habits for your body, soul, and spirit, sign up for The Wellness Project.
Related Posts for Mental and Spiritual Focus
- 15 Simple Ways to Overcome Distraction to Focus Your Attention on God (with printable)
- How to Stay Focused in Prayer
- Do You Have Spiritual ADD?
- 10 Benefits of Reviewing What We Learn from God
- 15 Habits of Rest that Will Improve Your Life
- Strategies and Scriptures to Combat Negative Thinking: With Free E-book