Focus and Concentration: Overview

We’re all a little bit hyperactive.

Most everyone can relate to having difficulty focusing and restlessness; some people more than others.

When difficulty focusing impairs the ability to function socially and/or academically, it is called Attention Deficit  Disorder (ADD), with or without hyperactivity. Officially, 6-7 % of children are affected (according to psychiatric DSM-IV criteria) and 30-50% of those individuals will remain affected as adults (2-5% of the population).

The official definition, however, leaves for a very wide gray zone. At one end of the spectrum are people with severe degree of dysfunction who should see a healthcare provider and often benefit from medical therapy.

What causes difficulty focusing?

As much as anything else, difficulty focusing is a function of modern times. Never before in all of history have humans received so much stimulation. Almost from birth, babies are inducted into an environment dominated by unnatural sensory overload. Bright artificial lighting, unusual sounds, and even unnatural smells immediately saturate their world. This is quickly followed by accelerated learning to keep up with the fast pace of modern culture.

Considering the circumstances, it’s almost surprising that more children do not end up with problems focusing.

Why some people struggle and others do not, however, is more difficult to define.

There are hereditary tendencies, no doubt, but other causative factors may be possible. Excessive alcohol use by mother during pregnancy, birth trauma, low oxygen during birth, toxins, and food allergies have all been implicated, but none absolutely proven.

Healthy Tips from Dr. Rawls

The ancient Chinese suggested that everyone is born with a tendency for “monkey mind“, or being easily distracted.

Learning to control that monkey mind is important for anyone and everyone.

It’s a matter of learning how to become single minded; of being able to focus only on a single task and following that task through until the end. In our world of mandatory multitasking, this goes against the grain. Focus must be learned. For people with problems focusing, it is the greatest challenge of all.

Exercise is the easiest place to start. Focusing on one continual physical activity, whether it be running, biking, kayaking, swimming, hiking, surfing, or many other choices, is great for learning how to train your brain. It is a simple way to get your focus going in one direction. The more the activity requires your undivided attention, the more effective the exercise will be.

The next step is brain training. Another name for this is meditation – calming the monkey mind. Learning to focus on breathing and other single-minded tasks improves concentration and performance. There are lots of apps and audio files that can assist with this.

Good health habits matter. High carbohydrate processed foods disrupt hormone systems in the body and create imbalances in neurotransmitters in the brain. These same types of foods stimulate growth of abnormal bacteria in the gut which produce brain-irritating toxins. Simply avoiding processed and fast-food products is often enough to dramatically improve focus and concentration.

Even if you are taking medications, meditative or brain-training exercises to improve concentration can improve function and often reduce the need for higher doses of medications.

*Statements on this page have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. For medical concerns, please consult a qualified healthcare provider.

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