If you’re feeling more scattered these days, you’re not alone! We’ve had a lot on our minds lately, and surveys suggest there’s been a 300 percent increase in folks getting distracted as a result. Fortunately, experts say these clever tricks can give your brain chemistry the boost it needs to help you stay focused no matter when your mind wanders.
Boost immunity with coffee.
Go ahead and pour yourself another cup of coffee! Recent studies show that your morning mug of joe actually enhances immune function. How? The brew is loaded with micronutrients that power up your body’s ability to fight infections and may actually inhibit viral replication. For best results, aim for just one or two cups of coffee per day — any more can raise cortisol levels that dampen immunity — and enjoy your java without milk or sweeteners. Sugars, including those naturally found in milk, hinder immune function.
Tap your fingers when you wake up.
If your body is moving but your brain is snoozing, blame a shortfall of the focus-enhancing chemical acetylcholine. Explains neurologist Daniel Amen, M.D., acetylcholine energizes brain cells, so low levels make you feel mentally sluggish even after sleep. The fix: fidgeting! Research suggests small muscle motions, like tapping fingers or wiggling toes, increase acetylcholine release, boosting focus and concentration by 55 percent.
Inhale this scent to beat midday brain fog.
The brain region that helps you plan ahead (prefrontal cortex) works nonstop all morning — so it’s no wonder it runs out of oomph before lunch. The fix: cedarwood! British researchers report the aroma can heighten electrical activity in the prefrontal cortex by 50 percent, clearing your head in two minutes. Just mix up 25 drops of cedarwood into two ounces of a carrier oil. Dab on your neck for a boost!
Eat whole grains for lunch to stay focused all afternoon.
An afternoon slump is a natural part of your circadian rhythm (your brain is craving a break), but that fogginess can derail focus and productivity for up to two hours straight. The fix: lunching on whole grains! Explains Robin Miller, M.D., “They’re packed with essential nutrients (B-complex vitamins) that nourish and energize brain cells, cutting your risk of afternoon foggy spells by as much as 65 percent.”
Do a puzzle in the evening to stop racing thoughts.
When your brain’s alertness center — the reticular activating system (RAS) — is overstimulated by daytime stressors, it doesn’t know how to calm down which makes it harder to stay focused on the long term. The fix: puzzles! Cornell University researchers say low-stress mental tasks, like crossword puzzles, quickly calm an overstimulated RAS, cutting risk of racing thoughts and scattered thinking in half in 10 minutes.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.