When we are kids, we are told that we can be anything we want to be as long as we put our minds to it. But realizing our dreams is no easy feat, it requires focusing on our goals with a clear and steady mind. It takes practice to improve focus and it’s an important lesson for kids and adults alike to learn. Just like your physical body needs exercise to stay healthy, your mind also needs exercise to train it to be more aware, mindful and focused. Unlocking and harnessing this control at a young age can set the foundations for a bountiful life whether in school, arts, sports or the workplace.
So how can you develop a more focused mind for you and your kids? Here are two suggestions for how to improve focus:
Practice breath meditation to improve focus
Exercise: For 10-15 minutes (if this is too long for you or your child try 5 minutes and work your way up to longer increments of time.) Take deep breaths focusing only on the sensation at the tip of your nose or the sensation of your breath on your upper lip. These are places where you can physically feel your breath the best. Try your best to only focus on the sensation of your breath, and you will in turn calm your mind of all the other thoughts that often pour into our heads. Although your mind is bound to wander, try your best to notice when it does, and then refocus all your attention back to the sensation of your breath.
Benefits: Breathing is something we do without thinking, but spending 10-15 minutes (or more!) a day focusing on your breath has been proven to decrease stress and increase attention. Learning how to focus on something so simple as a self-regulated breathing opens up your entire pathway to motivation and focus. In a 2004 survey of mindfulness programs in schools by the Garrison Institute in New York, their report found that simply focusing on your breath can help prime a more positive learning environment. (For those athletes out there, consider the analogy that you should always warm up and stretch before you play a sport. Your brain needs time to warm up and focus for the day too!)
Playing games helps to improve focus
Benefits: Board games have also been proven to help develop focus in kids and adults. Engaging in in mindful play requires problem solving and stimulates brain development. It creates more neural connections which in turn benefits important brain functions like concentration, consistency and focus. Games like Spot it! promote a wide array of cognitive processes that help sharpen attention and focus, which can be particularly useful for the millions of kids who suffer from ADD & ADHD. The great thing about playing educational games weave important skill building exercises into fun play experiences.
As we learn more and more about the brain, science tells us how important it is to purposefully strengthen our minds throughout our lives. With technology’s constant chatter it is very important to periodically unplug our brains and let them settle. The hyperactive, over-stimulated lifestyles of modern society keep us running all day and night, so it’s important for our minds and bodies to take a break every once and a while and refocus on what is important in our lives.