As crazy as it sounds, sometimes it really is all about you.
Yes, it’s wonderful to always be seeking enlightenment and looking for your special place in the world and how to be connected to the great big universe. But this soul-searching is only as good as the instrument that houses it, namely your body. If you’re too tired, too stressed, or otherwise too mentally or physically distracted to focus well, your efforts won’t be as rewarding.
There are certainly some advanced mind-over-matter methods that you can learn with enough study and practice to aid your concentration; practice makes perfect, whether you’re trying to master a mental or physical skill.
But in the short-term there are also some simple strategies that anyone can do, whether it’s to help their daily health or allow them to make better progress on their spiritual journeys.
Sleep. Individual results may vary, and new studies are always emerging, but health experts seem to agree that at least six hours of full sleep a night can have wonderful benefits to your brain and body. Full sleep cycles, including Rapid Eye Movement, can effectively ‘defrag’ your mind each session, help you process information better and even fight off infection. The converse is true – too little sleep over time or too many interrupted cycles can eventually harm your health.
Nap. Along with more extended sleep, experts also say that grabbing some quick downtime – even in 20 to 30 minutes at a time – can help refresh you physically and mentally. A ‘power nap’ can give you an energy boost, clear your head, and improve your concentration. It isn’t as effective as a full night’s rest, but can go a long way to reduce stress. There were reasons that many of us did it in kindergarten or pre-school, and it wasn’t just to give the teachers a break. Exercise. You don’t have to perform an intense workout every day lasting hours to feel good. In fact, health and fitness pros say this approach may ultimately backfire since your muscles will be too tired to do much else. The magic number of time may depend on your goals: if you’re trying to lose weight you may see if you can squeeze in a little more time or focus more on calorie-burning activities. If you want to focus on strength building, you can have a shorter work-out but more intense activities. But the current minimum goal for optimal health for the human of average health is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week, plus strength-focused activity twice a week. Broken out, the goal is 30 minutes a day, which can be done all at once or broken up. Even the busiest people can spare a few 10-minute walks.
Meditate. You don’t have to get all fancy and formal to take a few minutes out of your day to close your eyes, breathe a little deeper and let your brain do its thing. People who perform this task regularly find that a little down time can help them figure out solutions bothering them, or simply calm the world around them. You can focus on a particular goal, such as visualizing something good coming your way, or look for ways to tune out distractions and stressors.
Write something down. As long as it’s not your to-do list for the day or your grocery list for after work, you’re doing fine. Don’t worry if you’re not a professional writer – no one else needs to read your notes. Some people write things they’re grateful for, some people write letters to people with no intention of sending them, some people write their life goals, and some people write happy thoughts from their past.
Tackle addictions. If you’re a smoker or have other substance addictions, your brain is probably going to fight you on this one, since the physical pleasure and physical dependency you get sometimes can trump the knowledge that a substance or activity isn’t really that good for your health. Some substances can actually alter your brain chemistry and sleep cycles, making it even harder to take care of yourself.