I was reading an article by Dr. Andreas Marx entitled, “Mindfulness & Concentration: A lost Art” that I found to be informative. At Harvard University a study group of 2,250 participants admitted that 47% of them are constantly sidetracked and unfocused. However, there is a heart surgeon that operates up to 12 hours with full concentration. Having to concentrate like this is rare. We are a growing population that is too easily sidetracked, having constant interruptions and regularly performing multiple projects simultaneously. Another survey showed that 58% of 20,000 employees complained of pressure and stress due to multitasking. In 2013 the scientist, Christine Porath, reported that 80% of the 20,000 employees had a hard time concentrating on one project at a time. Two thirds of the group stated that they have difficulties setting their priorities. Irvine University psychologist, Gloria Mark discovered that 80% of employees couldn’t concentrate on just one subject much longer that 11 minutes and 57% of them would not finish the project they started. Half of the group reported it was due to interruptions by phone, emails and more.
The inability to concentrate does not occur only on the job. It appears at home, in school, everywhere. Most people don’t just sit and watch TV but divide their attention between their tablet, smart phone or newspapers, etc. Many people walk into a room and can’t remember why they went there. They are forced to go back where they were, retracing their steps to try to remember why they went into that room. We pay a price for not focusing as it was determined at Harvard University that in the times our mind wanders, we are not as happy as when we are focused on what we are doing. Dopamine is responsible for good feelings, Dopamine floods us during sports and sex. It is created in smaller amounts when triggered by pleasure impulses provided by cell phones, tables and PC’s when we “like” or accept a special offer. The brain rewards us for not concentrating and creates a loop that lets us search for constant stimuli. The prefrontal cortex in our brain, which is active during concentration is easily distracted.
Research at the University in Mainz, Germany determined that two thirds of the day humans walk through life with there brain being flooded with nonsense. Obviously our mind is involved in a constant mix of memories, worries, judgments, guilt, little stories, and more. This research says that there is a good reason that we cannot constantly stay focused, that when connecting to our past, helps us to develop our own identity and it’s called “Narrative Resting State” but to stay focused too long on a problem is the other extreme. It is important for any creative process to drift away once in a while. But it’s about balance.
Clinically I have experience that lack of concentration is related to metabolic imbalances. I have a 8 year old patient who couldn’t concentrate and flunking out of school. When her Mother brought her to me she was bouncing around the room, couldn’t sit still, even after being given crayons and a coloring book. I reviewed her blood chemistry and determined she had “Reactive Hypoglycemia”. This syndrome is a roller coaster ride of insulin surges and drops in blood sugar that if charted on a graph has many ups and downs. This roller coaster ride effects many symptoms in the body not just our concentration and brain. It effects cardiovascular, psycho neurological, gastrointestinal, endocrine metabolism causing stress and other miscellaneous diseases. After 2 months of controlling her diet, eating more protein and eliminating high sugar foods, this 8 year old is excelling at school and even received an award from the principle for fast improvement.
The wandering mind, possibly caused by metabolic imbalances or reactive hypoglycemia has a negative effect on our emotional balance. Our brains become tuned out, turned down and foggy. This constant process cripples our ability to recognize reality. We go through life half asleep not present and it affects our JOY. The only reason to be alive is our experience of Joy, in my opinion.
There are other causes that affect our concentration;
Acetaldehyde which comes from perfumes, it is also a component of air pollution, tobacco smoke and most importantly from alcoholic beverages.
Formaldehyde which comes from carpet, plastic furniture or plastic fabric,. It’s in many cleaning supplies. Another source is Aspartame in sugarless gum and products metabolizes in the body into formaldehyde. Fake sugars have even more toxic effects that can be listed here. The only safe sugar alternative is Stevia. But be careful, many products on the self labeled stevia is really maltodextrin which has it’s own set of toxicities and problems.
Sometimes a high fat meal can effect concentration. However, this doesn’t mean we should eat fat free.
Excessive copper, lead or mercury levels can effect concentration. This is not necessarily just in the blood. The body keeps a very delicate balance of minerals and when toxic levels are present it stores it in the tissues. The way to find this is through tissue mineral analysis.
Many pharmaceutical drugs can effect concentration also.
Ailments that can affect concentration are;
Hypo-tension (low blood pressure) usually due to a thyroid or adrenal issue. I have many patients who previously had undiagnosed thyroid disorders by their primary care physician who told them that low blood pressure is OK. It is not OK.
Hormone imbalances, especially in older males but in menopausal females also can cause lack of concentration.
Insulin resistance or type II diabetes is again an issue with blood sugar and can cause concentration problems.
So how do we improve our concentration? Take time to calm the body, participate in yoga, take a walk or meditation can help. Exercise is important also to help get oxygen to the brain but not over training. Eating in a method that keeps blood sugar balanced, and eating a high protein breakfast stops afternoon low concentration levels. Slow down multitasking. Make sure you don’t have deficiencies in iron, phosphorus, magnesium or sodium. This can’t just be measured in the blood but must be measured in the tissues also.
Make sure your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) are in balance. I give a free assessment of that via a form on the website (www.bodyscanwellness.com) called Neurotransmitter form (NTAF). Fill it out and e-mail it to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) as a PDF attachment or fax it to 866-737-7802 and I am happy to explain what is needed.
Also Folic acid, B-1, B-12 and plenty of water intake are important for concentration.
Lemon, lime or orange essential oils also aid in concentration. But you must be sure you are not allergic to them. This can be determined by an IgG food allergy blood test of 154 foods. Food allergies are another reason why concentration can be impaired.
There are other herbal formulas that I can provide that will help concentration also. Happy Focusing!!
(references provided upon request)