10 Tips for Trying Focus Meditation
We scroll. We switch screens. We move nonstop throughout our days and carry our devices with us everywhere — maybe even to bed.
Meditation has become an increasingly popular mind-body practice for coping with our fast-paced lives to reduce stress, which, in turn, can help heal injuries. Among the different types of meditation you can try, focus meditation might help improve our ability to concentrate and create calm.
While many forces are pulling our attention in all directions (texting with a friend, while binge-watching a series and working on your laptop, anyone?), studies have found that most people perform best when they are monotasking, or focusing on one task.
What Is Focused Attention Meditation?
With so much going on, the pull to multitask all day long is there, but research indicates a wandering mind is often an unhappy one. That’s largely because when you’re already planning your next move, you’re not experiencing the present.
Focused attention meditation is like strength training or Pilates for your mind. When you meditate for focus regularly, it enables you to:
- stick with mental challenges
- remain present throughout your day
- become more productive
Instead of looping through lists of to-dos, you can actually start ticking off your intentions with laser-like focus.
“Focused attention meditation is a category of meditation that uses one object to hold our attention to the exclusion of everything else,” explains Tina Rasmussen, Ph.D. “It brings together our mindstream, which can be very scattered, and helps develop concentration and serenity.”
How to Practice Focus Meditation
Beyond the benefits of thinking more clearly and feeling calm, focus meditation has been linked to bulking up gray matter in areas of the brain associated with learning and memory, self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
Fortunately, getting started with a focus meditation practice is less intimidating than you think.
1. Find a Quiet Place
You can practice focus meditation sitting or standing (or lying down if you have an injury). To maintain proper posture, sit in a chair, on the floor, or on a cushion.
2. Or Don’t Find a Quiet Place
The beauty of meditation is you can practice it nearly anywhere. While finding a tranquil spot is ideal, you can also meditate during your commute, at work, in a park, or at the beach, among other places, advises Rasmussen.
3. Get Comfy, But Stay Alert
Think yoga pants versus sweat pants. “Your posture should be equal parts relaxed and alert as if you have a string pulling you up towards the ceiling,” explains Liz Tran, a New York City-based trained meditation teacher and founder of Reset. This posture helps activate your mind-body connection.
4. Close Your Eyes and Breathe Naturally
Following your natural inhalations and exhalations is an easy place to start focusing because your breath is always with you.
“Focusing on the breath brings us into the present moment, not worrying about the future or lamenting over the past,” says Rasmussen.
5. Expect Your Mind to Wander
“When your attention wanders away, whether it’s list-making or worrying, note it and return back to the breath,” advises Tran.
The goal is to gently bring your focus back to breathing, this is a fundamental aspect of guided meditation for focus.
6. Scale Up
Both Rasmussen and Tran agree, sticking to a basic, five-minute meditation session for a few weeks is a solid plan for newcomers. Consider it your five-pound weight to work up from.
“That’s going to feel like a lot at first,” says Rasmussen. You can incrementally work your way up to 10, 15, or eventually 30 minutes.”
7. Set a Timer
Silence your devices, but set a timer.
“It’s a good idea to set a timer because it’s making a commitment to yourself and avoiding a potential distraction,” explains Rasmussen. “Leaving a meditation session open-ended could lead to thinking about if you should stop or not.”
8. Choose a Convenient Time of Day
You can meditate any time of day, from morning until night. Some people prefer a morning routine to set a tone for their day or lunchtime as a way to reset.
“It’s important to aim for what’s doable, whether it’s meditating only on weekdays and taking the weekend off, meditating every other day, or only on the weekends,” says Rasmussen.
9. Don’t Get Discouraged
Many people worry they’ll be “bad” at meditating.
“What will surprise many people is you will be better at meditating that you think you are,” says Tran.
Rasmussen adds, “Meditation is a commitment to your own well-being, and it gets easier as you practice.”
10. Find a Support Network
Joining a meditation group or attending a workshop is a good way to feel inspired by other people.
“There are sitting groups all over the place,” says Rasmussen. “Online, you can literally meditate with people from around the world.”
The Benefits of Focus Meditation
When your mind is perpetually scrolling, you can start to feel a loss of concentration or overwhelmed. Focus meditation allows you to strengthen your consciousness for better mental clarity throughout your day.
“If you think about your mind as a big pond, the more things that fall into it, the more disturbed the water is, and you can’t see clearly through the water,” says Tran. “Our modern lifestyles are constantly having things dropped into them. Meditation is settling the mind so that you can see clearly through it.”