16 November 2011

Focus despite the furore

You work in an open-plan office that’s a cocktail of distractions. How are you supposed to get any work done?

Your mind is constantly collecting data from all five of your senses. It’s easy enough to focus in a quiet environment, but how do you concentrate when there’s noise and distraction?

  • Get fresh: Stale air and stuffy buildings can make you feel as foggy and stale as the office broom cupboard. Learn to do some deep breathing. It’s easy.
  • Work up a sweat: Cardiovascular exercise increases the levels of oxygen in your bloodstream.
  • Get some boron: You’ve probably not heard the name since high school, but boron has a place in your bloodstream as well as the periodic table. It’s good for your memory, attention and motor skills. Peanuts are a good source, but they’re also rich in oils and often come doused with salt. Prunes, dates, raisins, and honey are also good sources of boron.
  • That zinc-ing feeling: Zinc is thought to improve the functioning of your neurons, the component of every nerve in your body. Good sources include oysters, beans and red meat. If you’re vegetarian who doesn’t like shellfish and hates having gas, you can take zinc in pill form. There’s been some debate about whether zinc causes hardening of the arteries, but a daily supplement ought to be safe. And a daily charcoal tablet will negate the gas.
  • Cut your pressure: High blood pressure is dangerous generally, but is particularly bad for your brain. Regular exercise, a balanced lifestyle and diet, and a responsible attitude toward stress will help keep it under control.
  • No grappa espresso, thanks: Cut back on caffeine and alcohol: When you need to focus, too much caffeine will over-stimulate you. Booze simply makes you fuzzy and forgetful, and not just temporarily. Alcohol kills brain cells. Knocking back more than a couple of drinks a day can lead to long-term memory loss and crippling deterioration in muscle coordination.
  • Meat before the meeting: When you really need to focus, go for protein, rather than starch. High-carbohydrate foods elevate the brain’s level of seratonin, the substance that makes us sleepy. Remember that lean meats will make you feel less bloated.
  • Forget smart: Many nutritionists take a dim view of so-called smart drinks, which generally contain industrial levels of caffeine.
  • Sexy herbs: Gingko biloba is reputed to increase male potency, but it’s also good for the brain.Stay stimulated: By constantly learning new stuff, you keep your brain growing. Flex your mind like a muscle. Play Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit, do crossword puzzles, learn a new language or sign up for an adult education course. It’s been speculated that people who utilise their brains build up reserves of synapses and experience the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease less than others.
  • Martial your thoughts: Learning a martial art such as t’ai chai, kung fu or karate will force you to hone your concentration.


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