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An exciting Foundation Degree Level 4 course accredited by the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body starting in Nottingham in May to Nov 2017. LEVEL 4 COURSE INTEGRATING MINDFULNESS AND COMPASSION IN PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE. 6 Days sundays between Sept 17 and Feb 18

Concentration

Concentration has been defined as "the ability to direct one's thinking in whatever direction one would intend". We all have the ability to concentrate some of the time. But at other times our thoughts are scattered and our minds race from one thing to another. To deal with such times, we need to learn and practice concentration skills and strategies. To concentrate, we have to learn a skill and as with any skill this means practice repeated day after day until we achieve enough improvement to feel that we can concentrate when we need to. Our ability to concentrate depends on:

  • commitment
  • enthusiasm for the task
  • skill at doing the task
  • our emotional and physical state
  • our psychological state
  • our environment

Commitment

We need to make a personal commitment to put in the effort needed to do the task in the way which we realistically plan to do it. If we just play at it in a half-hearted manner then it is much more difficult to take the task and ourselves seriously.

Enthusiasm

If we are interested in the task and enjoy doing it, then we find it easy to motivate ourselves to start. Once started, our feelings of involvement in the activity keep us going - we want to do it.

Skill

Knowing how to do something gives confidence that our efforts will be successful, so we don't have to deal with anxiety about will this work or not. Anxiety tends to impair concentration.

Our emotional & physical state

When we are in good physical condition - i.e. feeling rested, relaxed and comfortable - and our emotions are calm and benevolent, then we tend to be positive about things. This in turn raises self-esteem, which makes us more able to concentrate, if only because we don't have to worry about how awful we are or life is.

Our psychological state

For example, if we are in an obsessional or distracted state our thoughts are pre-occupied, leaving little mental space to think about anything else.

Environment

It is much more difficult to concentrate if our surroundings keep intruding on our awareness, perhaps because it is noisy, too hot or too cold, the furniture is uncomfortable or the people around us are stressing out.

Expanding your concentration span

People sometimes refer to a concentration span as the time we can concentrate on a specific task before our thoughts wander. In learning concentration skills, we aim to extend our concentration span - bearing in mind that we will have a different span for different tasks. It cannot be expanded to infinity! Most people find their level for most tasks is about about an hour, but for some people and some tasks it will just be a few minutes, while for others it might be two or three hours. The main barriers to concentrating are boredom, anxiety and day-dreaming. Thus in improving our concentration skills we need to counteract these barriers. The following three skills are basic to concentration: if you want to improve your concentration, start by practising them. They will be followed by further strategies which will allow you to build onto the basic skills.

1. STOP!!!

This sounds very simple, but it works. When you notice your thoughts wandering, say to yourself "STOP" and then gently bring your attention back to where you want it to be. Each time it wanders bring it back. To begin with, this could be several times a minute. But each time, say "STOP" and then re-focus. Don't waste energy trying to keep thoughts out of your mind (forbidden thoughts attract like a magnet!), just put the effort into STOP and re-focus. To begin with you will do this hundreds of times a week. But you will find that the period of time between your straying thoughts gets a little longer each day, so be patient and keep at it.

2. Attending

This is about maintaining concentration and not giving in to distractions. It could be described as a sort of tunnel-vision, or as being focused: you keep your concentration on what is in front of you. If you are distracted, use the STOP technique to regain concentration. You can practice attending in many situations: eg. in a lecture, if people move or cough, ignore them, don't look at them, actively exclude them from the link or tunnel formed between you and the lecturer. eg. in a social situation, keep your attention solely on one person - what they say, how they look etc. - and ignore what is going on round about.

3. Worry time

Set aside one or more specific periods in the day when you are allowed to worry. It can help to set them just before something that you know you will do, to ensure that you stop worrying on time - e.g. before a favourite TV programme, or a meal-time. Whenever an anxiety or distracting thought enters your mind during the day, banish it until your next worry time, and re-focus on to what you are supposed to be doing. Some people find it helpful to write down the banished thought: it is easier to banish a thought if you are sure you won't have forgotten it when you get to your worry time. It is important that you keep your worry time(s) and make yourself worry for the full time. If you find that you can't fill the time available, then make a conscious decision to reduce it. You may notice, particularly if you keep a list, that certain things keep reappearing: this is a fairly clear indication that you need to do something about them.

4. Active Learning

Everyone has their own distinct learning style. Some learn by reading and then asking themselves questions, others learn by making condensed notes and memorising them, others learn by the associations they make to the material and yet others retain a pictorial image of the material. Once you know your learning style, organise the material to suit it: if you don't, learning will be more of a struggle than it need be and your concentration will suffer. Having your own learning style involves having your own internal 'language': briefly, this means the words you use to translate and understand the material so that it has meaning for you. If you don't know how you learn best, try to analyse your experience either with someone who knows how you work, or with someone with expertise in this area.

Concentration in children

All of the above are also important factors for children. Hypnosis can help, it is good for children also who need help with focus concentration and organisation of thinking and learning either in class or with homework. Other areas that hypnosis can help are with ADHD, and Dyslexia

What next?

Call Debs for a chat on 07768554848 or email using the contact form