The lack of concentration and mental clarity can occur to anyone irrespective of their age. For instance, children may not be able to give their best in the classroom. Similarly, an individual working for too many hours may not be able to focus in other areas because of an over-worked brain. Sometimes, this may be due to a mental health condition and other times, it may be due to chronic stress.
However, battling the inability to concentrate and focus on the present is easy if you incorporate certain nutritional and lifestyle changes.
Nutritional Additions To Improve Mental Clarity
To improve your concentration and focus on a particular task, include the following in your diet. This can help if you have a mental health condition or if you are under stress.
1. Phosphatidylserine (PS)
Phosphatidylserine (PS) is produced in the body, but most of it is obtained from the food that we eat. PS is a phospholipid (an important molecule that provides structure and protection to cells) present in the cell membranes and is one of the important molecules in the brain.1 This is important for cell-to-cell communication. Studies have shown that adequate levels of PS in the body can improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.2 Studies have also reported that PS may be an effective natural method to improve attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in young children.3
The highest dietary source of PS is soy lecithin, derived from soybeans. Other sources include animal-based foods such as liver and kidneys and plant-based foods like white beans, cabbage, carrots, whole-grain barley, and rice.
2. Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPCs)
These compounds occur naturally in plants and are widely available in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, flowers, and barks. They are known for their powerful antioxidant activity.4 Animal studies report that OPCs can improve memory.5 Experts say that they can be used to improve attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms in children.6
Sources of OPCs include cinnamon and sorghum, grape seeds, berries like blueberries, blackberries, and green and red grapes.
Magnesium-rich foods can improve the overall brain health. This is because magnesium is one of the top minerals that can protect the aging brain. Magnesium also controls serotonin – the neurotransmitter that elevates the mood. Magnesium deficiency can produce symptoms of anxiety and depression and may also cause poor memory and confusion. All of these affect your ability to focus and concentrate on daily tasks.7
Avoid this by adding magnesium-rich foods in your diet like spinach, almonds, cashews, soy and black beans, yogurt, brown rice, and avocados.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, may be another important vitamin for better mental health. Certain studies have shown that vitamin D receptors are distributed in different parts of the brain.8 These receptors in the brain are found in those areas which are linked to the development of depression. Therefore, the lack of vitamin D may cause depression, which, in turn, can affect mental clarity.9
The best source of vitamin D is natural sunlight. Unfortunately, there are very few food sources that contain vitamin D. These include dairy products fortified with vitamin D, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and fish liver oils.10
5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega- 3 fatty acids are important for the physical growth of a human being. Research suggests that these fatty acids may be essential for mental growth as well. Some studies report that omega-3 fatty acids can be used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and reduce symptoms of unexplained depression.11 There are studies that show how omega-3 supplementation can improve cognition and brain activation in young adults.12
You can include omega-3 fatty acids in your regular diet with foods like vegetable oils, walnuts, flaxseeds, soy products, fish, seafood, and fish oils.
Apart from nutritional changes, you can also improve your attention and focus by bringing changes to your lifestyle.
Lifestyle Changes To Improve Mental Clarity
1. Get Enough Exercise And Sleep
Studies show that regular exercise can improve the functions of the brain. It can help reduce anxiety and stress – two factors that contribute to cognitive impairment. Exercise also helps memory and thinking and can also provide good sleep.13
Not getting enough sleep can cause your body to feel tired – tiredness can disturb the attention span and concentration levels of an individual. The quality and quantity of sleep also affect learning ability and memory.14 Therefore, it is important for each individual to have adequate sleep to perform well.
2. Spend More Time With Nature
Spending time with nature can improve an individual’s mental health. Firstly, your body will be exposed to sunlight which will help you obtain vitamin D. As mentioned earlier, vitamin D can improve your mood and help you relax. Research has also shown that outdoor activities can help children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) focus better.15 You can also practice two good lifestyle changes with nature – you can exercise outdoors, giving you double the benefit.
3. Practice Daily Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a mind-body-based approach that can help individuals control their feelings and thoughts. Mindfulness involves exercises that help you focus your energy on the present. This helps improve your attention and concentration. Studies also show how mindfulness meditation can improve moods and attention in adults with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).16
4. Include Lots Of Proteins In Your Diet
Sometimes, if you are on a weight-loss program or because of your unhealthy eating habits, your body may not receive the required amount of proteins. This may be the cause of your lack of concentration. Proteins are the building blocks of the body; they are the building blocks of the brain. Proteins affect the brain performance because they play a role in the neurotransmitters present in the brain. Proteins also increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin – neurotransmitters that increase energy and improve mental clarity.17 Dairy products like cheese, milk, yogurt; nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts; tofu and soy products, and beans and legumes are healthy sources of protein.
5. Avoid Sugar As Much As Possible
If you have a sweet tooth, it’s only natural to add more sugar to the foods you eat. However, you might want to keep that under control because studies have shown that too much sugar may negatively impact learning and memory. There are studies that show how sugar-sweetened beverages can impact a child’s attention span and may be linked with childhood attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).18 Certain animal studies also show how sugar may increase symptoms of anxiety, which can affect focus and concentration.19
So, make sure to follow a balanced diet and practice healthy habits for better mental and physical health.
|↑1||Kim, Hee-Yong, Bill X. Huang, and Arthur A. Spector. “Phosphatidylserine in the brain: metabolism and function.” Progress in lipid research 56 (2014): 1-18.|
|↑2||Engel, Rolf R., Wolfgang Satzger, Wilfried Günther, Norbert Kathmann, Daniel Bove, Stefan Gerke, Ursula Münch, and Hanns Hippius. “Double-blind cross-over study of phosphatidylserine vs. placebo in patients with early dementia of the Alzheimer type.” European Neuropsychopharmacology 2, no. 2 (1992): 149-155.|
|↑3||Hirayama, S., K. Terasawa, R. Rabeler, T. Hirayama, T. Inoue, Y. Tatsumi, M. Purpura, and R. Jäger. “The effect of phosphatidylserine administration on memory and symptoms of attention‐deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomised, double‐blind, placebo‐controlled clinical trial.” Journal of human nutrition and dietetics 27, no. s2 (2014): 284-291.|
|↑4||Fine, Anne Marie. “Oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes: history, structure, and phytopharmaceutical applications.” Alternative medicine review: a journal of clinical therapeutic 5, no. 2 (2000): 144-151.|
|↑5||Lee, Young A., Eun Ju Cho, and Takako Yokozawa. “Oligomeric proanthocyanidins improve memory and enhance phosphorylation of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 in senescence-accelerated mouse prone/8.” British journal of nutrition 103, no. 4 (2010): 479-489.|
|↑6||Smith, Kenda. “Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPCs).”|
|↑7||Magnesium and Cognitive Health. Nutritional Magnesium Association.|
|↑8||Eyles, Darryl W., Steven Smith, Robert Kinobe, Martin Hewison, and John J. McGrath. “Distribution of the vitamin D receptor and 1α-hydroxylase in human brain.” Journal of chemical neuroanatomy 29, no. 1 (2005): 21-30.|
|↑9||Durson, Serdar M. “Vitamin D for mental health and cognition.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 182, no. 17 (2010): 1886-1886.|
|↑10||Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑11||Peet, Malcolm, and Caroline Stokes. “Omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.” Drugs 65, no. 8 (2005): 1051-1059.|
|↑12||Bauer, Isabelle, Matthew Hughes, Renee Rowsell, Robyn Cockerell, Andrew Pipingas, Sheila Crewther, and David Crewther. “Omega‐3 supplementation improves cognition and modifies brain activation in young adults.” Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental 29, no. 2 (2014): 133-144.|
|↑13||Regular exercise changes the brain to improve memory, thinking skills. Harvard Medical School.|
|↑14||Sleep, Learning, and Memory. Harvard Medical School.|
|↑15||Spending Time in Nature for Your Health — How Outdoor Activities Improve Wellbeing. South University.|
|↑16||Bueno, Viviane Freire, Elisa H. Kozasa, Maria Aparecida da Silva, Tânia Maria Alves, Mario Rodrigues Louzã, and Sabine Pompéia. “Mindfulness meditation improves mood, quality of life, and attention in adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” BioMed research international 2015 (2015).|
|↑17||Why Your Brain Needs Protein. Memory Foundation.|
|↑18||Yu, Ching-Jung, Jung-Chieh Du, Hsien-Chih Chiou, Chun-Cheng Feng, Ming-Yi Chung, Winnie Yang, Ying-Sheue Chen, Ling-Chu Chien, Betau Hwang, and Mei-Lien Chen. “Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is adversely associated with childhood attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.” International journal of environmental research and public health 13, no. 7 (2016): 678.|
|↑19||Avena, Nicole M., Miriam E. Bocarsly, Pedro Rada, Agnes Kim, and Bartley G. Hoebel. “After daily bingeing on a sucrose solution, food deprivation induces anxiety and accumbens dopamine/acetylcholine imbalance.” Physiology & behavior 94, no. 3 (2008): 309-315.|