How to boost your attention and ability Meditation is one of the best ways to improve executive functioning. Even after just five days doing 20 minutes of meditation daily, there were boosts to how well individuals could filter out distractions. There didn’t appear to be a superior technique for meditation, as long as the main objective was attentional control (focusing on something specific). A common technique used to elicit attentional control in meditation is to focus on breathing while trying to let go of unwanted thoughts.
Some studies also looked at yoga, which involves components that resemble meditation. However, yoga didn’t improve executive functioning like other techniques where the main goal was attentional control, although the yogis did improve their overall response speed.
It’s not clear how long these improvements to attention last after meditating, but it is clear that for anyone looking to improve their executive functioning, attention should be part of their daily routine.
The government of Canada recommends that people over 18 get 150 minutes of exercise a week to maintain health. This also plays a significant role in executive functioning. I explored how different factors impacted executive functioning, including how often individuals were exercising, how hard were they exercising and what exercise activities were they performing. How to boost your attention and ability
People who reported getting six hours of physical activity per week showed improved executive functioning over sedentary individuals. Additionally, those in a high-intensity sprint program for a two-week period not only outperformed a control group in their measures of executive functioning, they also made fewer mistakes.
While standing and treadmill desks did generate improvements to other aspects of physical health after just four days, they did not get the same boost to cognition that was seen with other moderate to high-intensity exercises. This means that if you want those boosts to cognition, you need to really get your heart rate up.
It’s also important to consider how much sleep you are getting, as people often reduce their rest for work and social obligations. Although a few studies in the review did find that reduced sleep generated poorer executive functioning, the more common outcome was worse performance across the board. Reduced sleep didn’t impact specific components of attention in the same way that meditation and exercise did. Instead, it made people slower to react and more prone to making mistakes.
However, most of the sleep research included in the review involved keeping people up for 24 hours. This isn’t very representative of how most people experience a reduction in sleep. Future research should consider how people’s sleep quality is impacting their executive functioning. This information is especially important for those who work in scenarios where lapses in attention pose a potential risk, like air traffic controllers or those who operate heavy machinery.