The Focus Style of NeuroMeditation emphasizes holding attention on a single object. These practices are associated with increased activation of the frontal lobes and help train the mind to improve a variety of cognitive functions including sustaining attention, reducing mind wandering, improving reaction time, and working memory.
To get started, you might try focusing on the breath, holding your attention on the sensations involved in breathing. For example, this might involve feeling the sensation of air moving in and out of the nostrils, the belly expanding and contracting with each breath, or perhaps including a visualization such as imagining breathing in healing white light and breathing out stale or toxic energy. Whenever the mind wanders off task, simply notice this as soon as you can and then invite your attention back to the breath. Below is a guided meditation that utilizes the Focus style:
Dr. Jeff Tarrant guides you through this focused attention practice that is designed specifically to improve concentration. Focus Meditation is a foundation for all other meditation styles, helping to stabilize the mind. It may be beneficial for individuals struggling with ADHD, cognitive decline, memory, and other cognitive difficulties.
More guided meditations can be found here.
Tips for Successful Practice
- Start with 3 minutes per meditation during the first week, then move to 5 minutes the second week and 10 minutes on the third week.
- Use a guided meditation to help you stay on track
- Don’t allow the mind to change the specific element of focus once you have started (this is often the mind simply seeking stimulation and trying to entertain itself)
- Remember that this is an active task, try not to allow the mind to daydream or get “sloppy”
- Sit in a posture that will help the mind/body feel alert and relaxed. You may also consider standing up for an active stance. Coordinate a simple movement with your breath to help the mind stay alert
- For example: Begin with the hands at the side of the body, slowly inhale and draw the hands up to shoulder height, coordinating your movement and breath so that your hands reach the shoulders at the same time the lungs are filled. Slowly exhale allowing the arms to float down in front of the body. Again, coordinating the movement with the breath so your hands reach the beginning point as the lungs empty. Repeat for the duration of your meditation.
- Track your progress: Be patient and remember that your brain changes its structure and function based on how you use it. If you want to get better at sustaining attention and reducing mind wandering then you have to practice sustained attention!
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Note: For individuals who have experienced traumatic or overwhelming life events, certain meditation or relaxation practices can contribute to unmanageable affect and bodily sensations. As a result, trauma survivors may decide that they are not capable of meditation, or that it’s “not right for them.” It’s important to understand that traumatic experiences can significantly affect our perceptions and our sense of self, and can sensitize us to sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Fortunately, there are helpful ways to ensure that meditation instruction is trauma-informed, with an emphasis on grounding and physical and emotional security. Please see the section on Trauma Informed NeuroMeditation for more details, or contact an NMI Therapist near you.