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Focus Toolkit. Tools to Improve Your Focus & Concentration

Related: Andrew Huberman, Productivity, Dopamine


That is a summary of Andrew Huberman's podcast episode "Focus Toolkit. Tools to Improve Your Focus & Concentration".

A nice metaphor describing biochemistry behind focus:

If we think about focus as an arrow, then [[Epinephrine]] would be the shaft of the arrow translating the energy for the focus by increasing alertness. [[Acetylcholine]] highlights neurons that should be more active. Pointing to the aim as if it is an arrowhead. Dopamine is a fuel.

Binaural Beats

40hz [[Binaural beats]] can increase the ability to focus by affecting dopamine and acetylcholine levels. White, pink, and brown noise can help to get focused because they all increase overall alertness.

There is a nice app for picking the right beats called: Brainwave app.

It makes sense to start listening to binaural beats 5 minutes before starting to work because the brain needs some time to increase those [[neurotransmitters]] levels.

If one feels distractable listening to the beats during the whole work session might be beneficial.

Focus Timing

90 minutes is the most common circadian timespan which is observed in brain activity including sleep cycles and focus.

Important to note that the brain needs about 5-10 minutes to warm up and transition into the focus state.

Having a 90 minutes session it makes sense to have brakes for defocus and reas

It makes sense to take breaks every 45 minutes to defocus and rest at least for 10 minutes

The more you are trained to focus the more time you need for decompression. Intensity should be scaled directly with recovery.

It makes sense to take 2 but not more than 3 deep focus sessions per day.

Meal Timing

We have a more clear mind when we have enough glucose in our blood.

Digesting causes parasympathetic activation mode where you feel more relaxed and sleepy. Not something that helps us to get focused.

Caffeine

Caffeine is capable of increasing focus in several ways.

  • Caffeine can increase the number of dopamine receptors (see Dopamine and Caffeine)
  • Caffeine increases overall alertness. It binds to [[Adenosine]] receptors blocking adenosine's ability to slow nerve activity
  • Caffeine increases nerve activity, leaving us stimulated, by increasing [[Epinephrine]] level

The best timing for caffeine is 90m -1h20m after waking up.

Stress

Stress increases cognitive performance and concentration because it increases [[Epinephrine]] and Dopamine levels.

For eg, deliberate cold exposure like a cold shower for 1-5min. The water should be uncomfortably cold, but safe enough to stay in for 1-5 minutes.

Focus Training Meditation

13 minutes of daily meditation shows improvements in the ability to focus after 8 weeks.

The Meditation:

  • Set timer
  • Sit or lay down
  • Focus on breathing
  • Concentrate on a point located about an inch inside your forehead
  • During the meditation, the focus would eventually drift. Refocus on the location and breathe

Avoid doing this meditation less than 4 hours before sleep

Deep Relaxation Meditation

Non-sleep deep rest (NSDR) yoga nidra is claimed to be beneficial for defocusing and relaxation.

Can be practiced for 10-30 mins daily at any time of the day.  In case of sleep deprivation, it makes sense to practice for 30-60 mins.

Examples are fairly easy to find on YouTube:

Non Sleep Deep Rest | NSDR | 10 minute Yoga Nidra - YouTube

Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a very special regime of brain functioning. In the hypnosis state the brain is focused but relaxed at the same time.

Practicing hypnosis can improve the ability to concentrate.

There is an app called Reveri that provides hypnosis practice protocols for different purposes including those that are aimed for concentration and focus increase.

Can be performed once every 3-4 days at any time of the day.

Visual Tools

There is an interesting observation: visual focus drives cognitive focus. The idea behind using visual tools to increase focus is straightforward: when you see a thing you concentrate on it.

Therefore vision tunneling can be utilized to increase the ability to focus: limit the focus area with a hood or something to see fewer things around you.

There are visual focus practices that can be done before the actual work

Visual Focus Practice 1:

  • Visually focus on one point, for example, the tip of a pen.
  • Eventually, the focus would drift. The goal is to refocus.
  • Breathe calmly
  • Continue for 30sec - 3 min

Visual Focus Practice 2:

  • Fake focus on a thing but focus on a thing in the background
  • Eventually, the focus would drift. The goal is to refocus.
  • Breathe calmly
  • Continue for 30sec - 3 min

In the beginning, both practices can be performed for 30 sec and then the time can be gradually increased by 5 sec up to 3 min.

Supplements

Omega 3 is claimed to have a modulate effect (Mediation vs Modulation) for brain and concentration, mood, and cognitive function.

Creatine monohydrate has a modulate effect by improving the performance of the prefrontal cortex.

Alpha GPC significantly mediates the ability to focus, but in the long term night increases the probability of a stroke.

Interesting thing about stimulators. It seems that stimulants cannot make you calm or focused directly but they affect dopamine and epinephrine levels which does help.


References

Focus Toolkit: Tools to Improve Your Focus & Concentration | Huberman Lab Podcast #88 - YouTube