How To Focus On One Thing At A Time:

by Carole Bourne

The ancients defined concentration as the ability to focus the mind on one object for 12 seconds, approximately one breath”

Some days I feel like I have the concentration span of a 2 year old, and the simple task of writing an article is constantly interrupted with a sloppy wandering mind.  I’ve discovered however, when  I remember to honour a few simple mind/body rituals, I feel more grounded and distractions are less likely to tempt me away.


Photo by one man’s perspective:

Your distractions are not in charge, you are:

I’ve realized (after all these years)  that if I nurture my body, and allow my mind time to arrive at the task before me -  distractions are less likely to occur.    If I haven’t, then I’m easily distracted due to scattered thoughts about the past, future and what if’s – or fuzzy thinking due to dehydration – or agitated nerves due to lack of food, rushing, anxious breathing, lack of movement or poor sleep.

Set your mind, body and environment up to win

I trust you find one or more of these suggestions helpful. Please let me know what you think.  Feel free to share any of your successes for staying focused.

1: Arrive at your task. Get present:

Thich Nhat Hanh a Zen Buddhist suggests a little breathing ritual so you can feel settled and more present within yourself before you do anything.  Repeat slowly “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile”. Keep repeating gently until you feel you are here, right now.

2: Grow your concentration muscle:

A five minute daily meditation can sharpen your concentration powers. Meditation can be as simple as being still and repeating a word or mantra in your thoughts such as, “I am calm, clear and focused” or “Peace”.

Start with one minute and gradually increase over time. It helps if you keep your eyes soft or closed and breathing relaxed.

Alternately for something a little different try a walking meditation, click here for details. I find walking meditation incredibly soothing and very effective when I’m feeling rushed, agitated and scattered.

3: Your breathing habits influence your state of mind:

Jerky, shallow, fast, constricted or tight breathing reflects that you live your days in a constant stressed out – push and pull state. When your breathing is calm your mind will be calm. When your mind is calm its easier to hold your focus.

Quality breathing (breathing down into your belly) can reverse fear, anger, stress and encourages clarity of the mind despite your external circumstances.  I do my best to adjust my breathing every hour. Remembering to breath regularly, I believe to be one of the best medicines you can give your body and mind.

Shallow breathing causes memory loss.The Taoists believe that loss of oxygen though shallow breathing is the primary cause of memory loss in the elderly.

* 12 great reasons to start alternate nostril breathing

* 15 Clever things to know about your breathing:

3: Clear your head with humming therapy:

This is perfect to do just before you are about to start a task.  Place one hand on top of your head and the other on your stomach.  Close your eyes and start humming.  Feel the hum reach the top of your head and flow down to your belly. Feel the soothing effects of each hum.  Humming clears stagnant energy, refreshes your mind and calms your nervous system.

4: Hydrate your mind, eat your water:

The brain is the first place to lose water and become dehydrated in your body. This in turn of course effects your ability to think straight.  If you find it tricky to drink lots of water then eat your water.  A bowl of grapes or orange slices are around 98% water.

A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy thinking. Many practitioners have told me over the years that lack of water is the number No.1 reason for day time fatigue.

10 tips to grab on the run for staying hydrated:

5: Turn off the distractions:

The mind can be easily distracted by what it sees or hears around it.  Turn off phones, TV and the likes which might easily cause a distraction for you.  Simply take a look at the space around you and scan for any likely distractions. You’ll know what they are.

6: Satisfy your body first:

To hold your concentration you need the co-operation of your body.  If you are anything like me, I can’t concentrate to save myself if I’m hungry, restless, feel fidgety or need some fresh air.  It’s worth checking in with your body before starting your task to find out if its hungry, thirsty, needs a shower, a stretch or simply a walk.

* A mind body balancing one pot meal:

7: Soften your body:

Hunched shoulders block the flow of blood to your brain. A frowning, squished up face holds in tension. Relax your shoulders, have a stretch, breath into your collar bones/shoulders, lengthen your neck and smile.

Practice getting more oxygen and blood flow to your extremities and brain , whilst detoxing at the same time. Stand up & inhale a full breath. Hold your breath as you clench fists & tighten your leg and arm muscles; release slowly as you exhale.

10 Yoga tips to grab on the run for the silly season

8: Stop feeling rushed:

Start your day in your body and not in your head. If you start your morning rushed by jumping out of bed and rushing down your breakfast then your whole day will be rushed.  When I’m rushing distractions happen far more easily.  Start your morning gently with plenty of time and notice how it effects the flow of your day ahead.

Rushing activates your sympathetic nervous system.  You are living in flight or fight mode.  Not a healthy way to live.  My article  Slow yourself down when feeling rushed has a great list of suggestions that you may find useful, if you are prone to rushing.

9: Exercise can help sloppy concentration:

Lack of movement and exercise can equal a lazy mind.   I find the days I miss my walks and yoga classes my mind and body are not as refreshed and therefore prone to stagnancy and sloppy concentration and thinking.

Yoga, tai chi and qi gong are exceptional exercises for strengthening your concentration muscle.

10: Get grounded :

When you are not grounded your mind and body are split. You miss vital guidance from the universe, get distracted easily, can’t complete tasks and overlook hunger and thirst needs.

The easiest way for me to get grounded is to rub and massage my feet.  Think of your feet now.  Is energy flowing down through your body and into your feet with each breath cycle, or is it stuck in your head?  Do you feel earthed, connected to the ground?  Have you be spending enough time in nature lately?  When was the last time your bare feet actually touched soil, grass, sand or rocks?  Have you been spending too much time in front of computers, TV or on your mobile phone?

To be grounded you need a balance between the natural world and the electronic world


What I’m really, really  loving:

The Path of Practice: A Woman’s Book of  Healing With Food, Breath and Sound by Maya Tiwari

I absolutely love this book.  It”s certainly my favourite book for 2011. I felt such a connection – it brought tears to my eyes – on more than one occasion.

Don’t you love it when a book really resonates with you.


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I absolutely love listening to Ananga play the beautiful Udana flute.  Her flute music is one of the most soothing and relaxing sounds on this planet”  Carole Fogarty

Click here to sample the 9 tracks



{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching April 21, 2009 at 6:12 am

Thanks for this post. I’m honored to have discovered your blog. This is a wonderful list, and one item I’d add to it is that I’ve found it useful, both for myself and in working with clients, to sit with a mental distraction that comes up, rather than running from it or pushing it away. For instance, if anger arises while we’re working, most of us would tell it to shut up because we’re trying to get something done, but we can also try breathing, relaxing our bodies, and allowing the anger to be there. Over time, it becomes more comfortable and familiar and loses its power to disrupt our work.


Carole Fogarty April 21, 2009 at 6:51 am

Hi Chris,

Why, thank you so much for your kind words.

Yes, I couldn’t agree more with you. As Thicht Hhat Hanh says when anger arises hold it in the palm of your hands and smile at it.

Peace, love and chocolate



Jay Schryer April 21, 2009 at 7:39 am

This is a wonderful article! I’ve only just started meditating, and so I really appreciate the practical tips here. My favorite phrase is “In with the positive” as I breathe in, and “Out with the negative” as I breathe out. I’m looking forward to trying your suggestions!


Carole Fogarty April 21, 2009 at 10:01 am

Wow, Thanks Jay.

Love your mantra. Let me know how you go with
your meditating.



Ananga April 25, 2009 at 2:40 am


What a rich collection of points. I love your mention of “humming therapy” and your reminder to soften the body.

With respects,


Thena January 17, 2012 at 6:23 am

This is both street smart and inltelginet.


Carole Fogarty April 25, 2009 at 7:04 am

Hi Ananga,

Lovely to hear from you.

Humming therapy is my fav. at the moment. Obviously what I need.

Peace, love and chocolate



Debanga May 19, 2009 at 11:34 pm


The article is simply wonderful.

Most important thing is that they are practicle.

A longer breathing process really works for me when I am stressed.



Ange Recchia May 26, 2009 at 6:45 am

You’ve made my day Carole! I’ve been hopping around your blog this morning and now feel ready to conquer the day ahead. Thanks for these wonderful ideas, I’m feeling more focused and grounded and lighter too =)
Bless You =)


Suzie Cheel May 26, 2009 at 12:30 pm

How timely, was about to head away from computer, do twenty minutes clearing of my studio so I can see the table when I saw this blog post. I distraction, but as I said timely

Love & Hugs


Annie Flint July 29, 2009 at 5:26 am

Hi Carol. I have just noticed that the Google ads on the left are covering up the right side of some article information. Is there a way for you to expand or compress the columns so that it will accommodate the advertising, or the article without overlapping?

Thank you.



Carole Fogarty July 29, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Hi Annie,

I’ll check it out. They appear OK on my two computers at home, but obviously not for everyone.

Thanks so much for letting me know.



Shashank January 5, 2011 at 1:56 am

Hi Carole,

Thank you very much for your valuable tips. Your blog is great!
The breathing exercise you mentioned has helped me a lot!

Thank you


Nicky April 26, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Dear Carole,
Thank you very much for your useful and beautiful article. It gets me back on the horse and keep me going with my phd thesis.
kind Regards,


Lance June 20, 2012 at 1:23 am

Thanky you , it helped for me.


Carole Fogarty June 26, 2012 at 7:29 am

Thank you Lance. Pleased you found the post helpful. xx Carole


cc11rocks July 14, 2012 at 8:37 pm

“(breathing down into your belly)” should actually be “(breathing down into your diaphram)”

Source : I play multiple instruments and am in a concert band.


Anupam October 30, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Thank you very much! i believe i will be able to change my ways & my habits from today onwards.


Bari December 31, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Thank you very much..
The breathing exercise you mentioned has helped me a lot!


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