How to practice mindfulness to keep your brain alert, according to a new study

It is much easier to lose focus these days but psychology research points to mindfulness as a helpful solution

Woman practices mindfulness with a candle burning beside her
(Image credit: Getty)

Mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword. Some people are experts on it and others aren't quite sure what it actually means. All it refers to is the ability to directly focus your attention on the present moment. This is something that could benefit us all and psychologists have revealed how we can practice more mindfulness.

It is often quite small that things we can do to remind our brains to be more mindful, such as leaving a pair of best shoes for walking by your front door to encourage you to get outdoors. 

If you have been in a constant flux of prepping for Christmas while trying to work well from home again then it can be easy to forget to slow down, get outside and be present in your surroundings - away from your desk.

A recent study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement investigated ways to divert the mind from wandering. What they found was that practicing methods of mindfulness could be an effective solution.

Naturally, everybody experiences moments where their mind trails off from a conversation or tasks that it was originally focussing on. 

Research reveals that up to 30% to 50% of our daily thoughts are spent wandering off and this lack of attention can lead to low performance on standardized tests and can reduce your memory.

However, this recent psychology-based study promotes the use of mindful-based practices like breath-work and meditation to increase focus and attention span.

Woman practices yoga

(Image credit: Getty)

"When distracting thoughts or feelings come up, mindfulness helps us gently set them aside and refocus on what is right in front of us," says Turkelson.

Lynley Turkelson, a University of Cincinnati doctoral student suggested something as simple as taking a moment to think about the food you are about to eat. She said you could start by considering the smell of it before you eat it, what the experience feels like as you take a bite, what it feels like in your mouth and how it tastes. 

Alternatively, you could become more in tune with your breathing. What does it feel like as your breath flows in and out of your lungs or what does your body feel like when you perform certain tasks or complete exercise.

Turkelson explained, "When distracting thoughts or feelings come up, mindfulness helps us gently set them aside and refocus on what is right in front of us."

There are various other studies out there that suggest practices of mindfulness can boost brain performance.

Take this 2018 study that was published in the National Journal of Physiology, Pharmacy and Pharmacology as an example. This experiment required a group of medical students to practice 30 minutes of yoga, five days a week for the duration of twelve weeks. The results revealed improvements in attention, concentration, and memory among the students.

You don't have to be tuning your mind into everything you do on the daily. It is also good to switch off and get lost in your favorite tv show every now and again.

But how about starting your day with a short yoga session (on a best yoga mat for support) to benefit your overall concentration and help to boost brain performance.

Below is a 12-minute yoga practice led by international Yoga teacher, famously known as Yoga With Adriene. Adriene walks you through the session which is specially designed to boost brainpower.

Jessica Downey

Jessica is an experienced fitness writer with a passion for running. Her career in journalism began in local news and she holds a Masters in journalism. Jessica has previously written for Runners World, penning news and features on fitness, sportswear and nutrition. 

When she isn't writing up news and features for Fit&Well covering topics ranging from muscle building, to yoga, to female health and so on, she will be outdoors somewhere, testing out the latest fitness equipment and accessories to help others find top products for their own fitness journeys. Her testing pairs up nicely with her love for running. She recently branched out to running 10Ks and is trying to improve her time before moving on to larger races. Jessica also enjoys building on her strength in the gym and is a believer in health and wellness beginning in the kitchen. She shares all of this on her running Instagram account @jessrunshere which she uses for accountability and for connecting with like-minded fitness lovers.