If you’ve ever found it difficult to get through a challenging task at work, studied for an important exam, or spent time on a finicky project, you might have wished you could increase your ability to concentrate.
Concentration refers to the mental effort you direct toward whatever you’re working on or learning at the moment. It’s sometimes confused with attention span, but attention span refers to the length of time you can concentrate on something.
Both attention span and concentration can vary for a number of reasons. Some people just have a harder time tuning out distractions. Age and lack of sleep can affect concentration.
Most people forget things more readily as they age, and decreased concentration can accompany memory loss. Head or brain injuries, such as concussion, as well as certain mental health conditions can also affect concentration.
It’s easy to become frustrated when you’re trying to concentrate but just can’t. This can lead to stress and irritation, which tends to make focusing on what you need to do even more of a distant dream.
If that sounds familiar, keep reading to learn more about research-backed methods to help improve your concentration. We’ll also go over some conditions that can affect concentration and steps to take if trying to increase concentration on your own just doesn’t seem to help.
Playing certain types of games can help you get better at concentrating. Try:
Brain training games can also help you develop your working and short-term memory, as well as your processing and problem-solving skills.
Brain training can work for kids, too. Invest in a book of word puzzles, complete a jigsaw puzzle together, or play a game of memory.
Even coloring can help improve concentration in children or adults. Older children may enjoy more detailed coloring pages, like those found in adult coloring books.
The effects of brain training games may be particularly important for older adults, since memory and concentration often tend to decline with age.
Research from 2014 that looked at 2,832 older adults followed up on participants after 10 years. Older adults who completed between 10 and 14 sessions of cognitive training saw improved cognition, memory, and processing skills.
After 10 years, the majority of study participants reported they could complete daily activities at least as well as they could at the beginning of the trial, if not better.
Brain games may not be the only type of game that can help improve concentration. Newer research also suggests playing video games could help boost concentration.
A 2018 study looking at 29 people found evidence to suggest an hour of gaming could help improve visual selective attention (VSA). VSA refers to your ability to concentrate on a specific task while ignoring distractions around you.
This study was limited by its small size, so these findings aren’t conclusive. The study also didn’t determine how long this increase in VSA lasted.
Study authors recommend future research to continue exploring how video games can help increase brain activity and boost concentration.
A 2017 review looked at 100 studies examining the effects video games could have on cognitive function. The results of the review suggest playing video games may lead to various changes in the brain, including increased attention and focus.
This review had several limitations, including the fact that the studies focused on widely varying topics, including video game addiction and possible effects of violent video games. Studies specifically designed to explore benefits of video games could help support these findings.