In a meditation practice, having a focal point can help you stay present. After all, sitting quietly and focusing on the present can sometimes lead to a wandering mind, especially when there’s no a focal point. That’s why experienced and novice meditators often focus on something during their practice. Most meditators focus on their breath, others on body sensations, and some on a specific physical object in the room. The goal should be to find the thing that allows you to have an effective daily meditation practice. In this article, you’ll learn how to practice focused meditation, as well as some tips for your focused meditation practice and the key benefits of doing this daily.
What is focused meditation?
A focused meditation, also known as a focused attention meditation, is a meditation practice you do while focusing on something to help you stay in the present moment. The focus can be a focal point in your meditation room, your breath, or various sensations in your body throughout your practice, such as that common meditation itch.
How to practice a focused meditation
1. Choose something to anchor your focus on
To practice a focused attention meditation, you’ll need to anchor your focus on something. Whether it’s your breath or an object in the room, you can choose anything to anchor your focus on. Aim to choose something that’s easy to focus on but that won’t distract you. After all, if you get distracted and lost in thought, it defeats the purpose of any mindfulness meditation. When practicing meditation, you need to remain alert, mindful, and focused. So, pick something that’s easy for you to focus on.
2. Sit in a comfortable position
While practicing meditation, it’s normal to experience discomfort if seated cross-legged on the floor. So, while in a seated position, find a way of sitting upright that feels comfortable to you so that you don’t become distracted with bodily sensations, such as aches, itches, or soreness. You’ll want to find a position you’d feel comfortable in for a minimum of five minutes but possibly as long as an hour. Alternatively, you can choose to lie down if sitting upright is difficult for you. However, sleepiness is a common side effect of doing a mindfulness meditation or loving-kindness meditation on your back.
3. Open Declutter The Mind
Now, you’re ready to open up the Declutter The Mind app to practice your guided focused meditation. You can choose any meditation under focus, such as mindfulness meditation for focus, focused attention and concentration, or focus for studying. You can find a mindfulness meditation for as short as five minutes or as long as 20 in the focus category. After all, the goal is to quickly get you to focus on what you want to actually do. So, you won’t need to spend too much time to quickly increase your focus.
4. Breathe from your stomach
When feeling anxious, it’s normal for you to breathe quickly and from the chest. Shallow breathing isn’t ideal for a focused attention meditation. Instead, breathe from your stomach and take deeper breaths. If it feels uncomfortable, breathe in a bit more softly, as it should feel natural to breathe this way. Babies naturally breathe from the stomach, but as they age, shallow breathing becomes more common, though it isn’t the best way to breathe.
5. Focus your attention
Whether it’s on your breath or something in your room, focus your attention on it. Be mindful of thoughts that wander in and out but keep your attention focused on the object of focus for as long as you can. If you’re staring too intently at an object, relax your eyes without straining on the focal point.
6. Block the mind’s chatter
One of the key meditation techniques, especially during a focused meditation is to block your mind’s chatter. Your mind often goes off on tangents on it’s own. However, you can say “stop” to stop a thought from ruminating to help block it. Alternatively, you can practice mental noting like “thinking” when your mind starts thinking. Or if you’ve become distracted by an itch, you can label it “itch.” Whatever it is that distracts you from your focus, can be labeled quickly so that you can return to your meditation and continue practicing focused meditation.
7. Re-focus your attention
Continue re-focusing your attention back on your breath or focal point. A concentrative meditation will require you to continue refocusing your attention every time you lose focus. Don’t beat yourself up for slipping it, it’s quite common. Just remind your thoughts to stop and go back to your meditation. You don’t need to start over from the beginning of a meditation audio but could restart if you’d like. You’ll continue to get better with more practice.
Tips for Focused Meditation
1. Build up to it
A focused meditation is a good practice for a novice meditator. If you’re looking to improve your meditation training to help you live in the present moment, it’s key to start small. You can start your focused attention meditation by starting with a five minute practice. Keep in mind, five minutes may not seem like a lot, but your mind can still begin to wander in that short period. As you master five minutes, you can expand it to 10 minutes, 15, 20, 30, and even 60 minutes. And once you’ve mastered your ability to do a focused meditation, you might even go to a meditation retreat for a week where you’ll need to focus your attention on your breath for a longer period. Don’t be afraid of starting small and building up to the length of time that works best for you.
2. Remember that losing focus is normal
As we hinted at in the earlier section, it’s normal for a mind to wander during a focused attention meditation. When this happens, tell your mind “stop.” This will block the ruminating thought in its tracks because you’ve now become aware of the thinking that’s happening. Our minds often wander when we let it go freely. When we’re focusing on our breath or an object of focus, it becomes easier to stop a wandering mind. But sometimes, the mind still goes off on tangents to distract you and get you to pay attention to it.
3. Pick a particular object or focus that helps you best
Every person who does a focused attention meditation will have a different focal point that they use to help them meditate. If you choose to close your eyes during your practice, you might use your breath as your focal point. However, if you choose to keep your eyes open during a meditation practice, you should choose something in your room to focus on. Keep in mind, that it may feel harder to focus on a physical object with your eyes open if you have multiple distractions in your room. For instance, looking out a window can distract you from your practice. Sometimes, keeping your eyes closed is ideal to help you deepen your practice. Yet, choose your focal point based on what works best for you.
4. Notice bodily sensations
During a meditation practice, you can use your bodily sensations to help you stay present. You might notice a throbbing in your head, an itch you want to scratch, a rumbling in your stomach, or discomfort depending on your seating position. Experienced meditators will likely notice that bodily sensations often arise during their practice causing them to be distracted. Noticing bodily sensations for your focal point will cause your focus to change throughout your practice. Bringing your attention back to your breath will be a good exercise to pair this practice with when doing a focused meditation.
5. Remember why you started a focused meditation
Often, people will do a focused attention meditation to help them strengthen their ability to focus, relax their mind, or improve their mental health. In moments of frustration or when challenges arise during your practice, it’s important to remember why you started meditating in the first place to help you keep going. Your mind wandering around due to negative thoughts about home, work stress, or any other challenge you’re facing can be dealt with in a meditation practice. But sometimes challenges arise during your practice too. Your child might be screaming in another room, your pet could start walking all over you while you’re seated, or maybe your thoughts are just too loud. Don’t give up just yet. Remember that it takes time; and a bad day is always temporary.
6. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, just try your best
Everyone’s different. And each meditation session is different too. You can follow a guided meditation to help you practice in a specific way as you start or you can meditate on your own in your own way that works best for you. Ultimately, the goal of your focused meditation is to help you live in the present moment. And if you do that, that’s all that matters. So don’t overthink, “Am I doing this right?” If you’re unsure of how to do it, you can always follow a guided practice on Declutter The Mind.
7. Try another type of meditation if it isn’t for you
Maybe after trying a focused attention meditation, you realize this isn’t the meditation practice for you. Fortunately, there are many other types of meditation styles you can follow along to. You can try an intensive vipassana meditation, a loving kindness meditation, mindfulness meditation, body scan meditation, or any other of the common meditation practices available online. Realizing and finding your favorite types of meditation can be a fun discovery during your meditation training. So, don’t beat yourself up if you realize this style isn’t for you. It’s not the only one.
Benefits of Focused Meditation
1. Focused meditation Improves attention
In the scientific benefits of meditation, a study shared that meditation helps with the overall cognition and focus in individuals who meditate over a long-term period. Fortunately, the results of being able to focus begin to show in as little as four days of practicing focused meditation.
2. Reduces stress
It doesn’t matter what meditation style you choose, overall meditation can reduce stress in individuals. Individuals who meditate often reduce their ruminating thoughts according to a study. Rumination is often the cause of stress, especially mental health stress. Another eight week study found that mindfulness meditation training program is effective at managing and reducing stress, especially for short periods. However, another study found that even those with severe stress, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were helped with the treatment of meditation without interfering with medication or psychotherapy treatments.
3. Brings you to present moment
Meditation helps individuals remain in the present moment. Often, when people feel anxious they fear the future, and when they feel depressed they’re reliving the past. However, in the present moment, there’s often a sense of inner peace. While the present moment may be difficult or challenging depending on what people are currently facing in life, it’s often much easier to manage the present moment with a sense of focus, alertness, and self-awareness. Many meditation styles can help you live more presently, but a focused meditation is helpful if your goal is to focus on the present moment instead of time-travelling to the past or future.
4. Prevents cognitive decline
Experienced meditators can also prevent cognitive decline through the regular practice of focused attention meditation or any other meditation styles. Those who meditate regularly can reap benefits, such as more uptake of information, more depth for processing information, and being better able to sequence the information you receive, which is what one study showed. Young adults who meditate have noticed an improvement in their memory. And many have found that meditation has also helped with their creativity. Another study found that a 12-week meditation program reduced the risk of Alzheimers.
5. Boosts overall mental health
A regular meditation practice can help you manage depression, regulate your mood, reduce stress, manage anxiety, help reduce addictions and cravings, while also strengthening your mental stamina. Various illnesses, such as ADHD, social anxiety, PTSD, and more can also have improved symptoms with a regular meditation practice. It doesn’t need to be a focused attention meditation, as any popular style can be effective.
Focused meditation next steps
A focused meditation can help you improve your overall focus with a daily meditation. There are numerous benefits to practicing meditation, especially when it comes to improving your memory, boosting your mental health, and focusing on the present moment instead of your fears or your past. As a beginner, you may be concerned about whether you’re practicing meditation right. Luckily, you can follow a guide with the Declutter The Mind app to help you feel more comfortable as you start out. And as you become an experienced meditator, you can start using meditation timers to challenge yourself to focus without the help of a guide.