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Concentration Exercise
...Improve your concentration through mental exercise

By Lee Ridenour
Exercises adapted from Sports Psychology: An Analysis of Athlete Behavior by Dr. W.F. Straub


1)  Grid Exercise (narrow external concentration & shifting concentration)

For this concentration exercise, write out a 10 x 10 grid of random 2-digit numbers.  Have one person perform the exercise first, going through all of the numbers, crossing out any that begin with 0.  Next, all the numbers beginning with 1 are to be crossed out… followed by all beginning with 2, etc.  While the person performing the exercise goes through all of them, a friend does everything possible to break their concentration (except touching them).

2)  Concentrating on Outside Sounds (broad external concentration)

This concentration exercise entails of lying down, eyes closed.  Focus on doing nothing except listening to the sounds in your surrounding environment.  An added benefit of the exercise is learning how to enhance your ability to differentiate between directions and distances of sound sources.

3)  Concentrating on the Sounds of Your Body (broad internal concentration)

Performed exactly as the last exercise, lie down with your eyes closed; this time with your hands covering your ears.  Concentrate on all the sounds originating only from within your body (breathing, creaking, heartbeat, popping, etc).

4)  Flowing Thoughts (narrow internal concentration)

Lie down. Close your eyes and concentrate only on your thoughts.  Do not filter or stop thoughts, nor dwell on them.  Instead, focus on recognizing each thought and allowing it to leave your mind as quickly as it came.

5)  Pick a Problem (narrow internal concentration)

Focus your concentration on a problem that has been eating at you for some time.  Instruct your mind to create as many solutions as possible.  As your mind creates each solution, place it in a bubble and allow it to float away; knowing you may recall it at any time.  Do not judge the solutions; only take note of them.  When you have received several solutions, write them down and concentrate on them, selecting the best one.

6)  Study an Object (narrow external concentration)

Concentrate on an object in your hand (ring, paper clip, coin etc.).  If you mind begins to wander, refocus on the object more intently.  Describe the object in your mind (its texture, color, smell, etc,)  Change the object each time you perform this exercise.

7)  Concentrate on Induced Outside Sounds (narrow external concentration)

Select any material or object in front of you.  As you focus your concentration on it, make a sound by tapping or dragging your finger / fingernail across it.  Listen very closely to the sound it makes, blocking out all other external sounds.  Notice how when you touch it differently it makes a different sound.

8)  Blank Mind (narrow internal concentration)

For this concentration exercise, try your hardest to think of nothing.  Literally, as soon as a thought enters you mind shut it out.  Close your eyes and narrow out all souds. Force yourself to think only of the thought of “nothing.”

9)  Candle Staring (narrow external concentration)

Candle staring is similar to the object concentration exercise, with the added benefits of the relaxing trance-like effect of the candle.  Sit in front of the candle.  Stare at the very center of the flame, focusing your concentration only on its movement.  If any other thoughts come to mind, shut them out.  Think only of the candle and its warm animation.

10)  Shifting Exercise (shifting concentration)

Although a time-consuming concentration exercise, this one is highly effective.  Find a good book with no pictures.  Dedicate your concentration and time to reading it nonstop for ten minutes, making mental notes of each paragraph.  Verbally summarize to someone what you just read.  The next day, do the same thing; concentrating on the book with your eyes while simultaneously listening to the radio.  Verbally summarize what you just read, in addition to what was played on the radio.  The next day, read the book, listen to the radio and watch television simultaneously for ten minutes.  Summarize all three.  Although a challenging concentration exercise, it forces you to learn how to shift from concentrating on one input to another quickly; it’s also quite fun!