Man looking at something

Five Ways to Boost Your Concentration

Concentration is the ability or power of directing one’s attention to something. But we live in a world full of distractions, where we often feel overwhelmed by the ever-increasing demands from our personal and professional front. These distractions may or may not be paltry but they tend to make it difficult for us to maintain and improve concentration and do the things that really matter. Here are five ways that can help you overcome distractions and concentrate better:

1. Establish a daily routine: Creating a daily routine and sticking to it, is a great strategy to improve your concentration. Having a random routine wastes a lot of your time in just deciding upon what to do and when. But once you establish your routine, you will start doing the day’s tasks automatically. Creating a routine would save your time and energy that goes into thinking about what to do and in what order and thus helps you focus your energy and increase productivity.

2. Rank your tasks: You can improve your concentration by prioritizing your tasks and attempting the most important tasks first and leaving the smaller or comparatively less important tasks for later. While performing all the tasks together is neither realistic nor possible, thinking about all of those pending tasks can be daunting as well as overwhelming. Ranking tasks in order of merit, on the other hand, can prove to be an effective tactic for staying focused on the tasks at hand.

3. Practice Meditation and Mindfulness: Many studies have demonstrated that meditation helps reduce stress and anxiety, and improve focus. Practising meditation and mindfulness makes you aware of when your mind wanders off track and aids in bringing it back to the desired point of attention. Both meditation and mindfulness train your brain to stay attentive for longer periods of time.

4. Listen to Music: Music has a profound effect on not just your mood, but blood pressure and heart rate as well. According to a study conducted at the Stanford Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience Laboratory, listening to short symphonies engages the parts of the brain that controls an individual’s attention span, ability to make predictions, and update the event in memory. Though music boosts these brain functions and improves concentration, it’s the short period of silence between musical movements that maximizes brain activities.

5. Turn off notifications: Last but not least, the best way to improve concentration is to turn off the notifications of your personal devices. Research has shown that although a notification appears to only briefly divert your attention, it disrupts your thoughts for much longer, making it harder to bring them back on track. Irrespective of whether you interact with your cell-phone or not, checking out notifications in between can significantly impact your attention. Therefore, you should use your cell-phone judiciously and schedule some time away from the screen to be able to devote yourself single-mindedly to the tasks you do.

Also read:
Researchers Explain Neurophysiological Link Between Breathing and Attention
Step-by-Step Guide to Diaphragmatic Breathing

Advertisements
woman listening to something

How to Be an Effective Listener

One common misconception that many of us have about communication is that it is all about the ability to convey what one wants to tell. We often forget about or ignore one of the most important elements of communication, that is, LISTENING.

Listening is not only paying attention to what is being said but how it is said, the tone, the choice of words, and the body language. Believe it or not, listening is a skill, which you may or may not possess naturally but which you can definitely learn. In fact, effective listening skills are being taught these days at schools and at work settings to help ensure better understanding and better output—in short, to make communication meaningful and fruitful.

Most of us listen to respond, rather than to understand.  Listening carefully to comprehend the point of view of the speaker is called active-listening. Apparently, it refers to listening to the feelings of the speaker. Active-listening or effective listening skills can help maintain healthy relationships, avoid miscommunication or misunderstandings, resolve conflicts, and find solutions to problems.

Here are few tips that can help you become an effective listener:

1. Undivided attention: Whenever someone comes to talk to you listen with your undivided attention. Listening requires giving your complete attention to the speaker. Listening while you’re busy doing something else shows that you are not actually listening. So when your child comes to you to talk about what happened at his or her school or when your spouse is talking about his/her day at work, put aside whatever you are doing for some time and give your full attention to the speaker. It is quite possible that you are genuinely busy at that time and cannot talk. The best thing to do, in that case, is to the person that you will listen to them as soon as you finish the work. Giving undivided attention conveys respect and genuine interest to the speaker.

2. Make eye contact: Maintaining healthy eye contact is crucial to effective communication process, listening is no exception. Effective listening requires maintaining eye contact with the speaker. This does not, however, mean that you have to stare constantly at the speaker and that’s why the term ‘healthy eye contact.’ Therefore, once in a while, take break and blink you eyes, or look between the eyes. Staring continuously can make the speaker feel intimidated, whereas, wandering eyes indicates lack of interest or boredom.

3. Attend to the feelings: Try to listen to not only what is being said, but how it is said, notice the nonverbal cues as well, such as the body language. This can help you understand what is actually being conveyed by the speaker.

4. Don’t judge, criticize, or start telling your own stories: Active-listening involves listening without judging the speaker and being open to what is being said. When someone asks you to listen, that means you need to put aside your own stories. Do not interrupt or criticize the teller. An active listener needs to keep his or her opinions to oneself. Don’t try to finish sentences of the speaker. Let the speaker take his or her time to complete what he or she wants to say.

5. Check for comprehension: In order to ensure that you understand what is being said, occasionally rephrase the key points. But do so when the speaker takes a pause. Do not interrupt the flow. Rephrasing helps the speaker rehear what is being said, and gives speaker a chance to clarify if required.

6. Encourage: In order to encourage the speaker to keep talking, use questions like, “what happened next?” or you can simply repeat the last words said. Another simple way is to just say “hmmm” to keep the conversation going.

Also read:
How to Master the Art of Constructive Feedback

Banner carrying Constructive feedback as text

How to Master the Art of Constructive Feedback

There are instances when you genuinely want to help a person improve or give suggestions for his/her betterment while there are also times when you simply need to evaluate a person’s performance in an organizational set-up. However, very often you find that, instead of being taken in a positive light your feedback is either ignored altogether or not well received, making the target person rather angry or defensive. This could be because you have not yet realized that giving constructive feedback is an art which needs to be mastered.

Feedback forms an important part of communication process and serves to convey how a person is functioning or how his or her behavior is affecting us and others around him or her. This feedback can be positive or negative.

Positive feedback is generally used to point out to the person, what he/she has been doing right and encourage the person to continue with the behavior. Whereas, negative feedback is used to point out the shortcomings and bring about an improvement in that person’s behavior. Positive feedback is much easier to give, as it is readily accepted by the receiver; however, giving negative feedback requires special skills, so that the receiver doesn’t get defensive and remains open to your criticism or suggestions. Negative feedback should be helpful and so, merely pointing out the faults should not be the sole purpose of this feedback. We must bear in mind that the purpose of this feedback is much more crucial, that is, to help the receiver be better than before and make him/her work on his/her shortcomings. Therefore, we choose the word constructive feedback.

Having the ability to give constructive feedback can help managers enhance their team performance or can help teachers mold the behavior of their students. This skill can also come in handy in personal relationships where you want your spouse, children, friend, or loved ones, to correct a few things in order to  be a better version of themselves. After all, we all have some weaknesses and shortcomings, and constructive feedback, if given carefully, can be of great help in overcoming those. Following are some tips to make your feedback more constructive, helpful and receiver-friendly:

1. Descriptive: Try to make your feedback as descriptive as possible. It should also be clear and specific about the behavior you want to encourage or change. Saying “you are not doing well” is not enough. It is too vague and leaves the person wondering about what needs to be done. Therefore, describe completely what the concerned person should do or improved.

2. Appropriate time: Make sure you give your feedback at the earliest and at the most appropriate time. If you take too long to give your feedback, you may forget about the specifics of the situation and behavior and it is likely that the receiver too does not remember the situation. Moreover, taking too long to give feedback may give a wrong impression to the receiver that what he or she has been doing is acceptable, and then, when you finally give your feedback, he or she may not be as open to it.

3. Constructive ideas: Especially when feedback is negative, it is important to include constructive ideas about how to improve. Offer assistance in the process of improvement and betterment. Saying “your performance was terrible” connotes that the person already knows for sure what went wrong and how to correct it, whereas in reality, this might not be the case. Hence, for a constructive feedback, it is important that the person giving the feedback must also help the receiver in finding the solution.

4. Consistency: Be consistent with giving constructive feedback. Especially in the professional world, consistency in giving feedback has been found to be much more effective and credible. Make it a part of your regular interaction with your juniors and co-workers for maximum impact.

5. Don’t get personal: While giving negative feedback, never get personal and do not target the person. Rather, focus on the behavior or action that needs to be changed. Never criticize the person or make personal attacks. For example, while judging your friend’s singing skills, commenting upon his pitch, notes and song choice etc, can help him improve his performance as a singer, but telling that he has a bad voice quality is something that is not much helpful because, he can’t change his voice. Here, the former makes your criticism constructive, while the latter may just hurt the person and make him feel bad.

6. Never demean: Never use negative feedback as a tool to demean the other person. Never bring your personal agenda to the equation and refrain from using negative feedback as a means to make the other person feel inferior or to take revenge.

7. Positive feedback: Don’t use feedback for pointing out only the faults or shortcomings of a person. Instead focus on giving positive feedback as well. Point out the strengths of the person and appreciate his or her positives as well. Some people think that feedback is just to point out the negatives, but the fact is that a balanced feedback that focuses on positives as well as on negatives is much more readily accepted and considered credible.

8. Purpose: Never forget that the purpose of a feedback is to bring change and improvement and not to hurt the feelings of the person.

9. Listen: While giving your feedback, make sure you give the person a chance to respond too. Do listen to his or her viewpoint and interpretations patiently, and give them a chance to defend their view.

Also read:
8 Ways to Build a Positive and Healthy Body Image
8 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

five children looking at their cellphone

8 Ways to Prevent and Address Your Child’s Addiction to Smart Devices

Addiction to smartphones or computers to communicate, get information, for entertainment, or to complete day-to-day chores is quite common. After all, resorting to digital-era technology is not only the swiftest way to all sort of information at just a touch of a button but also the easiest way to get all sorts of things done—from paying bills to ordering stuff online and to what not. Although our reliance on phones and computers is growing day-by-day, it is, at the same time, worrying to see children as young as three, playing games and watching videos on phones for hours. The fact that too much of screen time is detrimental to a child’s growing brain cannot be overstated.

Too much of screen time also interferes with child’s performance at school. It has been reported that Children who use smartphones at an early age have difficulty socializing and have delayed communication. Those who are in school and spend too much time on these gadgets have also been found to spend less time in playing outside and are also at greater risk of cyber-bullying. However, in today’s time, it is not that easy and simple for parents to restrain their kids from using phones and other such devices since everyone around them is using phones, tablets, or computers and sometimes children need information as well from the web to complete their school projects. In fact, teachers too these days, communicate through whatsapp rather than providing the information in students’ diary, which makes avoiding smartphones all the more difficult.

Research has shown that addiction to technology can be as severe as any other addictions. And so parents are often confronted with the question as to what should be the right age to introduce their kids to these gadgets. Well the answer to this question is not that straight or simple as every child has his or her maturity level. Yet, it can be said that the later the better; the more you can delay the better it is. At least wait until your child is in eighth grade or middle school. Even then you need to first set some rules regarding the use. You can also start by buying your child a basic phone rather than a smartphone.

We sometimes see parents giving their 2- or 3-year-old kids phones while eating out, or while parents are watching movies in the hall, their reasoning being that the kid would get distracted and wouldn’t disturb or that the kid throws tantrum to get the phone. Well, this is a completely wrong logic; You don’t give your child matchsticks, knife, or scissors to play with, when he or she throws a tantrum for it, then why giving in when your child demands your phone. May be some parents don’t really understand the dangers of using cell phones at such an early age or perhaps sometimes they are simply too tired to attend to their child. In such cases, giving their phone seems right to them and more like a convenient option. But they don’t actually realize that this comes under irresponsible parenting. Parents need to understand that the earlier the child starts using phones and other such devices, the higher the possibility of getting addicted to these devices in later ages. Besides, too much screen time is one of the leading causes of illnesses related to sedentary lifestyle. Obesity among young kids has been found to be because they don’t include enough physical activities in their routine or because they eat while watching TV or videos on phone or while playing video games.

Here’s how you can help your child get rid of or prevent his or her digital addiction:

1. Set family rules: Before you introduce your kids to devices like smartphones, tablets, or laptops, set some rules regarding the use of such devices. Set screen time in advance. Tell your children beforehand the purpose for which they can use these devices, and under what conditions they can lose access to them. These rules will be more effective if you involve your child too in the process.

2. Start with the basics: If your child demands a phone because all his/her friends have one, then you can start with basic phone models that can be used for communication purpose. Instead of smartphone, get him a simple basic mobile phone. Alternatively, you can lend your phone to help your child exchange messages between or make a call to his or her friend.

3. Don’t substitute toys with smartphones: These days children start using digital devices at a very early age, all because their parents use these devices as substitutes to toys. Remember, use of such devices is as harmful to a 2-3 year old as it is to older children. Never make it a habit to use smartphone as pacifier for your children. Instead carry their favorite toy along and let them play with it.

4. Encourage outdoor activities: One of the major drawbacks of using such devices is that children start spending less time in outdoor activities and become glued to these devices. A healthy and effective way to avoid this is by scheduling a regular outdoor activity as part of the child’s daily routine. It would be much better if you too take part in such activities.

5. Set an example: Remember! children see what their parents do. So you too need to set an example for your child. If you tell your children to stop spending too much time on phones, or tablets, while you yourself are busy on the phone all the time, they are most likely not going to listen to you. Therefore, if you want your children to follow screen time rules, you need to follow them yourself as well.

6. Set family values: You need to discuss with your children the place these devices have in your family’s value system. Since there will come a time when your child might tell you that all his or her friends have smartphones and that their parents don’t restrict them from using these devices. At such instances, your family values will help you and your child deal with these pressures to conform to the society.

7. Give them desktop: There comes a time when your child actually needs access to internet in order to complete his or her school projects and other such activities. Besides, one cannot deny the fact that internet is the quickest way to get access to knowledge and information. Therefore, if you truly feel that your child needs access to internet, give them a desktop instead of smartphone. Desktops have been found to be less addictive since they require sitting at the same place. An added benefit is that parental monitoring is much easier on desktop.

8. Communicate: It is really important that your children understand that the rules are imposed not to keep them from progressing further, but for their own good. Communicate to your children why you don’t want to encourage device usage; especially when other parents have already started giving their children smartphones or other such devices. Your children must understand that you are not against technology, but you are also aware of the dangers of technology usage and technology addiction. Getting this message across is very important and it will also help your children understand your point of view. Your children will understand that your rules are not just mindless authority assertion but rather a carefully designed system to keep them safe and healthy.

Also read:
8 Ways to Help Your Child Overcome Bullying
Why Children Lie and What Parents Can Do to Prevent It
10 Techniques to Help Your Child Resist Peer Pressure
Father’s Role and Importance in Child Development

girl looking in mirror

8 Ways to Build a Positive and Healthy Body Image

Body image is a term that has gained significant importance in recent years, thanks to the recognition of its importance and role in an individual’s well-being. Body image refers to how a person views his/her physical appearance; it is a mental representation of how a person looks on the outside and how a person thinks or feels about this physical appearance. This perception is based partly on a person’s observation of self and partly on the reactions of others. In other words, our body image is formed not only by how we see ourselves on the outside, but it is also formed by how others react to our physical appearance. A lot of social factors such as media, culture, community, internet, etc. play a critical role in shaping our body image.  This body image can be positive or negative. A negative body has, however, been linked with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia, and poor overall well-being. A person with negative body image has often been found to resort to unhealthy measures or extreme steps to attain a more positive body image like, crash dieting, plastic surgery, etc.

At the same time, a person who has positive or high self-esteem has been empirically found to have a positive body image as well. As far as gender is considered, more women have been found to suffer from poor body image as compared to men. However, this trend is changing fast, as more men are becoming concerned about how they look.

Overall, following factors have been found to influence a person’s body image:

a. How he/she views his/her physical appearance. This perception can, however, be incorrect.

b. How he/she feels about this perception, referred to as the affective aspect of body image. Whether he/she is satisfied or not with his/her physical appearance.

c. The behavioral aspect of body image which involves the behavior that one engages in as result of his/her body image.

d. And lastly, the cognitive aspect of body image which includes how one thinks about his/her body image. This may involve preoccupation with one’s physical appearance or one aspect of it.

Having negative body image can be a cause of major distress to a person and can greatly affect his or her overall well-being. In present times of social media, we are frequently and sometimes indirectly, bombarded with images of beauty standards which constantly and continuously shape our notion of ideal beauty, and unfortunately, give rise to insecurities. However, the suggestions given in this post can help you keep all the insecurities at bay and build a positive and healthy body image.

1. Positive self-esteem: As mentioned earlier, people with negative body image suffer from low self-esteem. At the same time, it has been found that, people who have positive or high self-esteem tend to have positive body image. So if you feel dissatisfied with your body image, you probably need to boost your self-esteem. This works in two ways. Low self-esteem can lead to negative body image and negative body image can lower your self-esteem. So in either situation, building a positive self-esteem can help you build a positive body image. When you value yourself highly, you are less likely to view your physical appearance in a negative light.

2. Find healthy role models: We are greatly influenced by the public appearance of stars or celebrities. We follow them on their instagram or facebook. We often find them perfect and flawless and start comparing ourselves with them. In doing so, we forget that what we are looking at is perhaps the result of long hours of makeup session, photoshop, and lighting, etc.

Alas we have been taught throughout history that “fair is beautiful.” And we often tend to feel inadequate or less worthy if we are not fair or have dark complexion. This has a detrimental effect on the body image. If you too feel that way, it is time to find such role models who can give a boost to your self-esteem. Celebrity tennis player Serena Williams is a good example of an achiever whose body color could not stop her from attaining great success.

3. Stop comparing: You are you and that is your power. In order to build positive body image, you need to stop comparing yourself with others. Accept yourself. Unreasonable comparison leads to disappointment. You need to understand that each of us is different, and this difference is what makes us unique. Start appreciating yourself.

4. Appreciate yourself: Remember, your body is your first home. Appreciate how your body helps you achieve your goals and dreams. Your body is doing a lot to help you move forward. If you feel you are overweight and you need to lose weight, then go ahead. But don’t do it just to impress others or you hate your body fat. Instead do it for yourself and for your body because it is healthy.

5. Accept yourself: When it comes to our body we need to understand that there are some things we cannot change while there are other things that we can surely work on to improve. For example, you cannot change your height, complexion, whereas if you are underweight or overweight, you can definitely do something about it. Attempting to change things that cannot be changed will only lead to disappointment and frustration, and will further deteriorate your body image. Accept yourself just the way you are.

6. Realistic expectations: It is important to set realistic expectation from ourselves, especially, for young children, who are blinded by popular figures in the entertainment industry. As mentioned earlier, there are certain things about our body over which we have no control and which we cannot change. So for a young teenager who wants to become a supermodel like his or her role model but is unfortunately not tall enough, having such an expectation can be unrealistic. And this can lead to poor body image.

7. Focus on your strengths: We all may not possess attributes of supermodels or movie stars like great figure, height, or flawless complexion, but we should never forget that we all have strengths of our own. And if we start focusing on our strengths instead of focusing on our weaknesses and the things we don’t possess, we all can become the best version of ourselves.

8. Take care of yourself: Eat healthy, get quality sleep, and love yourself. If you need to lose weight do it in a healthy way. Get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Isn’t it ironic that you tell every important person in your life how much you love him/her, and how much you care, but you seldom tell this to yourself? Next time when you see yourself in the mirror, don’t forget to say “I love you.” Once you start taking care of yourself and loving yourself, you can never feel or think bad about your own self.

Also read 8 Powerful Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem