Thinking clearly can sometimes be a very challenging thing, even more difficult when you are tired, stressed, or overwhelmed. If you can't concentrate or feel pressured, take time to relax, calm your mind, and deal with distractions. In the long run, maintaining physical and brain health allows you to think clearly and control your thoughts. Try to avoid distractions and stick to a consistent daily schedule. In addition, make it a habit to think critically to maintain sharpness of thinking and sharpen the brain to increase mental strength.
Method 1 of 4: Clearing Your Mind When Needed
Step 1. Breathe deeply
Once you're feeling anxious, distracted, or having trouble concentrating, pause what you're doing to take deep, calm, regular breaths. Inhale through your nose and then exhale slowly through your mouth or nose.
- If possible, find a quiet and comfortable place to do this step. Sit or lie down with your eyes closed and focus your mind on the sensations you feel when you breathe.
- Breathing deeply helps circulate more oxygen to the brain. Next, the brain sends signals through nerves throughout the body to relax again. As a result, the active mind becomes calm so that it is easier for you to focus.
Step 2. Meet physical needs as best you can
Physical discomfort makes it difficult for you to concentrate and think clearly. Take time to observe how you feel. While closing your eyes, observe any physical sensations that arise and then do something to make you feel more comfortable, for example:
- If you feel hungry, take a break and have a nutritious snack.
- If your muscles feel tight, do some light stretching.
- If you're cold, turn up the AC temperature or put on a sweater.
Step 3. Move to a quiet place if needed
Listen to various sounds around you. Noise (such as people talking, television shows, songs from the radio, or the sound of vehicles) can trigger stress and make it difficult for you to focus. As much as possible, find a quiet place where you can focus your thoughts.
Other ways to reduce noise include closing windows or doors to keep outside noises from being heard, turning on a fan or white noise, or listening to music using headphones
Step 4. Create a to-do list
By keeping track of all the activities that need to be completed, you will be able to focus your mind and develop a good work plan. Determine the steps that must be taken to complete each task and take notes. If you have trouble focusing because of the many activities throughout the day, make a list for each one.
- In addition to helping you focus your thoughts and actions, a to-do list frees your mind from unfinished activities so that you are unburdened and can focus on what you are doing.
- Make a to-do list that is specific and realistic. Instead of writing down a tough task that you don't know where to start, such as "tidying the house," write down specific, easy-to-reach goals, such as "washing the dishes" or "mopping the living room."
- List the most important or urgent tasks on the top row.
Step 5. Write down what you think and feel
If you feel stressed or keep thinking too much, your thinking process will be disrupted, making it difficult for you to think clearly. Take a few minutes to write down everything you think and feel in a journal, computer document, or piece of paper. This will make you feel relieved and able to understand what you are thinking and feeling.
- Writing down what you're thinking helps you identify the things that make you worry or stress. In addition, you can take advantage of this opportunity to calm your mind.
- Even if it's not completely resolved, you can reduce the burden on your mind by keeping a journal so you can concentrate on completing tasks.
Method 2 of 4: Applying a Healthy Lifestyle
Step 1. Get in the habit of getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night for adults or 8-10 hours for teenagers
Make sure you get a good night's sleep so that your thinking skills stay primed. You will stay awake and able to focus if your sleep needs are met. In addition, during a night's sleep, the brain synthesizes the information it receives throughout the day. Thus, getting a good night's sleep helps you learn and remember things more effectively. Take the following steps to improve sleep quality.
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Determine a schedule for sleeping at night and getting up in the morning and then applying it every day.
- Sleep in a dark, quiet, and comfortable room.
- Do not take caffeine or other stimulants 3-4 hours before bedtime.
- Turn off electronic devices (TV, computer, tablet, or cell phone) at least 1 hour before bedtime.
- Set aside at least hour to relax before going to bed at night, such as taking a warm shower or bath, stretching your muscles, or reading a book that calms your mind.
Step 2. Eat foods that nourish the brain
Choose foods that are varied, contain lots of healthy fats, green vegetables, rich in beneficial fiber, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates. Apart from being a source of energy to keep you awake, nutrients are beneficial for maintaining health and making the brain function properly. Therefore, consume nutritious foods, for example:
- Fatty fish, such as salmon and trout.
- Nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, almonds, flax, or chia seeds.
- Vegetables, such as leafy greens, legumes (beans and beans), vegetables of various colors (carrots, radishes, and beets).
- Fruits, such as apples (eaten with the skin), various berries, and oranges.
- Healthy carbohydrates, such as those found in brown rice, quinoa, and whole-grain breads.
Step 3. Consume caffeine in moderation
Drinking tea or coffee with a small amount of caffeine at breakfast will keep you awake and more focused. In certain amounts, caffeine is beneficial for the brain. If you take too much, caffeine triggers feelings of restlessness and anxiety that make it difficult for you to focus and think clearly. Also, you can't sleep well at night.
Many people can't think straight after drinking 6 cups of coffee, but people who are sensitive to caffeine feel uncomfortable just drinking a cup of coffee. Therefore, find out the maximum limit according to your body condition and do not consume excessive caffeine
Step 4. Get in the habit of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week
Choose an exercise that gets your body moving enough to make you sweat or breathe a little faster, such as walking rather briskly for hour 5 days a week. This exercise helps you think clearly because it stimulates blood flow to the brain, improves memory skills, and reduces stress and anxiety.
- You can do other sports, such as swimming, cycling, dancing, playing tennis, or soccer. Doing household chores that make you sweat is also beneficial, such as mowing the lawn or mopping the floor.
- If you've never exercised before, work your way up to your 150-minute/week goal gradually. Start exercising by walking 5-10 minutes a day and then extending the time to 5-10 minutes each week.
- You can think clearly and feel more energized even if you exercise for just a few minutes a day every few days.
Method 3 of 4: Maintaining Focus and Implementing a Schedule
Step 1. Use an agenda or app to manage your time well
You can choose an agenda in the form of a book or an application, such as Clear or Google Calendar to schedule your daily activities. Very busy conditions due to unfinished tasks and piled up responsibilities make it difficult for you to think calmly. Having a work schedule and action plan for completing tasks one by one helps you think more clearly and be stress free.
- In addition to setting aside time to do certain tasks (such as studying or paying bills), make sure you fulfill scheduled responsibilities (such as working in an office or studying at school).
- Don't forget to set aside some time for fun! Scheduling time to relax or enjoy entertainment also helps relieve stress so you can think clearly. Even if it's only 15 minutes a day, this activity is still beneficial.
Step 2. Break a challenging task down into easy steps
When faced with a difficult and confusing task, break it down into steps as intermediate goals. Instead of wanting to complete a tough task all at once, you'll be more focused and better understand what to do if the task is broken down into a few easy-to-do steps.
For example, when facing an English exam, there is not much to remember if you force yourself to memorize the last 3 chapters of the lesson at once. Start learning by memorizing a specific topic, such as the second form of verbs
Step 3. Limit the use of electronic devices
To be able to focus while completing a task that requires a lot of thinking, turn off your phone and don't be tempted to access the internet. The distraction will interrupt your thought process so you can't concentrate.
- If you're having trouble avoiding distracting websites, use an app to temporarily block them, such as Freedom.
- Also turn off the cellphone notification ring if it feels annoying.
Step 4. Do the activity in a quiet and comfortable place
Find a place to work that is comfortable and free from distractions, for example from the noise of people chatting, the sound of loud music, or car horns. Choose a bright place that is neither too hot nor too cold. It's hard to think clearly if you feel uncomfortable and distracted.
- If you live or work with someone else, let them know if you don't want to be disturbed so you can concentrate.
- If distracting sounds can't be removed, wear earplugs, soundproof headphones, or listen to quiet music.
- Keeping the workplace neat and clean makes the mind more focused and not easily distracted.
Step 5. Rest for 20 minutes each time you work 1½-2 hours
Don't force yourself to work too long without resting. This makes the mind easily distracted and slows down the work process. To keep your mind primed and clear, take a break every 2 hours to work to restore your brain and body.
Take time off to stretch your leg muscles, eat a nutritious snack, or take a nap
Step 6. Use active relaxation techniques
While taking a break at work or thinking about a task that needs to be done, visualize a pleasant atmosphere. Imagine that you are lying on the beach or sitting in a boat in the middle of a calm lake. Observe the sights, sounds, smells, and any sensations you experience during your imagination, such as feeling the cold breeze on your skin or hearing the sound of leaves blowing in the wind.
This technique makes you feel very relaxed as you continue to think. After your mental break ends, it's easier for you to think clearly and concentrate on work
Method 4 of 4: Increasing Mental Strength
Step 1. Learn to express your thoughts clearly and concisely
The mind can be trained so that it can process information more clearly and more efficiently by editing what is said, written, and mentally thought. Eliminate insertions, repetitions, and ambiguous words or phrases. Paraphrase your thoughts as clearly and concretely as possible.
- For example, when writing an essay, use short, easy-to-understand sentences. Instead of writing, "In this paper, I argue that you can maximize your cognitive and neurological abilities by eating a healthy diet that is rich in nutrients," you might as well write, "Eating nutritious foods improves brain function."
- The same goes for the things you read or hear. For example, after reading a paragraph while reading a book, take the time to mentally edit it into 1-2 sentences that convey the essence of the paragraph.
Step 2. Observe a certain object for 5 minutes and then write down your thoughts about it
Decide what object you want to observe and then pay close attention for a few minutes. Then, set aside approximately 10 minutes to record the observations that come to mind. In addition to improving your ability to observe, this step will get you used to thinking and expressing the objects you observe with a clear mind.
- First, record concrete observations, such as how many centimeters the object is, its color, and its texture.
- Then, write down the things that come to mind when you look at the object. Did you remember something? Are there certain feelings? What benefit do you derive from this observation?
Step 3. Question your beliefs and assumptions
Take time to reflect on how you think, feel, and react to things. Ask yourself the critical question, "Where did this thought or belief come from? Can I prove it to be true?" or "Why do I feel or react this way?" Thinking critically about the triggers for your thoughts and feelings allows you to understand yourself and be able to think clearly.
For example, you assume that you will not be a good tennis player because you believe that you are not talented at being an athlete. Ask yourself where the idea that you're "not good at being an athlete" comes from. Is it because someone said it to you? Did you experience anything while playing tennis? Did the experience change you or your life?
Step 4. Consider information from others critically
In addition to questioning your own beliefs and assumptions, make sure you are critical when getting information from a variety of sources. Before accepting information that you read or see in newspapers/internet or hear it from others including from sources that appear to be authoritative, consider the following:
- Does the information make sense?
- Do sources of information provide supporting evidence?
- Are there other reliable sources to support this information?
- Do the sources of information use assumptions or prejudices?
Step 5. Challenge yourself by learning new things
Setting aside time to do new things is very beneficial for sharpening the brain and building mental strength. Leave your comfort zone to do new things, for example:
- Take a course on a subject you've never studied.
- Explore a new hobby, such as painting, sculpting, or writing articles.
- Challenge yourself by repairing a building or house following a DIY guide.
- Learn a foreign language that you are not yet fluent in.
- Play a new game or practice a new game sport.