One of the most frustrating symptoms of depression is its ability to mess with your ability to concentrate. Even now, as I write this blog, my mind is flitting from thought to thought, topic to topic, and then to almost empty, blank.
Sometimes, an inability to concentrate can be blamed on tangible distractions: family (spouse, kids, siblings, elderly parents), television, the internet, smartphone (and the endless number of social media sites, games, etc.), online gaming, traffic, pets, chores, work, and friends. Sometimes, it’s the intangible distractions – where your brain chemistry inhibits your ability to focus. You could be in an empty room with zero tangible distractions and still, you can’t concentrate.
Inability to concentrate on the task at hand breeds procrastination and/or listlessness. Nothing gets accomplished, we begin to feel guilty and useless, and the depression vortex pulls us further in.
For me, when I’m falling into a depression dip, my ability to concentrate is one of the first things to go. It’s subliminal, at first – I forget what I was about to do, I can’t seem to get through a page in my book, I lose track of what I was talking about. Then, it progresses to where I lose track of where I am when I’m driving, my productivity at work takes a dive, and I get twitchy and easily bored of what I’m doing.
I wish I could say I have an easy technique to help with this. The truth is, I don’t. Regaining the ability to concentrate takes concentration – which then makes it almost impossible to achieve.
Three Things to Increase Your Ability to Concentrate
- Read. Whether it’s a magazine, comic book, novel, cookbook, TV Guide or blog -read! Test yourself frequently while you’re reading: did I comprehend the page/article/recipe I just read? Make sure you can answer “yes” before you continue.
- Gardening. This is a tricky one for someone (like me) who lives in a place that experiences snowy winters. Still, for at least six months out of the year, I can get out to my garden and concentrate on planting, weeding, watering, and fertilizing. It takes minimal concentration and is hugely relaxing. There’s something about getting your hands dirty that’s very appealing – becoming one with the earth and all that other philosophical stuff.
- Gaming. I’m a terrible gamer, generally speaking. But there is one online game that I play on my smartphone that requires some strategy, an ability to recognize patterns and sometimes, the need to beat the clock.
Understand, I do all these things on a regular basis anyway. The point is that I have a plan, a set of goals/tasks, that I specifically undertake for when depression messes with my ability to concentrate.