While some people (i.e, parents) might view gaming as mind-numbing, science has actually found that video-gaming helps improve mental acuity and focus. A study published in February 2018 indicated that gaming for even just one hour a day boosted individuals’ visual selective attention. This research came after a 2017 study also reporting potential benefits to attention, visuospatial skills and cognitive control in gamers.
And while all that is fantastic news, it doesn’t mean that we’re still not prone to distraction during gaming—so many texts! Emails! Likes! DMs! There is still plenty of room for improving our focus, and undoubtedly, when we focus better we win more. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of eight techniques to help you do just that.
1. Exercise early.
We all know exercise is good for many reasons and many things. We’ve written previously about how important it is for gamers to exercise to make sure you’re keeping your body healthy outside of the multiple seated hours that gaming entails. But another reason to exercise is that it does, in fact, help with cognitive function and focus too. Individuals who exercise show increased levels of concentration and higher capacities to level their attention for two to three hours after exercising than those who do not exercise at all. Getting in a workout before you settle in for a gaming session will increase your focus, brainpower and motivation throughout play.
The endorphins from exercise also function as priority-honing chemicals. After exercise, your brain can more clearly determine what you need to do (strategy) versus what you don’t (reaction). In gaming, it is that combination of strategy and reaction that produces the most wins!
2. Practice meditation and deep breathing.
Meditation is all the rage these days, and you know why? It helps tune out the exact distractions and demands on our attention that keep us from being able to focus. Studies have shown that even a short meditation or deep-breathing practice can help calm the mind, increase neural function and improve our monitoring of internal and external stimuli. It also helps reduce blood pressure and lessen our fight-or-flight response, both of which can easily grow or get triggered while gaming.
3. Increase your exposure to natural daylight.
You may not think it would make much of a difference, but research tells us that people who work in natural light or get outside for some sunshine earlier in the day tend to have more energy and be more alert in the evening than those who don’t. Considering that for most of us gaming happens at night, we’d be wise to heed the research experts’ advice and get ourselves in natural light during the daytime so we can be sharper for our gaming later on.
4. Eliminate distractions before you play.
Our electronic devices cause the bulk of distractions these days, and even just having them next to you or on display nearby can pull your focus and attention away from the game. To stay fully tuned in, either turn off or silence all phones and devices, and move them out of your line of sight. Because as they say: out of sight, out of mind.
It’s also a good idea to eliminate body-related distractions. Have you eaten enough? Are your contacts dry? Do your glasses have smudges that should be cleaned beforehand? Any of those things could distract you from the game, so make sure to take care of each of them before you begin.
5. Take breaks.
For your physical health alone, you should take at least a 5-minute break for every hour of play. But breaks are also important for your eyes and your brain. It can overwhelm our senses and neurons to be so locked into such a visually complex display for long periods, which will only tire you out and increase the likelihood of attention fatigue. Looking away and moving around every so often refreshes our senses and brainwaves so we can get back to playing in top form.
6. Have a little caffeine.
Caffeine has been proven to enhance our attention and boost our executive control. So whether that’s coffee or tea or some caffeine-theanine supplements, a little caffeine might help your brain filter out the other noise while you play and keep you energized. But be sure not to have too much, and limit caffeinated drinks especially at night as that will disrupt sleep for most of us.
7. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.
Drinking 6-8 glasses a day of water is the best way to keep the body healthy and the mind sharp. Your body needs to stay hydrated in order to maintain speedy reflexes, muscle control, and quick thinking.
8. Stick with healthy habits.
Overall, our bodies and minds work better when we keep up healthy habits. Our ability to focus falls right in that line. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep because, without it, your brain cannot function or concentrate at an optimal level. Even worse, you risk falling asleep at the wheel (or console, so to speak). Additionally, drinking enough water and eating healthily will keep your body’s systems in balance. A balanced diet helps out the brain’s neurotransmitters to function smoothly. This aids with focus, concentration, memory, reflexes, digestion, strategic thinking—basically everything.
Some techniques will work better for you than others, and what works best for you might be different than what works best for someone else. Find whatever helps you the most and stick to that. Find your focus for the win.