Negative thoughts are quite common and everybody has some negative thoughts every now and then. Trying to get rid of negative thoughts completely would be an unrealistic expectation.

Here are a few things to know about negative thoughts:
1. We have a bias for negativity. It means that we tend to notice negative things more than positive ones.
2. Negative thinking has an evolutionary utility. It made our survival more probable.
3. It’s okay to have negative thoughts. Instead of trying to get rid of them, we must learn to manage our thoughts, feelings and emotions.
4. Negative thoughts can be a symptom of mental health conditions such as OCD, depression and anxiety. Also, during difficult times, there can be an increased presence of such thoughts which can be overwhelming. If it’s getting difficult to manage them on your own, consider seeking professional help.

When it comes to focusing on studying or work, there are a number of techniques and practices that can be very helpful:

Have a dedicated study space
Have a space dedicated only to study. It could be a desk, a study table, a table and chair which you can comfortable sit on for a prolonged duration. Use this space only for studying and for no other activity. Treat this space as a sacred. When you sit in this space, focus only on studies and don’t think about anything else. If you do want to think about something or maybe check your phone, get up, move away from this space and then do it. Practice this for a while and soon, this space will be associated with focused study time in your mind. When that happens, as soon as you enter this space, you will find being able to better focus on your studies.

Pomodoro technique
Sitting and studying for too long is not very effective. It’s difficult to maintain sustained attention for a prolonged duration. Taking a short break after a while can help one focus better. A much better way than sitting for hours together is to have 25 minutes sessions with a break of 5 minutes between two sessions. Once you have completed 4 such 25 minute sessions, take a longer break of 30 minutes. This way you give your brain sufficient rest to function optimally.

Eliminate distractions
Instead of trying to use willpower to deal with distractions, it’s much more effective to completely eliminate them – at least for the duration you study. Make it a practice to keep your phone and other devices away while studying. You can also request to be left alone. Or you can go to a place where you won’t find any disturbances like a library or a reading room.

Sleep well
Lack of proper sleep leads to a decline in attention and concentration abilities. People who haven’t sleep well have higher reaction time, are inattentive and respond poorly to environmental signals. It makes it difficult for them to take in new information. Sleeping and resting well is important for not only physical but mental and emotional health as well. Make sure that you keep your devices away at least 30 minutes before bedtime to improve your sleep quality.

Research shows that exercise can boost levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin in brain which affect focus and attention. Regular exercise releases key chemicals for memory, mental sharpness and concentration. Also, physical movement helps relieve tension in the body and relaxes the muscles. One’s performance in cognitive tasks like reading and comprehension improves for those who do some form of exercise or sports.

Meditation and mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness practices are linked with better mental health and focus. They help in calming our brain and relaxing our bodies. A common and simple meditation practice is to be aware of our breath as it comes in and goes out. This can help us in not getting distracted by our thoughts and in building better concentration. With practice, whenever we get distracted, we can use our breath to bring ourselves back into a state of being aware and attentive.

Eat well
Our diet is not only responsible for the health of our physical body but also helps in maintaining optimal energy levels and alertness of mind. By choosing foods that provide our bodies and brain good nutrition, we are creating the best possible system to maintain focus and attention on what we need to do. Overeating and under-eating can also be a factor in decreased ability to concentrate. Having a balanced diet and eating moderately is highly recommended.

By the way, I am offering pro-bono counselling sessions under supervision. If you (or someone you know) need mental health support, please get in touch with me using this link: Intake form