In this tutorial, we will look at the best meditations for concentration and focus.
In my years as a meditation teacher, the question I have been asked more than any other is: “What are the best meditations for concentration and focus?”
All sorts of people have asked me this question. Students want to know to how use meditation for concentration when studying. Businessmen and businesswomen want to know how to improve focus at work. And pretty much everyone would like to know how to tune-out distractions.
The good news is that you can indeed use meditation for focus and concentration. Indeed you can use virtually any meditation for concentration and focus. Probably the universal benefit among the various methods of meditating is that they help us to focus. When you meditate, you exercise the “prefrontal cortex” and “parietal cortex”, which are the two parts of the brain responsible for concentration according to Adrienne Taren, MD, PhD, at the Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh. The majority of methods do this. However, some are more effective than others.
Let’s look at the very best types of meditation for focus and concentration.
6 Best Types Of Meditation For Concentration And Focus (With Scripts)
When it comes to using meditation to improve concentration, you need to understand the two different categories of meditation: focused-attention and open-awareness
“Focused attention” means that when we meditate, we focus on one thing. Conversely, “open awareness” means that we do not focus on one thing but instead open the mind to everything.
All the best types of meditations for concentration and focus are found in the first group: focused attention. The reason why these are the best meditations for concentration is that they literally involve us focusing on one thing. In other words, you are training yourself to do precisely the thing you want to do: focus.
So, with that in mind, let me show you the best types of meditation for focus and concentration.
1: Nine Round Breathing
One of the best meditation techniques for focus and concentration is Nine Round Breathing, which is also called Tibetan Pranayama.
You may have heard of alternative nostril breathing. This exercise is similar. It is a controlled breathing exercise in which we breathe in through one nostril and out through the other. Traditionally this is done in cycles of 108 breaths.
Here are the instructions:
- Close one nostril with a finger
- Inhale through the open nostril, using diaphragmatic breathing
- Release your finger from the closed nostril. Now close the other nostril. Breathe out through the nostril that is now open.
- Inhale through the same nostril you just exhaled through.
- Changing your finger so that the nostril that was open is now closed and vice versa
- Inhale through the open nostril
- Repeat for 108 breaths.
It is well known that we can increase concentration with breathing techniques, and this is one of the most effective ways to do it.
You might wonder how this meditation increases concentration. Mostly, it does this by calming the mind. When the mind is calm, we are more inwardly still and grounded. We are less reactive to external stimuli and thoughts. This makes us more able to focus on what we are doing.
2: Trataka (“Still Gazing”)
The next technique that we are going to look at is a candle meditation (Trataka, otherwise called “Stillness Gazing”). Technically it is one of the six purification methods or Shatkarmas of Hatha Yoga.This is a method in which a candle is used as an object of focus for meditation.
Here are the instructions:
- Light a candle.
- Sit comfortably with good posture.Look at the candle for a few moments. Study the candle’s form. Watch how the flame flickers and dances. Keep your gaze still (hence “stillness gazing”) and watch the candle as you take 25 breaths.
- Close your eyes and try to hold the image of the candle in your mind’s eye. If you lose the image at any time, open your eyes, look at the candle again and repeat.
- Continue for 108 breaths.
This is an ancient Buddhist and yoga meditation for concentration and focus. It works by focusing the mind on one thing: visualizing the candle. You will find that this technique silences all thoughts, creates a deep state of inner peace, and significantly improves your concentration.
Try this meditation when studying at home at night. When you lose concentration, move away from your homework for ten minutes. Turn off the lights and focus on a candle. Perform the exercise above. It will increase your focus so you can concentrate on studying.
Research from neuropsychologist Marcel Kinsbourne reveals a link between eyes movements and states of mind. Still eyes create a still mind. There is even a form of therapy called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) that is used to heal mental disorders.
3: Buddhist Meditations For Focus And Concentration
Concentration is a significant part of Buddhism. In Buddhism there is the concept of the four jhanas, which are trainings of the mind. As the monk evolves in their jhana training they deepen their concentration. Indeed, the Budhist texts the Abhidhamma and the Visuddhimagga describe jhana as development of concentration. Meditation is the primary tool used for this.
There are many different forms of Buddhist meditation for focus and concentration. Two of the best are Samatha and Vipassana.
*For scripts to these meditation techniques, refer to our main menu.
The Pali Canon describes Samatha as a one-pointed focus. It is arguable the very best meditation for concentration. It is a Buddhist method in which we focus the mind on one thing (for instance, you can focus on your breath, on the sound of water, or on anything you find relaxing). While focusing, you let your thoughts and feelings pass by, without clinging to them, while you continue to focus on your object.
Vipassana is a Buddhist meditation for concentration, focus and insight. It is one of the most popular methods in use today and is taught by famous meditation teachers like S. N. Goenka and Jack Kornfield.
It is relatively easy to do this exercise. Concentrate on your breath. Close your eyes. Now when thoughts or feelings or external distractions come up, label them. This will stop you from being distracted by various stimuli, ultimately helping you to focus.
Here are more detailed instructions:
- Sit comfortably with good posture, lie down, or stand up (I prefer sitting, but it is not essential. Just make sure you are still and have good posture).
- Focus on your breathing.
- Observe your thoughts as they enter your mind. Do not fight your thoughts or cling to them; just observe them in a nonjudgmental fashion.
- If you find that you are experiencing the same thought over and over, try this. Begin by watching the thought, then describe it: does the thought involve words? Do you see an image in your mind? Describe the thought. Now tell yourself that it is only a thought. Finally suggest an alternative thought.
Allow me to give an example of stage 4 to clarify.
Let’s say you always hear the words, “I’m not good enough” in your head. This thought is distracting you and stopping you from concentrating. To remove the thought, first, tell yourself what kind of thought it is. Say to yourself “This is just noise in my head.” Then tell yourself that the thought is not real; it is only a thought. Next, suggest an alternative thought such as “I am good enough.” Finally, return to focusing on your breathing.
To use this meditation for concentration and focus, simply take a break from what you are doing (studying, working, etc.), dim the lights and follow the script above. It will help to give you a boost of focus.
4: Guided meditation to improve concentration
There are many guided meditations for focus and concentration available on Youtube and on apps like Calm, Headspace, Insight Timer, and Synctuition. The following is one of my personal favourite guided meditations for concentration and focus.
Mantras are spiritual words or phrases with special healing or augmentative properties. They are similar to spells or affirmations. And they are some of the best types of meditation for concentration and focus. According to American Hindu teacher David Frawley in an article for The Chopra Center, “concentrated sounds project a single consistent sound vibration through which the mind can be easily concentrated”.
By spending ten minutes meditating on a mantra (chanting while focusing the mind on the sound), we can quickly regain control of the mind. Try reciting a mantra, such as “Om”, and meditating on the sound.
Mudras are specific hand positions or body positions that are used in yoga, Buddhism and Ayurveda. They are based on the accupressure points in the hands. Different mudras create different positive effects on the body and mind. According to Gertrud Hirschi, author of Mudras: Yoga In Your Hands, the best mudra for concentration is Hakini mudra.
Here are the instructions:
- Sit in a relaxed position and focus your mind on your breathing for a few moments to relax.
- Look at the palm of your hands. Now, while looking at the palm, make your thumb touch the area at the base of the inside of the little finger of the same hand.
- Make a fist by rolling the four fingers of your hand over your thumb. Now focus your mind on your breath coming and going through your nose.
- While holding this position and focusing on your breathing, repeat the sound Om. Pay attention to the sensation of the sound. Try to do seven Oms in one breath.
- Exhale and push your belly button towards the spine.
- Repeat this process for ten minutes.
Zazen is form of Zen meditation from Chan Buddhism. It is usually performed facing a wall and, unlike most meditations, the eyes remain open. We then focus on the breath in the way typical of mindful breathing. Research by Giuseppe Pagnoni [Associate Professor, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia] suggests that this is one of the best types of meditation for concentration and focus.
Explaining The Link Between Meditation, Concentration And Focus
Now we have looked at how to increase concentration with meditation, and you might be wondering just precisely why meditation increases concentration. For millennia, Buddhists have stated that meditation improves concentration, which they call dharana, and the same thing is stated in the Yoga Sutras. But why does it work?
A recent study by Katherine MacLean of the University of California, Davis and published in the journal Psychological Science looked at the relationship between meditation, concentration and focus . The researchers were interested in discovering why Buddhist monks who meditate have sharper minds than virtually anyone else.
The researchers took 60 enthusiasts to a retreat, the Shambhala Mountain Center, where they would learn different types of concentration meditation techniques. However, only half of the group went right away. The other half had to wait three months to let the researchers test the different groups’ focus at different times.
The researchers tested the focus of each group before the retreats, after the first retreat, and at the end. The participants were asked to complete the tedious task of clicking a mouse when a line on a computer changed colour. Boring, no doubt. But an excellent way to test concentration.
The results showed that meditation improved concentration and focus levels in both groups. You can read more about the link between meditation and concentration on TIME.
Just twenty minutes is all you need
Scientific research using neuroimaging technology has proven that meditation improves concentration and other areas of brain functioning. It was always assumed, however, that to acquire these benefits, a person needs to meditate for many years. Now we know that you can very quickly improve your concentration by meditating for a short time each day.
Psychologists Lena Wimmer et. al. at the Department of Psychology, University of Duisburg-Essen, have now shown that you don’t need to commit too much practice to glean the full benefits. A study group showed significant improvements in their cognitive abilities after merely four days of meditating for 20 minutes each day.
This research has amazed scientists, who until now believed that any significant change in cognitive abilities took many years to acquire.
In a study, 49 students were divided into two groups, one of which meditated while the other did not. Both before and after the tests, the students were tested extensively on their cognitive abilities. Though both groups had performed equally in the beginning, the group of students who had meditated improved concentration significantly more than the other group. 
More effective than alternatives
New research reported in Psychological Science has proven that there is possibly nothing more effective than meditation for concentration and focus.
Katherine MacLean of the University of California  recently researched how meditation increases focus. She was fascinated by the how good Zen monks are at concentrating. “You wonder if the mental skills, the calmness, the peace that monks express, if those things are a result of their very intensive training or if they were just very special people to begin with,” says MacLean.
To discover the truth, she decided to test the effects of meditation on focus. She took sixty participants and sent half of them on a three-month meditation retreat in Colorado. The other half was the control group.
After the three months, MacLean tested the participants’ ability to make visual distinctions. The participants were asked to watch a screen on which flashed a series of lines. The lines changed in length every so often, at which the participants were told to click the mouse.
The results of the test speak for themselves. Individuals who meditated had much higher levels of focus and concentration. After meditating, the participants were able to click on the mouse much quicker and much more accurately.
Quietens the mind
So, we know that there are big benefits of meditation for focus and concentration, but why does it work?
A new study in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that meditation increases concentration and focus by quieting brain activity related to mind-wandering. In the study, Giuseppe Pagnoni wanted to prove a theory of his. He believed that meditation improves focus and concentration as well as strengthening other cognitive abilities.
To prove his theory, Pagnoni recruited twelve Zen monks who had been meditating for many years.
Writing for LiveScience, Charles Choi says , “The Zen monks had their brains scanned while they focused on their breathing. Occasionally, they were asked to distinguish a real word from a nonsense word displayed at random times on a computer screen and, having done that, promptly try and focus on their breathing again.”
The results of this group were compared to a group of people who had never meditated but were similar in age and education. The participants were then studied via MRI.
The results showed, as Josua Gowin, PhD states, that, “Meditators have more stability in their ventral posteromedial cortex, a region linked to spontaneous thoughts and mind-wandering.”
Most people’s vPMC is always active. Even when people try to relax, their vPMC is always running in the background.
Pagnoni thought and proved that what separates mediators from non-meditators is the control they have over this region of the brain. This explains how meditation improves concentration: It reduces mind-wandering, or what Buddhists call the “Monkey Mind”.
Pagnoni then decided to test the participants using a rapid visual information processing task. To do this, he had the participants look at a monitor while numbers rapidly flashed on and off at a rate of 100 per minute. The numbers were in random order, and the participants were asked to press a button every time a specific sequence of numbers appeared. Hitting the button at the wrong time led to a warning.
Those participants who had meditated had improved concentration and were thereby more successful in the test. Their results contained more correct button-presses and less false ones.
The meditators were taught a specific type of meditation: Zen meditation, which the test suggests is one of the best meditation techniques for concentration.
Zen meditation involves sitting in the Lotus position while focusing the mind on breathing. Sitting and focusing the mind for twenty minutes, as in Zen meditation, clears the mind of thoughts and helps you to stabilise your focus.
Zen meditation appears to be one of the best meditations for concentration because it makes the ventral posteromedial cortex more stable. This is the part of the brain that creates mind-wandering. So by stabilising this region, you are made less prone to Monkey Mind.
Shockingly, the average person has an attention span of only 8 seconds. But thankfully there are lots of ways you can improve concentration. Meditation is one of the best ways. Just use the above concentration meditation techniques once a day, and you will increase your ability to focus, whether on studies, on office work, or anything else.
How can I concentrate while meditating?
So, we know that meditation improves focus. But what if you cannot focus enough to meditate? If you struggle to concentrate while meditating, it is best to try a more accessible technique. For instance, you could try a guided meditation or listen to meditation music. Alternatively, try counting your breaths.
How else can I improve my concentration and focus?
Of courses, there are more ways to improve your concentration than by just meditating. Exercise helps too. Particularly yoga and tai chi. And changing your environment, such as by clearing your room or listening to meditation music can help too.
What are the benefits of meditation for students?
The main benefit of meditation for students is concentration. It helps you focus on studies. But it has other benefits for students too. It increases creativity and cognitive functioning and also boosts your confidence at school or university.
What is the difference between meditation and concentration?
Concentration and meditation are similar in many ways. Both involve focusing on one thing. Concentration, however, is generally forced. It implies effort. We concentrate through distractions. Meditation, on the other hand, is an effortless exercise in which we rest our awareness on the subject.
I would love to hear how you get on with this. Leave a comment and remember to subscribe to our newsletter.
1: Mindfulness Meditation Training and Executive Control Network Resting State Functional Connectivity: A Randomized Controlled Trial, Adrienne A. Taren, MD, PhD, Center for Neuroscience, University of Pittsburgh
2: Losing Focus? Studies Say Meditation May Help, John Cloud, http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,2008914,00.html
3: Cognitive Effects of Mindfulness Training: Results of a Pilot Study Based on a Theory Driven Approach Lena Wimmer,* Silja Bellingrath, and Lisa von Stockhausen Department of Psychology, University of Duisburg-Essen, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4940413/
4: Meditation helps increase attention span, Association for Psychological Science https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100714121737.htm