In my years as a meditation teacher the question I have been asked more than any other is: “What are the best meditation techniques for concentration and focus?”
I’ve been asked this question by all sorts of people. Students want to know to how use meditation for concentration when studying. Business men and women want to know how to improve concentration 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 to improve concentration. Indeed you can use virtually any meditation for concentration. Probably the most universal benefits 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. The majority of methods do this. However, some are more effective than others.
That said, you might like to know what the very best meditations for concentration and focus are. So, let’s take a look.
The Best Meditations For Concentration And Focus
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 meditation techniques for concentration are found in the first group: focused attention. The reason why these are the best meditations for concentration is because 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 meditations for focus and concentration.
Use These Meditations To Improve Focus And Concentration
1. Nine Round Breathing
One of the best meditation techniques for 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.
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. Essentially, it does this by calming the mind. When the mind is calmd 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”).
This is a method in which a candle is used as an object of focus for the meditation.
How do Trataka (script):
1) Light a candle.
2) Sit comfortably with good posture.
3) 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.
4) 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.
5) Continue for 108 breaths.
This is an ancient Buddhist and yoga meditation for focus and concentration. 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.
3. Buddhist Meditations For Focus And Concentration
There are many different forms of Buddhist meditation that help with focus and concentration. Two of the best are Samatha and Vipassana.
Samath is arguably 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 simply let your thoughts and feelings pass by, without clinging to them, while you continue to focus on your meditation object.
Vipassana is a Buddhist meditation for concentration, focus and insight. It is one of the most popular methods in use today.
It is relatively easy to do this meditation. Concentrate on your breath. Close your eyes. Now when thoughts or feelings or external distractions come up, label them. This will stop you being distracted by various stimuli, ultimately helping you to focus.
Vipassana meditation technique for concentration (script)
1) Sit comfortably with good posture, lie down, or stand up (I prefer sitting but it is not important. Just make sure you are still and have good posture).
2) Focus on your breathing.
3) Observe your thoughts as they enter your mind. Do not fight your thoughts or cling to them, just observe them in a nonjudgmental fashion.
4) If you find that you are experiencing the same thought over and over, try this. Begin by observing 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 to increase concentration, simply take a break from what you are doing (studying, working, etc.), dim the lights and follow the script above. It will help to quickly give you a boost of concentration and focus.
4. Guided meditation to improve concentration
6. Alpha Meditation Technique
I personally consider this to be one of the best meditations for students for concentration. It is a method through which we enter “Alpha Mind State”. This is a state of mind in which we are relaxed but also focused. It is the perfect state of mind for focusing on studies. Here are the instructions for alpha method.
Mantra Meditations For Concentration
Mantras are spiritual words or phrases with special healing of augmentative properties. They are similar to spells or affirmations. And they are some of the best types of meditation for concentration and focus.
By spending ten minutes meditating on a mantra (chanting while focusing the mind on the sound) we can quickly improve concentration.
Try reciting a mantra, such as “Om”, and meditating on the sound. This will quickly focus your mind
Alternative 2: Mudra Concentration Meditation Techniques
Mudras are specific hand positions or body positions that are used in yoga and Buddhism.
Different mudras create different positive effects in the body and mind.
There is a particular type of mudra meditation for concentration: the Hakini mudra.
Combine this mudra with meditation to increase concentration even more
- 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 focussing 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.
Explaining The Link Between Meditation Techniques And Concentration
Now we have looked at how to increase concentration with meditation, you might be wondering just exactly why meditation increases concentration.
People have known for millennia that meditating improves your concentration. Buddha knew that thousands of years ago. But it wasn’t until recently that we learned the scientific reason why meditation improves concentration.
A recent study by the journal Psychological Science looked at the relationship between meditation and concentration. The researchers were interested in discovering why Buddhist monks who meditate have better concentration than virtually anyone else.
They took 60 enthusiasts to a meditation retreat, the Shambhala Mountain Center, where they would learn different types of concentratio meditation techniques. However, only half the group went right away. The other half had to wait three months in order to let the researcher’s test the different groups’ concentration at different times.
The researchers tested the concentration of each group before the retreats, after the first retreat, and at the end. The participants were asked to complete the boring task of clicking a mouse when a line on a computer changed color. Boring, no doubt. But a good way to test concentration.
The results showed that meditation improved concentration and focus level in both groups. You can read more about the link between meditation and concentration on TIME.
Just twenty minutes of meditation improves concentration
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 need 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 studying mindfulness have now shown that you don’t need to commit too much practice in order 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 has meditated improved concentration significantly more than the other group.
Concentration meditation techniques are more effective than alternatives
New research reported in Psychological Science has proven that there is nothing more effective than meditation for concentration.
Katherine MacLean of the University of California  recently researched how meditation increases focus. She was fascinated by the concentration levels of Zen monks. “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 affects of meditation on focus.
She took sixty participants and sent half of them on a three-month meditation retreat in Colorado. The other half were the control group.
After the three-month period 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.
Meditation improves focus and concentration by quieting the mind
So, we know that meditation increases productivity, but why?
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, Ph.D 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.
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 meditations 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 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 stabalise your focus.
Zen meditation appears to be one of the best meditations for conentration because it makes the ventral posteromedial cortex more stable. This is the part of the brain that creates mind-wandering. So by stabilsing this region you are made less prone to Monkey Mind.
Zen meditation stops you from thinking about things other than what you are doing, and thereby improves focus and concentration.
And that’s how to do meditation for concentration
It’s shocking that 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 on 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 an easier technique. For instance, you could try a guided meditation or listen to meditation music.
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.