How to concentrate on studying without getting distracted

Ashok asks…

“I am a 22 year old student and am sick of my uncontrollable thoughts. My main problem is I can’t concentrate on my study matter. When I try to study I just sink into another world of imagination. After a few minutes I start thinking about college, family, my aims, girls.

I am highly sensitive. Others enjoy themselves, have fun and also study hard but I can’t do any of those things so easily. For every action I think about pros and cons. While talking with friends I try not to hurt anyone and I get too attracted towards girls. If I like someone I can just think about her, for whole days to months.

Please help me in getting rid of useless thoughts of hero imagination, girls, judging others behavior, of living a luxurious life, becoming popular etc. I just want to study, get high scores and be successful in my life.”

© Mer Chau
© Mer Chau

What is success?

First of all, I want you to relax about any ideas you have of being “successful.”

There’s a lot of pressure these days from parents and teachers to get qualifications and well-paid jobs. I understand this from a parent’s perspective.

Apart from notions of “success” they also worry that their child will live a life of financial struggle, and feel unfulfilled, by only being able to get low-paid, “menial” jobs. The common perception is that jobs like sweeping the streets or serving food represents failure.

The reality is that many high earners are in positions of great responsibility and their day is usually unhealthy and stressful. These jobs are often sedentary and demanding — people to manage, targets to hit, deadlines to meet. Stress, fast lunches and unhealthy snacks, a sedentary indoor lifestyle — these things are conducive to poor health and unhappiness.

I read recently that gardeners are happier than any other profession. I wasn’t at all surprised: outdoor, active lifestyle, sunshine, connection to nature, no stress, no “taking your work home with you”… these things are conducive to health and happiness. It’s important not to confuse the normal perception of “success” with happiness. If you’re happy, you’re successful :-)

Never have to work a day…

In terms of your career, it’s definitely worth questioning what you’re aiming for and why. If it’s a general sense of “success” and status, I would think again.

Ask yourself what you would truly love to spend most of your days doing. If you can make a living doing that, you will never have to work a day in your life :-) I wish someone had told me that when I was younger.

So there’s nothing wrong with aiming for high grades and qualifications, if that’s your goal and you’re doing it for the right reasons. But I don’t want you to feel your entire future happiness depends on it. Happiness and financial success/status are two different things.

I suspect part of your difficulty in studying is down to the pressure you’re feeling to “succeed” and “achieve.” So I hope I’ve helped on that score. Approach your study in a nice, systemised, relaxed way. You don’t want to live in a permanent of state of low-level stress, which unfortunately many people do these days.

Now, be sure to look after yourself physically, emotionally and mentally. Everything affects everything else…

Sleep well

Get to bed at the proper time. Be honest with yourself, you’ll know how much sleep you need to wake up feeling refreshed and ready for the day.

Ignore any social ideas that going without sleep is somehow cool or makes you a man. It’s vital for a sharp mind and a healthy body. During sleep is when your body does some vital housekeeping and it needs a full cycle to do it properly.

Eat and drink the right stuff

Eat healthy, natural, human, food. You’ll feel better and your brain will be sharper and less prone to distraction.

There are plenty of pitfalls to avoid when it comes to food, so follow the Happy Guide diet to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need and in the right balance. By following that diet, you’ll also avoid problem foods like grains, which can cause your brain to feel foggy, amongst other problems.

Be free from drugs

There’s the obvious “recreational” ones of course, but also, try not to rely on stimulants like tea and coffee. They may sharpen your focus in the short-term but they’re not healthy (think: flogging a dead horse) and they disrupt your natural sleep rhythm, which as mentioned above, is vital for feeling good and concentrating effectively.


Get out for a walk, or do sports, every day. We’re evolved to move. When we don’t, we suffer. The benefits of exercise, and the problems a lack of it causes, are too numerous to list here. Bottom line: get out there in the fresh air and sunlight :-)

Get organized

Exams and study can be stressful enough without adding to it yourself. Start two lists: One off actions and Regular actions.

Everything in your life that you need to do and remember goes on one of those lists. Get it out of your head and into a system. How can we expect to concentrate on study when our brains are awash with worries about things left undone?

Live in the moment

Start a daily meditation habit — even just 5 or 10 minutes a day can make a world of difference. Over time, meditation brings sanity to your world. Instead of living through (and identifying with) an endless stream of thoughts, your mind becomes clear and still.

You become aware and can then use your mind clearly and sharply, as a tool. It’s a wonderful state to live in — to never again be dragged along by thoughts and ideas that aren’t you. Here’s the simple method for meditating, it’s all you need…

How to start meditating

You want to live in this state of “listening,” of awareness, as much as you can. Then, you are not only more aware of thoughts as they pop, but are also more able to control your attention. In time, you will simply always be focused on what you’re doing with a quiet mind. Then, when a thought pops in isolation, you can simply choose to give it attention or ignore it.

Bottom line

Look after yourself using the 6 lifestyle elements I’ve mentioned above, and also question any ideas of success that may be putting pressure on you. Remember: many people have chased money and status their whole life, only to regret it. Nobody ever said on their death bed: “I wish I’d spent more time at work.”

Being happy is all we want, and it has just two big causes: health and peace of mind. When you have those two things, your life circumstances, your status, your wealth, become unimportant. In fact you begin to see that chasing them is only a distraction from what truly makes us happy.

Free chapter

Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.

Read Chapter 1 “The Happiness Secret”
Or get the paperback…

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