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Blog - Herbalism for Focus and Mental Clarity

Our modern environments are filled with a lot of noise.

There is no doubt that our lives are more fast paced than they have ever been before, and most of us live each day in a society where there are just so many things vying for our attention. While there is no arguing that technology has made a lot of things easier for us in our modern experience compared to those of generations before us, there is also no arguing that this comes with significantly more distractions. At the click of a button or a simple swiping of a screen, we are able to navigate infinite worlds and have an incredible abundance of information available to us within seconds. We find ourselves living in an increasingly virtual world where it feels like we are almost having a parallel experience at the same time, one foot in the physical, and one in the digital.

Humans are incredibly adaptable, however. With increased information often comes increased innovation, and we have witnessed in recent history incredible advancements in such things as medicine, technology, science, and discovery. We also find ourselves more productive than ever, able to complete tasks more efficiently than ever before, and more quickly than ever before.

And yet, while there are positives to this, we also often find ourselves feeling overwhelmed by it all. Our culture is trending in a direction where we hold in high regard the concept of “multi-tasking,” especially since the COVID-19 Pandemic, when so much of the workforce has shifted to being remote. It is almost a silent agreement that we be keeping on top of emails while keeping one ear listening in to a virtual meeting, while checking off our daily to-do list – all at the same time.

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

Typically on average, most peoples’ minds wander during a typical task after about 14 minutes – and this is increasingly a challenge to avoid when so much of our environment is actively working to distract us. We also experience a world where algorithms are put into place that constantly seek to compete for your attention. Using the power of understanding one’s behavior and preferences, they work to provide our brain with rewards and serotonin by showing us things we have interest in on our feeds to keep us wanting to return to using particular platforms or applications. Not to mention having devices with a consistent influx of notifications, pinging and vibrating to keep our focus coming back again and again.

According to Alis Behavioral Health, research has shown that the average human attention span in the last 20 years has decreased from 12 seconds to 8 seconds.

While maintaining mindfulness, focus, and presence is undoubtedly a challenge in today’s modern situation, we can turn to the guidance and rhythms of nature to help us find grounding. Despite the fact it may seem like we are far removed from our ancient human ancestors, our biology actually remains incredibly similar to theirs, and that longing we so often feel for slowing down, simplifying, and returning to center is actually simply a part of our human condition!

 

Plant Allies for Mental Clarity and Focus

Allowing ourselves some space from the noise and instead allowing ourselves to be embraced by nature can help support our overall mindfulness. The natural world runs at “Earth-pace,” a vibrational and energetic frequency where the present moment is what is prioritized the most. This pace is slow, consistent, and nourishing to our nervous system. It is the very rhythm that pulses in our bodies, and is understood by our DNA. The herbal allies support our reconnection to Earth-pace, working with us on a physical, spiritual, and energetic level to help us connect with our intention of mindfulness and clarity.

Nervous System Tonics

These are herbs that support the restoration of the nervous system. In addition to environmental factors that fragment our attention, the fast paced nature of our society also adds to chronic stress we may experience. Since our biology is so similar to that of our ancient ancestors, we still very much have a primal response to stressors in our environment. Previously we would have relied on “fight or flight” responses in situations  such as run-ins with predators as ancient human beings. We would have had a surge of adrenaline and cortisol in response to whatever stressor we came in contact with, but once the stressor was no longer an issue, our nervous system would have regulated itself. While predators are no longer something we tend to experience, we still regularly experience modern stressors. Instead our stressors are now things like work deadlines looming over us, but yet our brain can’t necessarily tell the difference from a stressor like this to one that is life-threatening. We find ourselves in prolonged periods of stress as a result, which can leave our nervous system feeling frayed over time. We can help to tend to our nervous system by utilizing herbs that actually help to support the restoration of the nervous system, repairing cells that have been damaged overtime. Such herbs include Milky Oats (Oatstraw), Butterfly Blue Pea, Linden, Tulsi, and St. John’s Wort.

 

Adaptogenic Herbs and Medicinal Mushrooms

While adaptogens are often utilized for their ability to help us overcome periods of stress, changes in our environment, or to bolster one’s overall immunity, adaptogenic herbs can also support cognitive function and clarity of the mind. Some powerhouse herbs to work with in this regard are adaptogenic root herbs such as Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, and Eleuthero. Additionally many of the medicinal mushrooms have long been revered for their ability to support healthy brain function and reduce memory loss, particularly Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail, and Reishi.

 

Food Herbs for Mental Clarity

Incorporating herbs into our diet and working with food tonic herbs that have an affinity for mental focus and clarity can be another way to be in relationship with the plants. This can include nourishing herbs that support memory such as Gotu Kola and Oats. Additionally herbs that help to reduce inflammation in the body while also supporting cognitive function such as Turmeric also make great additions to many dishes. Or perhaps you opt to pay heed to the Doctrine of Signatures, and work with foods that even resemble the brain, such as walnuts!

 

Revered Memory Tonics

There are some herbs that have been long called upon primarily for the fact that they help with maintaining memory and helping to aid in one’s focus. These include herbs like Gingko, which has even been found in studies to act as a preventative for diseases such as dementia, Rosemary, an culinary herb that is easy to incorporate many favorite dishes that is deeply supportive for mental clarity and focus, and Lemon Balm, which is calming to the mind and nervous system, but instead of being sedative, helps one feel more of a relaxed alertness.

 

Some of the products that we make and love specifically for brain health are our Brain Tonic Tea and Focus Tincture. We also have Lion’s Mane Tincture as it’s own individual product.

 

Supportive Practices for Increasing Focus

In addition to working with the aforementioned herbs, there are many simple practices one can engage in to help bring themselves out of a state of chronic distraction and fragmented attention and more into presence and Earth-pace.

Grounding in Nature. This practice seems almost cliche, but that is because it is truly effective. We can always, always, return to the arms of nature to bring back a state of wellness. Even taking a few moments to allow oneself to sit or stand with bare feet upon the earth can have incredible benefits for mental focus and clarity. This brings us deeply into the present moment, helps us to physically align our bodies with the energetic frequency of the earth, and it’s even been shown that simply hearing bird song can help work wonders on our nervous system!

Engage in Creative or Uni-Modal Activities. While we as a society have increasingly revered the idea of “multi-tasking,” more and more studies are showing that this isn’t something our brains are actually even truly capable of. We are more effective focusing our attention on single tasks at a time. It is in our human nature to be creative or to work with our hands. Take some time to unplug from a world of many tabs or switching between several open apps and instead opt to engage in an activity that at its core is a single task. This can include activities such as painting, gardening, taking a walk, reading a book, or something similar where you only need to direct your focus on one single thing! This helps bring our fragmented attention back to something singularly focused.

Breathwork. This is another simple activity one could do that does not require a lot of time or resources. While this practice is about bringing oneself into the present moment, it is also supportive to bringing us back into our body. Having our attention in so many different places at once can often have us feeling a sort of disconnect with our physical selves. Taking time to focus on our breath helps us to feel reconnected, and is also extremely nourishing and calming to the nervous system.

Make a Ritual out of Focusing. This is especially helpful in a work setting, but your immediate environment matters! One can choose to make the practice of focusing juicy and nourishing. Perhaps you create a specialized playlist of music that is supportive for focus that helps you get into the groove, or you can utilize certain ambiance videos to play on a second screen that helps you feel calm and relaxed. If your space allows, such as if you work from home, perhaps you even light special candles or even incense at the initiation of a period you have dedicated to focus on a task or activity. If you’re able, utilize tools at your disposal to help support periods of focus, such as blocking off time specifically for focusing on certain tasks on your calendar, or even utilizing apps on your phone that don’t allow for you to access apps where you mindlessly scroll if you are susceptible to getting distracted by your device. Making this a ritual helps to build the practice of making focus time sacred.

We acknowledge that avoiding distraction is a challenge in this world, but we hoped that this post helped guide you through the tools of nature to help navigate these challenges. Perfection is not the goal, but instead having the resources at our disposal to help us achieve our intentions of mindfulness a little bit more. We hope you all continue to have a nourishing summer full of sunshine, and we will dance in the garden with you in August!

 

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