Struggling to focus? We don’t blame you. The modern era has specialised in one unlikely industry: serving up more distractions than ever before. From social media to YouTube to phone games, it can feel like squeezing in just an hour or two for better focus is a futile pursuit.
However, modern innovations have also introduced cutting-edge methods for ramping up your concentration. Namely, the abundance of brain training games (counterintuitively) could offer an antidote to those struggling to pay attention. Now, who said your phone could be a force for good?
With app stores brimming with supposedly mind-altering apps that will help you tap into a more focused state, we took a deep dive into whether those mental reps might actually pay off in the long run.
Gamify Your Focus
In a study published in PLoS One, researchers finally put those brain-training apps to the test. Participants were split into two groups. The first was tasked with playing Brain Age, a game that pits you against a series of reading and maths puzzles to get you thinking. The second was sat in front of that classic distraction Tetris. Each group was asked to play their assigned game for 15 minutes every day during the work week.
Once they’d wrapped up their prescribed sessions, the participants were asked to file a report on their scores and performance. At the end of this brain training boot camp, researchers tested the participants’ mental acuity with memory and maths exercises AKA the hardest workout of the day.
Their findings? Those clocking regular Brain Age sessions outperformed their block-busting peers, scoring significantly higher for processing speed, memory and executive functions. (In short, your executive functions represent your brain’s ability to meet goals and control your impulses – all metrics you want to improve on to tap into the true nirvana of deep focus.)
Their findings were later reaffirmed as part of a meta-analysis of the effects of brain training games. So, these apps can work – but not just any app will do. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best so that you can get in your mental muscle-ups before you clock-in and – hopefully – conquer the day ahead.
In the brain training space, Lumosity reigns supreme. A free account will net you access to three games per day – just enough to prime yourself for all-day focus. Its stable of games include many deliberately aimed at ramping up your mental fitness with a host of research-backed activities intended to give you thinking. Best part? You can play them in your browser or on your phone, and the app will track your results so you can see your progress. Available on iOS and Android.
2. The Daily Puzzle
Wordle’s formula of hooking you up with a new one-shot puzzle every day will give you a reason to login before you clock in. Daily Puzzle takes that concept and widens its scope, netting you access to a slew of new brain busters every morning. Not only are there logic and number puzzles, but there are the usual plethora of oh-so-popular word problems that’ll get your brain firing on all cylinders. Available on iOS and Android.
One recent study found that playing Sudoku can be like a youth elixir for your mind, helping older folks tap into the mental acuity of people 10 years their junior. Maybe you could benefit, too?
Sudoku is a number-placing puzzle wherein you have to deduce exactly where these digits need to go based on the evidence you have. The best part? These puzzles never involve guessing, so you’re always encouraged to assess the problem from every angle. Play it HERE right now for an instant boost.
For an expanded toolkit of brain training games, give Elevate a try. Their gaming HQ features writing, reading, maths and speaking tests, but you can tailor your suite of games based on the areas you’d like to focus on. Available on iOS and Android.
This game not only trains your brain, but also lets you track your progress. That can provide an extra dopamine hit to help accentuate your mental gains. Like Elevate, you can personalise your training to find a plan that suits you. Many of their games are backed by scientific research so you can boast that your AM gaming sessions are expert-approved. Available on iOS.