THE BLOG
01/29/2014 04:38 pm ET Updated Mar 31, 2014

The Role of Focus in Managing Your Health

There are two big connections between focus and health. First, when we talk about focus with regard to emotional intelligence, we are talking about self-awareness: being able to tune into ourselves, our thoughts, and our impulses. Our self-awareness allows us to use that information to manage ourselves well.

Half the trick of getting into a healthy routine is to notice that you're not exercising, you're not eating right, or you have a difficult relationship with food or body image. This self-awareness is key to navigating a healthier way of life. The ability to tune into yourself can also help you overcome less-than-healthy habits and mental patterns.

Focus is the basic mental skill that supports everything people in the fitness industry are trying to do: help you monitor your own activities, nutrition and mindset about body image and eating.

Another benefit of focus: The ability to enhance your concentration not only helps motivate you to workout and eat healthier, it helps you in the "mental gym." Concentration predicts how well someone will do in any sport. Any coach knows that the ability to pay full attention to what you are doing can help you improve your performance.

The basic move in the mental gym: Put your focus where you want it to be. However, exercises in the mental gym are deceptively simple. Your mind is going to wander; that's the way the mind is wired. When your mind wanders off, just notice that it wandered. You have to go the balcony of your mind and see what's going on inside. Once you notice your mind has wandered, bring it back to your point of focus: your breath, an object, a statement, or an action, like lifting weights or running.

Exercising your attention is a basic step in mental well-being, just like doing reps at the gym is essential to your physical health. Every time you lift weights, you make that muscle just a little bit stronger. The same concept applies to the mental gym. Each time you notice your mind wander off and bring it back, you strengthen your circuitry for concentration.

Learn to be more present with your physical and mental well-being. Listen to my recent podcast with the American Council on Exercise.

Daniel Goleman's latest CD Cultivating Focus: Techniques for Excellence is available from More Than Sound.