B. White, the author of beloved children’s books like Charlotte’s Web and Trumpet of the Swan (as well as countless pieces for the New Yorker magazine and the grammatical treatise The Elements of Style), wrote prolifically. That output didn’t happen by accident: White was famous, among other things, for his ability to concentrate virtually anywhere—on trains, buses, and so on. Chaos seemed not to affect his productivity.
Not all of us can say the same thing. These days, with the Internet and other forms of information overload to distract us, it can be tough to carve out time and space for sustained focus on a project. Yoga, writing, crafts—pretty much everything has been broken down and is now being marketed in small-bite time segments to cater to our desire for quick yet impressive results.
That’s great! Accessibility is a good thing, and it’s a well-known fact that breaking tasks down into manageable portions is a solid strategy for getting things done. Accomplishing a goal, however small, in a short period of time bolsters self-esteem. It feels good to cross tasks off our to-do lists!
That said, learning (or re-learning) how to focus our attention on a topic for more than a few minutes at a time is crucial for productivity and resilience, not to mention our overall wellness. At the same time, knowing how to home in tightly on a task when time is super short gets things done when life gets intense.
So concentration basically has two components: endurance and exclusivity of attention. In other words, concentration involves being able to stay with a task for the length of time needed to accomplish your goals, as well as being able to tune other mental and physical input (i.e., distractions!) out.
There are ways to prepare your physical environment to encourage concentration; likewise, there are ways to optimize concentration in even chaotic settings.
In his excellent book Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit, Gabriel Mojay notes that in traditional Oriental medicine, the heart, circulation, spleen, pancreas, and kidneys all influence the conscious mind’s power (p. 146). He offers several single-oil suggestions, as well as some recipes, that can improve our ability to focus clearly, stick with tasks and study, and retain the information we’ve gathered.
Rosemary is a cephalic oil: it kicks the brain into gear by stimulating blood flow and moving energy upward. Both Rosemary and Basil oils boost focus and aid presence of mind—they can help keep us clearheaded in tense situations. Do note, however, that Basil oil may contain too much of a particular substance called estragole to be totally safe. Better to stick to Rosemary if your concentration is suffering or your nerves are making it tough to retain information of any kind!
Laurel oil also preserves presence of mind and memory, and is best used specifically for educational settings.
Wondering if poor health has damaged your concentration and focus?
Tea Tree oil can help revitalize your ability to pay attention and remember what you’ve learned. Like Rosemary, it stimulates the cerebrum, which houses the conscious activity centers of the brain.
To summarize the above, Rosemary, Laurel, and Tea Tree oils excel at boosting our mental clarity and “zip,” as well as improving memory. Tazeka’s Concentrate roller-ball aromatherapy blend combines Rosemary, Laurel, Coriander seed (see below), Jasmine, and Grapefruit to sharpen up mental perception and retention while promoting calm focus on the task at hand.
Feeling apathetic, or have writer’s block or an artistic slump?
Cardamom oil bumps curiosity and memory up a notch, while Coriander Seed Oil piques our creativity.
Clary Sage and Marjoram oils can both help you concentrate if you’re tired or tense. It’s also worth noting that Clary Sage is great for clarity in general! It can shore up our judgment skills and aid intuition.
Facing an exam?
Frankincense is your new best friend. It’s known to create a calm, singular focus appropriate for high-stakes educational situations. Tazeka’s aromatherapy roller-ball blend Nonstop Thoughts combines Cardamom, Sandalwood, Myrrh, Marjoram, Frankincense, Roman Chamomile, and Grapefruit to address just such situations, when time is of the essence, you’ve only got one shot, and clarity and calm need to reign.
Banish brain fog with Lemon, which “cuts through” mental congestion and stimulates the ability to hang on to details and specific facts, especially in large quantities.
Peppermint oil is probably the most effective learning stimulant.
It can help us to pay attention, take in information, and digest that information.
Brain-fried and tense?
Hyssop, Thyme, and Pine oils are helpful if you’re brain-fried and tense (for example, if you’re up all night studying or coping with the various details involved in the death of a loved one). They can ground us and enable us to attend to myriad tasks without feeling quite so much as though we might burst into flame.
Loss of short-term memory
This can be eased with Thyme and Pine oils, so if you’re cramming for an exam—or possibly looking for an aid for poor memory in the aging—these two oils can be helpful. They are particularly useful when mixed with Rosemary, which excels in regard to long-term memory retention.
A few recipes to help rescue and optimize your concentration and memory:
A Student’s Blend (an Aid to Studying)
- 4 drops Rosemary Oil
- 1 drop Laurel Oil
- 1 drop Peppermint Oil
- Mix together in 20 ml/1 T. carrier oil (such as jojoba)
Feeling vague and unsure?
Try blending 3 drops of Clary Sage oil with 2 drops of Rosemary oil in 20 ml/1 T. carrier oil and inhaling or rolling on the mixture.
Restless and easily distracted?
3 drops of Frankincense oil and 2 drops of geranium oil blended with 20 ml/1 T. carrier oil can bring you back to a peaceful, focused place. Sniff a few drops of the blend on a tissue or cotton ball.
Just plain “flaky” and forgetful?
Three drops of Pine oil and a drop each of lemon and rosemary oil should do the trick. Blend with a tablespoon of carrier oil and apply as desired.