By Sara Ivanhoe
Updated: September 10, 2009

Once the allure of new notebooks and fresh pencils has worn off, that back-to-school aura can fade fast. And after a long, relaxing summer, getting back into the swing of school and work can be a tough adjustment. Thats because concentration is a skill that we build by practicing. So if youve gotten out of mental shape over the summer, youre not alone! Cut yourself some slack, then get regain your focus with meditation.

Meditation is proven to help improve concentration and alertness, and it can even boost test scores and on-the-job efficiency. But if acting all om seems intimidating, try this simple technique that can be done anytime, anywhere.

Sit on the floor or in a chair—someplace where you can sit tall with your shoulders relaxed. Begin by taking a few long deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Next, try closing your eyes and breathe in and out through your nose. Try to make the breaths smooth and even. When you inhale, mentally say to yourself in, and when your exhale, mentally say to yourself out. Gently keep this going for some time—its simple, but thats the point.

Soon your mind will wander—youll think about what youll have for lunch, or a friend that hasnt returned your text message. Dont psychoanalyze your thoughts. Just let them go and come back to the flow of breath, in and out. Eventually you will be able to increase the time it takes before you “space out” again. This is the goal: sustained attention, concentration, and mental fitness. Try to sit for at least 3 to 5 minutes, and gradually increase the amount of time with each meditative session.