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Brain fitness tips to improve concentration and memory



Concentration–or atten­tion– and mem­o­ry are two cru­cial men­tal skills and are direct­ly relat­ed. In fact, many mem­o­ry com­plaints have noth­ing to do with the actu­al abil­i­ty to remem­ber things: They come from a fail­ure to focus prop­er­ly on the task at hand.

For exam­ple, when you don’t remem­ber where you parked your car at the mall. It is like­ly that you did not pay much atten­tion to where you parked the car in the first place, since you were think­ing about what you were going to buy…thus leav­ing your brain with lit­tle oppor­tu­ni­ty to process any infor­ma­tion that could be recalled lat­er to help you find your car.

Anoth­er exam­ple: Not remem­ber­ing where we put our glass­es 🙂

Focus­ing atten­tion is effort­ful. And as we age it often gets hard­er and hard­er to con­cen­trate. But focus­ing our atten­tion on the task at hand is key for bet­ter mem­o­ry performance…so what can we do to improve con­cen­tra­tion AND mem­o­ry?

The first gen­er­al solu­tion is to opti­mize our brain health and per­for­mance, by adher­ing to the main pil­lars of brain fit­ness: bal­anced diet, phys­i­cal exer­cise, cog­ni­tive stim­u­la­tion, stress man­age­ment, and social engage­ment. That will help improve a range of cog­ni­tive func­tions, includ­ing con­cen­tra­tion and mem­o­ry, and to main­tain them in good shape over time.

Addi­tion­al­ly, you can try these spe­cif­ic tips.

Tips to improve con­cen­tra­tion

  • Prac­tice med­i­ta­tion. Mul­tiImprove Concentration through Meditationple stud­ies have shown that med­i­ta­tion can be a good brain train­ing tool to improve attentional/ con­cen­tra­tion skills.
  • Be proac­tive, not pas­sive: If talk­ing with some­one: ask ques­tions. If read­ing a book, ask your­self how you would sum­ma­rize what you just read.
  • Do not mul­ti­task, since this will divide your atten­tion. Atten­tion is lim­it­ed, so when you try to do sev­er­al things at once you con­cen­trate less on each indi­vid­ual task and, worse, you waste some or your lim­it­ed atten­tion and pro­cess­ing pow­er in switch­ing from one thing to the next and then back (there is a clear “trans­ac­tion cost” when mul­ti-task­ing)

Tips to improve mem­o­ry

  • Start by improv­ing con­cen­tra­tion 🙂
  • Per­son­al­ly relate to the infor­ma­tion you are pro­cess­ing. Ask your­self where else you have heard this, whether there is some­thing in your life relat­ed to this new piece of infor­ma­tion, how it makes you feel.
  • Repeat the infor­ma­tion: Come back to it more than one time. This has been found in many stud­ies: repeat­ed infor­ma­tion is eas­i­er to recall (remem­ber that “cells that fire togeth­er wire togeth­er”). Spaced retrieval (a method with which a per­son is cued to recall a piece of infor­ma­tion at dif­fer­ent inter­vals) is one of the rare meth­ods that show results even with Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Elab­o­rate on the infor­ma­tion: think about it, build on it. Things that are con­crete and have a clear mean­ing are eas­i­er to remem­ber than abstract and vague ones. For instance, try to pic­ture the infor­ma­tion in your head, since pic­tures are eas­i­er to mem­o­rize than words.

Putting it all togeth­er: Tips to bet­ter remem­ber names

Yes, we all for­get names, and often in the few sec­onds after we hear them. Most of the time this phe­nom­e­non is due to a lack of atten­tion or con­cen­tra­tion. Also, most names have no spe­cif­ic mean­ing and are thus hard to mem­o­rize.

Say you are intro­duced to Kim today:

  • Pay atten­tion to the name: Ask Kim to repeat her name if you have not heard it very well. Make a con­scious effort of try­ing to mem­o­rize the name: Focus on it (“Her name is Kim. I want to remem­ber it.”)
  • Repeat it: Use the name sev­er­al times in the con­ver­sa­tion. (“What do you think of this, Kim?”) If rel­e­vant, use the person’s busi­ness card lat­er on to read her name and reflect, just a few sec­onds, on the con­ver­sa­tion. And pic­ture her face lat­er on in the day as you repeat her name.
  • Relate and elab­o­rate on the name: Do you know some­one else named like this? (“She seems quite hap­py, like the oth­er Kim I know from the gym.”) Or relate the name to pre­vi­ous infor­ma­tion (“Kim, as in Kim Wilde I used to lis­ten to when I was a kid. Well, she sure doesn’t look like Kim Wilde!”).

Hope this helps!

Pascale-Michelon– Pas­cale Mich­e­lon, PhD is a sci­en­tist, edu­ca­tor, and con­tribut­ing author to The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age.

Alvaro Fernandez SharpBrains– Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, named a Young Glob­al Leader by the World Eco­nomic Forum, runs Sharp­Brains, and co-authored The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness: How to Opti­mize Brain Health and Per­for­mance at Any Age.

–> To test your con­cen­tra­tion and mem­o­ry, you may want to try a few brain teasers such as:

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