A Short Course in Retaining, Maintaining, and Regaining Concentration and Memory
In response to a question "How to Get Back My Concentration and Memory" I compiled a collection of tips for improvement; following a description of each of the tips is a summary in list form.
Several things can help you improve your ability to concentrate and remember things.
One of the biggest barriers to good concentration and memory is poor sleep or a lack of sleep. Getting the right amount of sleep is important, but so is keeping a regular schedule (going to sleep at the same time and waking up at the same time each day). Some studies have shown that people who work on swing shifts (night shift one day, day shift another day) - such as factory workers and medical personnel, for example - are more prone to accidents caused by problems with concentration. Studies of traffic accidents also show that driving while sleepy is every bit as dangerous as driving while drunk.
Exercise and Nutrition
Good exercise is very important. Exercise can help when it is done regularly, but it can also help when it is done immediately prior to a task that requires focus and concentration. In other words, exercise/walk/run/jog/work-out daily for the long-term effects, and exercise shortly before a specific task to get the short-term benefits.
Good nutrition should be emphasized too: eat lots of healthy vegetables, a good amount of healthy fruits and whole grains, and a moderate amount of protein; drink a sufficient amount of water. Some people find that food allergies affect brain function. If you ever notice a sort of space-y or foggy feeling in your mind, like you can't quite wrap your thoughts around the tasks at hand, write down what you have eaten and drunk within the previous twelve hours. Over time, by comparing these notes, you should be able to identify any culprits, if food allergies are to blame. (But in some cases, the effects may take even longer than twelve hours to show up.)
Some supplements (fish oil and other omega-3 fatty acids) can give long-term benefits; moderate consumption of alcohol supposedly helps keep arteries clear and functioning well (and that should assist in brain function, although not immediately after the alcohol consumption!); caffeine and ginseng can help in the short term, and so can peppermint. Try keeping some peppermint candies available for times when you need an immediate mental boost.
These above suggestions all relate to the physical aspects of brain health. Good mental exercise is also very important, and several Hubbers have written articles dedicated to suggestions for this type of exercise. One of the best ways to keep your brain "young" is to learn new things, to work at solving new types of problems.
My father, I have heard, could memorize a list of 100 items and then could later recall not only each item but its position on the list. I never learned how he did that trick, but I have tried to find ways to accomplish the same thing. I figure that, even if I never learn his trick, it can only help my memory for me to try different ways of repeating it.
Even when you use mental exercise to improve your concentration and memory, it is possible to lose the effects of the exercise by sticking too rigidly with one type of puzzle or exercise that becomes easy and comfortable as time passes. Challenge yourself! The immediate effects may be slightly daunting, but over time, the results should pay off in great ways.
- Get the right amount of sleep on a regular schedule.
- Good exercise and good nutrition are very important.
- Some supplements (fish oil and other omega-3 fatty acids) can give long-term benefits.
- Caffeine, ginseng, and peppermint can help in the short term.
- Good mental exercise helps to keep your mind young.
- Learn new things, and challenge yourself!
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