ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Improve Memory by Improving Focus

Updated on February 14, 2013
Relaxation can increase your focus
Relaxation can increase your focus | Source
Forget-me-nots!
Forget-me-nots! | Source

I work with many people who tell me they have problems with memory. They complain that they just can’t learn new information the way they used to. They forget tasks and lose their keys. They come to me, deeply worried, asking if they are developing Alzheimer’s disease. These are usually young people, under the age of 50, and more often then not when I sit down with them it turns out that they are not having a memory problem, they are having a focus problem.

Focus, or the ability to pay attention, is critical for learning new information. Memory happens when information registers with your brain in working memory and then is consolidated into long term memory. If you aren’t able to focus in the first place then you aren’t going to remember whatever information you wanted to learn. Focus is the gateway to memory.

Plenty of things can disrupt your ability to focus. Worry and stress are big culprits; if your brain is busy thinking about a particular issue that is causing anxiety you have much less attention available for learning new information. Sometimes you can become so worried that you essentially have a broken record playing in your mind “what if, what if, what if…” and that becomes all you can hear. It’s nearly impossible to take in new information under those circumstances. Depression is another problem that blocks your focus. Poor concentration, meaning lack of focus, is actually one of the key symptoms of depression. Depression saps your mental energy and leaves you focused on how miserable you are feeling. Depression changes your ability to perceive events and process information, making everything look hopeless and bleak. If anxiety or depression are problems in your life, seeking care from a qualified mental health professional can restore your ability to focus as well as address the other problems these disorders cause.

Pain can be a massive detractor from the ability to pay attention and concentrate. The purpose of pain is to grab your attention for something in the environment that could be dangerous, and so it demands intellectual resources from the rest of your brain. In general this is a good thing, because pain is supposed to signal you to make changes. However sometimes there is nothing you can change and then the disruption to your concentration becomes an additional problem. Ongoing pain is a problem that typically needs to be addressed through multiple means with the help of a specialist in pain medicine.

And of course your environment makes a big difference in your ability to focus. Try studying or working on a project in a room with four other people talking – it’s going to be very slow going, if it happens at all. Clutter in a room can create a visual distraction. Television, even at a low volume can be extremely distracting because it provides both visual and auditory input. That’s part of the reason doing homework in front of the television is not recommended for children. Even if the homework gets done, they aren’t giving it their full attention.

No matter what the cause of your distraction, there are some simple things you can do to improve your ability to focus. Sometimes you know you need to be able to focus and learn so if you are able to arrange your environment to minimize distractions. Work in a quiet, uncluttered space if at all possible. If you aren’t able to keep your environment quiet try using headphones with white noise or non-distracting music. Much of the time, however, you will not be in a situation of sitting down to intentionally focus when important information comes your way. In that case, a notebook can be your best friend. Different arrangements work for different people but I recommend a single, pocket size notebook that can go everywhere with you and in which you can quickly jot down anything you want to remember. I like this solution because it is cheap, portable, and uncomplicated. It keeps everything in one place so that I always know where to look things up. There are actually two benefits to having a notebook handy. The first is that you have a written reminder handy when you need to use the information. The other is that the very act of writing something down increases your attention and focus which increases the chance you will remember the information in the first place.

Meditation is another tool that can improve your focus. Common medication techniques involve regularly practicing focus on your breath, an image, a phrase or a word. By frequently exercising your mind in this way your ability to focus in day to day life will increase because you have built up your mental muscles. Meditation can also be profoundly calming and can have beneficial effects on pain, anxiety, stress and depression.

If you are still having difficulty focusing despite trying some of these techniques, I recommend speaking with a physician. A detailed history of your difficulties with focus may lead the doctor to request some specialized testing that could more clearly delineate your difficulties.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)