Most of us experience a decline in memory and concentration as we get older. We are always forgetting the most needed item on a grocery list and we meet so many people whose names we can never seem to remember.
This happens because our brains start the aging decline from as early as 24 years old and this can have a serious impact on our professional and personal lives.
Here are 15 strategies and tips to help slow down the aging of your brain and improve your concentration and memory.
How Old is Your Brain?
Try these two free online tests to determine your brain age. Don’t worry too much if you scored poorly, your brain age can easily be improved with the strategies and tips found in below. After reading and practising these strategies retake the test and check your scores.
15 Strategies and Tips to Improve Memory and Concentration
1. Fix Sensory Processing Issues
Sensory processing issues need to be attended to first. Often a set of reading glasses or a hearing aid will drastically improve your ability to read faster, improve your reaction time and improve your attention span.
It will give you an instant brain boost by increasing your concentration times and improving your memory. Try the free online eye and hearing tests to see if you have any sensory processing issues that is dampening your brain power.
2. Your Brain is a Muscle
The most important takeaway from this article is that you can train your brain like a muscle. Exercising it with the strategies found in this article will improve your memory, concentration and brain age.
The best way to exercise the brain and slow down the aging process is to learn something new but also fun. Doing something new and enjoyable has a positive stimulatory effect on your brain. This can reignite areas of your brain that have been dormant and even regrow new brain cells.
Learning to play an instrument, dance lessons, taking an art class or even a new sport can spark up those brain engines and get your brain working at a better rate.
This video clearly explains how music can give your brain a good workout.
You can also try these brain teaser exercises from Sharp Brain to get those brain juices flowing again.
- Say the days of the week backwards, then in alphabetical order.
- Speak other languages? Try doing the same in Spanish, French, Mandarin…
- Say the months of the year in alphabetical order.
- Easy? Well, why don’t you try doing so backwards, in reverse alphabetical order.
- Find the sum of your date of birth, mm/dd/yyyy.
- Want a tougher mind teaser? Do the same with your spouse’s or best friend’s date
- of birth (without looking it up…)
- Name two objects for every letter in your first name. Work up to five objects, trying
- to use different items each time.
- Look around wherever you are and, within two minutes, try to find 5 red things that will fit in your pockets, and 5 blue objects that are too big to fit.
3. Use Colours to Improve Memory by 80%
To give your memory a little extra help or boost try adding colour to something that your want to remember. You can do this with a simple highlighter or get creative with the multitude of coloured stationary available.
Colour improves memory and concentration by up to 80% by increasing our attention levels. The contrast in colours allows us to pay little more attention to an item that is required to be remembered.
To get the most out of this effect make sure you use the colours that have a vast difference in contrast. You can find contrasting colours by picking colours that are on the opposite ends of a colour wheel above.
4. Taking Breaks Boosts Memory Retention
As we get older we need to break up longer periods of work to improve concentration, memory and productivity. This is important for those long business meetings in which you need to be at your best.
Any form of constant exposure decreases our attention and recognition abilities. The same happens if we do not take breaks. Our ability to retain and process more information eventually diminishes.
Take short breaks to change this and reset your attention and recognition systems. Effective breaks, involves doing something unrelated to what you are currently doing. It also includes removing yourself from the environment that you are in constant exposure to.
If you have been reading of a screen, taking a break by visiting your Facebook page is not a good idea. Try walking or a little exercise during your breaks to increase the retention of what you want to remember or concentrate on.
The hormones released after a walk or exercise help cement the topics just studied into your memory. This effect of exercise on learning can even be seen after a single bout of exercise.
5. Nutrition to Improve Memory and Concentration
Your diet has a huge impact on your brain function. Whole foods that are high in antioxidants and healthy fats provide the ingredients needed to protect the brain and improve cognitive ability.
Foods to Eat
Salmon, walnuts, avocados, green leafy vegetables, lean cuts of meat, eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, dark chocolate, broccoli, and blueberries are the common foods that meet these requirements for great brain health.
Omega-3 supplements should also be included for a further enhancement of abilities, especially if you are unable to eat the above foods.
Foods to Avoid
All foods that promote an inflammatory state are detrimental to brain health, especially your memory. This includes foods that are carbohydrate rich and foods high in refined sugars.
Tofu and other soy containing foods have also shown to be detrimental to brain health.
Fish that are high in mercury like tuna, snapper, swordfish, mackerel, and marlin all have significant effects on your mental health.
6. Avoid Multitasking for Better Memory
There are several studies that suggest that the attention span required for multiple tasking abilities decreases with age.
Multitasking as we get older results in substandard performances and poor outcomes for both tasks. This calls for more effort towards concentrating on one task at a time as we get older for better memory.
There has also been a study that shows that multi-tasking causes damage to the brain so avoid it at all costs for better overall brain function.
7. Vitamin D is Critical for Brain Function
Vitamin D is the most common vitamin deficiency in the United States with almost 42% of the population being deficient.
This means that you are probably deficient of vitamin d and this affects many brain functions, including memory and concentration.
Lower levels of vitamin d are associated with depression and higher levels are associated with better cognition. This is even seen in patients with Parkinson’s disease.
Your body produces Vitamin D when you are exposed to sunlight. Unfortunately, many of us live and work in conditions that prevent us from spending enough time in the sun. The best way to prevent a vitamin deficiency is to supplement it.
Your choice of Vitamin D supplementation is critical. Make sure that you chose a supplement that has Vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 has proven to be less effective.
These supplements make the requirements for effective oral replacement for vitamin d deficiencies.
8. Tips from the World Memory Champions
If you want to show off your super memory and look really smart amongst your colleagues try these memory tips used by the world memory champions.
Participants in the world memory championships usually use some form of encoding to store memories. Encoding of memories is a technique of association where a memory is linked to another item so that it can be stored and recalled with ease.
The methods you may be familiar with include acronyms, mind maps and chunking.
Acronyms are words made from abbreviations of the initial letters in a phrase such as USA or ROYGBIV which are the colours of the rainbow. Mind maps are hierarchical sketches around a central topic. You start with a topic and break it down into smaller easier pieces to remember.
Chunking is a technique where you group many pieces of information into smaller chunks. Chunking works well with telephone numbers where it is easier to remember (789) (123) (463) vs (789123463).
The method most cited by the world memory champions is known as elaborated encoding. It is a visual spatial memory technique that allows for easy retrieval of any memory.
Joshua Foer the 2006 USA memory champion explains it well with his baker analogy. He says that it is a lot easier to remember the profession baker compared to the surname baker. This is because we already have vivid stored memories of bakers that include images of bakers in white hats, bakeries, smells and even sounds.
The key to remembering with elaborated encoding is to associate an item with a pre-existing memory with as much detail as possible using sights, sounds and even smells.
Alex Mullen the first American to win the World Memory Championship in 2015 explains his encoding technique of memory palaces in the video below. You can see all his tutorials at Mullen Memory.
9. Spaced Retrieval Method for Improved Memory
Spaced retrieval is an extremely successful technique used to improve the memory for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This method tricks our memory into storing information as procedural information which makes it much more easy to retain.
10. White Noise for Increased Concentration
As we get older, it becomes difficult to meet those deadlines because we just cant seem to concentrate on what we need to do like we used to when we were younger. White noise is one way to help you improve concentration.
White noise is often used to generally describe any background noise that you can use to help you concentrate.
It does not improve concentration, but it does help drown out other distracting noises thereby decreasing interruptions in thought and increasing productivity.
There are multiple ways to take advantage of this effect. You can play a song on loop, or use one of the many online apps and downloads available with a wide range of sounds including, rain, wind, rivers, coffee shops and even light traffic.
If you are more productive with people around you, try playing a movie that you have already watched on loop. This helps with the loneliness and creates the feeling of someone being in the room.
11. Untidy Work Spaces Sap your Attention Span
There are so many things around us that are always competing for our attention. Concentration requires the active task of blocking out these distractions and focusing on an object.
Working and living in an environment with minimal distractions will automatically improve your attention and memory capabilities. An uncluttered clean environment has less items in it to compete for our attention and this just makes it easier to concentrate.
Decluttering is a science and the best method I have come across is by Marie Kondo the Japanese cleaning consultant. Her bestselling book shows you her Konmari method for simplifying, organising and storing in any environment to improve production.
12. How to Minimise Physical Distractions
As discussed above an ideal place for studying should have the least distractions and objects competing for your attention.
Corners and walls work well for this purpose. If there are distractions that you can’t remove, try positioning your weaker side towards the distraction.
If you are right handed sit with your left side closest or facing the distraction and vice versa. It will be a lot harder for the distraction to be noticed by your weaker side compared to your stronger side.
If there is a window close by make sure you sit with your weaker side closest to the window, this way there will be less of a chance of you looking out.
13. Getting into the Zone - Concentration Lessons from Competitive Sports
Competitive sport at the professional level requires great feats of concentration. The most successful sportsmen usually have the best concentration. They can block out the crowd, the opposing players and even their internal self-doubt to deliver results under stressful conditions.
Many sportsmen attribute this high level of concentration where nothing can distract them from their task at hand to being in the zone.
The great sportsman use the following techniques to get into the zone for optimal performance. You can do the same to improve your concentration.
5 Tips to help Get into the Zone
- I can overcome these distractions
- I am productive and will finish my work
- I will stay focused
- I have what it takes to conquer this subject
- I am the best at concentrating
14. Concentration, Lessons from a Military Sniper
A break or lapse in concentration for a sniper means death. Their entire job is based on remaining focused and they are taught one trick to help them refocus when they are distracted and overwhelmed.
Jeffery Harrison a former military sniper explained this trick called SLLS, an acronym for STOP, LOOK, LISTEN and SMELL.
They were trained to take an SLLS break to help refocus. This involved stopping whatever you were doing, looking around, listening to your surroundings, and smelling your environment.
This process re-balances your senses and helps centre you so that you can resume focusing on what is important. It can be applied to any area of your life where you need to focus and concentrate.
15. Concentration Lessons from a Monk
How does regular meditation improve concentration?
Our own wayward thoughts are the most common form of distraction and this is where meditation can make a huge difference.
Meditation trains you to be mindful, and this practice will help you quickly identify when your thoughts are straying off focus.
After enough practice, you will easily be able to refocus your attention on your work.
You can find 5-minute meditation exercise here.
Regular use of these strategies and tips will give your brain an anti aging boost, improve your memory and concentration and give you the edge in your personal and professional life.
Please let me know of any other methods to improve memory and concentration in the comments section below, and your before and after brain age scores.