Simply put, memory is the mental activity of recalling information that you have learned or experienced. Focus and concentration are the ability to tune in your full attention on a given situation, subject or object. It is important to note that memory and concentration and focus all work hand in hand. To improve memory requires that you first improve concentration and focus. It is imperative that you are first able to focus and concentrate your attention so that you can properly store information in your brain. Only after the information is properly stored can it be retrieved from memory.
Has this ever happened to you? Just moments ago, you were introduced to a few new people. You shook their hands and started a conversation. Now you are standing there, half paying attention to the conversation, trying to remember their names. Or maybe you've lost your keys for the fifth time this week. Or maybe you struggle with your focus and concentration in meetings, have a hard time understanding directions, or have difficulty with focus and concentration when standing over your golf shot.
These situations can happen to anyone at any age. However, if these lapses in memory and concentration seem to happen to you more frequently than you'd like, then you need some help.
Does stress help to improve memory and concentration?
Does stress help to improve memory and concentration?
The simple answer to that question is yes. Stress actually improves memory and concentration at first, but chronic, long-term stress makes memory and concentration worse.
When you are under stress for a short period of time, you actually improve memory and concentration. Think about a zebra casually eating grass in a field. Then suddenly a lion appears and comes running through the grass, the zebra reacts quickly to get away. The zebra's neurological system surges with chemicals. Some of these chemicals go immediately to the brain and increase the zebra's ability to focus, concentrate and escape the lion.
Unfortunately humans are under constant stress. Our days are full of lions running at us through the field. Our lions come in the form of financial worries, problems at work or with family, or just driving through morning traffic. This constant stress we are under actually damages the part of the brain that is responsible for both short and long-term memory and concentration.
One surefire way to alleviate this problem is by making time in your busy schedule to relax and meditate. Your brain needs some time off from worrying.
The best methods that I know of to improve memory and concentration are the practices of yoga and meditation. The techniques used in yoga and meditation not only improve muscle tone and flexibility but they also have been proven to stimulate the brain and nervous system in ways that can improve memory and concentration.
Some of the best yoga practices for improving memory and concentration and focus are the asana, pranayama, dharana and meditation techniques and positive affirmations.
1) Asana - Yoga Postures: includes using a gazing point (drishti) while performing balancing postures, spine lengthening exercises and inverted postures (like the headstand). Using the drishti improves focus and concentration while the exercises stimulate the nervous system. In Asana practice we focus on our physical body and the breath thereby improving concentration and focus.
2) Pranayama focuses on breathing techniques and mastering the life-force. These not only help with focus and concentration but also help more oxygen reach the brain. In pranayama, the mind is focused on the breath as it flows in and out of the body. Oxygen and pranic (energy) are also increased in the body and brain by the regulation of breath. Thus, pranayama increases focus and concentration as well as nourishes the brain. Pranayama is greatly beneficial in improving memory power. In Pranayama, the psyche of the individual is concentrated on the breath as it courses in and out of the body. Hence, Pranayama modifies concentration and focus in a positive manner as well as nurtures the brain.
3) Dharana quite specifically is the process of holding the mind to one place, object or idea.Dharana techniques are specifically designed for the mind. It works on focusing concentration and attention rather than letting the mind wander. This kind of focused attention is a form of mind training as it becomes easier to concentrate and remember as you practice more.
Dharana or the practice of focus and concentration affects and reduces the occupied mind. The mind is kept firm at one place instead of letting it wander here and there. This reduces strain on the mind. The mental strength increases. With such habitual focus and concentration, the work is done effectively and efficiently. The daily practice of dharana reduces the wavering attitude of mind and a different kind of mental clarity can be observed throughout the day. Dharana acts upon and cuts down the stress of the preoccupied mind.
4) With Dhyana (meditation) we develop awareness. If you can make the time to take care of yourself by meditating for just 20 minutes a day, know that these efforts can help you to improve memory and concentration. A calm and well rested mind (as opposed to an agitated, overly worked mind) is much more agile and flexible.
Meditation takes dharana even further as it calls for intense mental focus and concentration. During meditation you empty the content of your consciousness completely. Dharana quite specifically is the process of holding the mind to one place, object or idea. Eliminating all extraneous thoughts, basically giving your mind some much needed rest.
Meditation is a maneuver beyond the art of Dharana, calling for even more psychological and intellectual diligence and concentration. The art of meditation either by itself or in alignment with yoga asana and Pranayama clears the mind of unreasonable and superfluous thoughts. Unrestrained thinking eats up mental energy and clouds the mind from interpreting and perceiving things clearly. In Yoga, meditation helps to energize the brain as well as get the mind to focus and concentrate.
5) Self Affirmations: The next key factor to improve memory and concentration is the power of positive thinking. Self-affirmation can stimulate your brain and give you the boost that you need to focus and concentrate better. It has been proven to work.
Saying positive phrases to yourself over and over again will unconsciously help you to convince yourself of its truth. There is no greater power than believing in your self to improve memory and concentration.
To Improved Memory, Concentration and Focus, Namaste
Tony D'Agostino, founder and CEO of Yoga Awakening