It is essential to help our elders to stay active ageing. Among all this, we want to emphasize that it is important to perform physical exercises at any age since, in the case of older people, exercise helps them prevent diseases and improve concentration.
Concentration can be understood as the ability to stay focused on one task for longer without being distracted. The more senses are used in the activity that is carried out, the greater the concentration. It corresponds to a learned cognitive procedure of reacting passively or not being distracted by irrelevant stimuli. Concentration also means being totally here and in the now, in the present. The main component of concentration is the ability to focus attention on the task at hand.
Without concentration it is practically impossible to learn something, therefore, concentration is essential for learning. In learning, attention allows you to select the most important of what you want to learn. Through attention, we focus on one stimulus from all those around us and ignore all the others. Concentration is one of the fundamental skills in the knowledge process. With concentration we keep our attention focused on a point of interest, for as long as necessary.
Concentration is a cognitive skill, which although it may seem strange, is done through reasoning. This cognitive activity consists of focusing our attention voluntarily on a specific aspect and being able to maintain it. In other words, concentration allows us to “put” information into our head so that all our attention is focused on a specific objective, and we are not distracted by other types of information.
So if concentration is a cognitive procedure, a skill that is learned, it can be improved and developed with practice. That is why we share with our readers strategies that strengthen the ability to concentrate in people of all ages.
In this article, we present exercises to improve mental concentration in the elderly. Concentration is like a muscle, it can be trained and it is possible to gradually acquire the necessary skills to be focused on the things you do and avoid distraction.
Why is it so important to focus?
Concentration is possibly the most useful ability that a human being possesses. When we have a good capacity for concentration, we can work or study much more effectively, be more productive and also allow us to carry out activities in a more relaxed and pleasant way.
It is much more useful and beneficial to perform tasks in a concentrated way than to do them with distractions. However, today we have a permanent number of stimuli around us that can incite us to distraction. And what happens? Well, little by little we are getting used to paying attention to these distractions so we are losing our ability to concentrate. So that this does not happen to us, it is convenient to train our concentration.
HOW TO TRAIN MENTAL CONCENTRATION
- Get organized
This is possibly the most important, more than an exercise, it can help us improve our concentration, it is a requirement that we must meet if we want to have this ability.
And yes, this first requirement, although we may not like it very much, is the organization. This organization involves two different aspects:
- Distraction-free environment
No matter how well trained you have your concentration, if you try to concentrate in an environment full of stimuli that can distract you, you will not be able to concentrate as much as possible on the task you want to do.
Before starting, try to have an orderly environment without distractions: keep the door closed, the mobile silent, your favourite internet pages closed, etc.
- Structure the tasks
If you want to concentrate but do not know exactly what you are doing, in what order or in what way, the concentration that you apply to the tasks you are doing will be less useful, since it will not be a concentration directed to a specific activity.
Before starting, try to write down on a piece of paper what are the tasks you will do, how you will do them and in what order. In this way, you can use your concentration in a structured way.
Focus on one thing at a time
One of the problems that often prevent us from having the ability to concentrate that we would like, is the fact that having multiple thoughts in our head and not being able to focus on just one.
When this happens, our ability to concentrate is noticeably reduced since our brain is not designed to be able to concentrate on multiple tasks or thoughts at the same time.
Therefore, it is as important to acquire a good capacity for concentration as to be able to apply that capacity to concrete facts and eliminate the multiplicity of thoughts in our mind.
To acquire this ability to extract a specific thought, an exercise that can help us many is the following: Sit in a chair, and when you are relaxed, of all the thoughts that come to mind, choose only one.
The thought you choose can be anyone. For example, the chat you had with your coworker this morning, the photos your niece showed you last week or the soccer game you saw on Saturday.
Once you’ve chosen it, spend about 5 minutes thinking about it and nothing else. If you do this exercise regularly, you will get used to being able to focus your attention on a single thought when necessary and improving your concentration will be easier.
Many times what hinders our ability to concentrate are states of anxiety, nervousness or the inability to acquire tranquillity when performing a task.
To be able to concentrate properly, it is convenient to have a relaxed state and avoid excessive stress. If you notice that stress or anxiety interferes with your ability to concentrate, you can do the following deep breathing exercise:
Use the numbers
One of the cognitive activities that most strengthen our concentration is calculation. To perform this type of mental operations requires a great level of concentration.
So if it is difficult for you to concentrate, practising these activities in your free time to the best of your ability will greatly contribute to improving your ability to concentrate.
There are thousands of calculation activities to do, and all of them will be effective in improving your concentration as long as you do them scrupulously.
Train your attention
As concentration is a cognitive activity designed to focus our attention on a specific aspect, another very useful exercise is to train our attention.
In other words, if we have greater control over our attentional processes, it will be much easier for us to concentrate. One of the most effective ways for you to work your attention in your spare time is to do the typical word searches.
A moment of mindfulness
It is a Mindfulness technique (mindfulness) that you can do at any time of the day: before going to work, while waiting for the bus or when you take a break at the office.
The exercise consists of focusing on your breathing for a couple of minutes, and its goal is to help you restore your thoughts, relax and obtain that mental clarity that you may have been losing during the day.
To do this you have to stand, keep your eyes open, breathe with your belly (not your chest), expel the air with your nose and focus all your attention on the sound and rhythm of your breathing.
It is likely that when you do, other thoughts will come to your head. When this happens, make an effort to return your attention to the breath and ignore other stimuli.
Because it is a simple exercise that requires little time to perform, it is recommended to do it in those moments of stress, when you lack clarity of ideas or feel confused about something.
By doing this in those moments you will reestablish your thoughts and your attention, it will be easier for you to reorganize the concepts in your head, and you will reach a certain level.
more suitable for concentrating.
This exercise, like the mindfulness exercise, is also a Mindfulness technique that can be done simply, and that can help you a lot in improving your ability to concentrate.
In this case, conscious observation consists of choosing any object. It can be the cover of a book, a lamp or a cup of coffee (it does not matter the qualities of the object).
Once you have chosen the object, you should observe it very carefully and be able to focus all your attention on it for about 3 or 4 minutes.
The mental image
Another exercise similar to that of conscious observation is the mental image.
As with the other exercise, you must choose any object that you have at hand (a pencil, a fork, some shoes) and observe it carefully, focusing all your attention on it, and trying to remember every detail of that object.
Once you have observed the object as closely as possible for about 2 or 3 minutes, you should try to recreate a mental image about the object in your head, so that that image is as similar as possible to the object.
With this exercise, apart from focusing your attention on the present as in the previous one, you will work on your information storage processes, so you will have to carry out extra concentration work to recover the information from the object you have just observed.
Expression of our memories
Thinking about our memories is an exercise that normally gives us pleasure or is pleasant, but at the same time requires a high degree of concentration to be able to recover the information that is in our brain.
When we remember, apart from exercising our memory, we are indirectly training our concentration. Now, we must remember in a structured and detailed way, it is not worth thinking about past events without focusing our attention completely on them.
Focus on your day
Another exercise that you can do before going to sleep is to try to remember everything you have done throughout the day when you go to bed.
It is a simple exercise that requires practically no effort and it is recommended to do it daily, getting into the habit of doing this exercise before falling asleep.
You can do it when you are already lying in bed, and the objective is that during the 5 or 10 minutes that you do this exercise, you can remember with as much detail as possible everything you have done during the day, the people you have seen or the things that have caught your attention.