Morning Nuggets – Focusing Your Attention, Part 1

Darth Hamster knows how to focus his attention!
Darth Hamster knows how to focus his attention!


After 5 posts on Creativity and the Playful Brain, we are now moving onto the topic of memory. First we’ll begin with Focusing Our Attention based on my notes from Optimizing Brain Fitness by The Great Courses. This series on Optimizing Brain Fitness is delivered by Professor Richard Restak, the Clinical Professor of Neurology at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Memory is the natural extension of attention and learning. Other terms for attention are focus and concentration. In order to improve our brain’s performance, our attention must be rock solid. We are not born with a mature attention span, it takes effort and training to develop our attention. We can compare attention in the mental sphere to the endurance in the physical sphere. Like an athlete, we learn to focus our mental energies.

The 2 main challenges to our attention/focus/concentration in our society —


First, to be fully attentive, we have to be awake. Yes, that seems obvious, but the degree of wakefulness matters. On one extreme, we can be drowsy and daydreaming (daydreaming is good, but not all day long!), and the other extreme of wakefulness is feeling overly stressed. We can not focus and learn about what’s happening around us in either of these extremes–we have to be right in the middle, in the narrow continuum. We have highly focused attention when we look at something and get all the details about it.

Some simple ideas on how to help your young ones develop attention span-

When my children are young, I specifically look for ways to direct their attention to what’s around them. If we are on a walk, we TALK, which is undoubtedly what you do with your young one too. We talk about the sky above us and the flowers around us. Occasionally I will ask them to pause and listen to all the sounds their ears can detect. It’s amazing how many noises are around us when we pay attention! There are birds, airplanes, rustling leaves, dogs, and cars making noises when we step out our front door.

Another place to talk about surroundings, or ideas, is in the car. Sometimes we will listen to music or an audio book together while driving, but we choose to keep any screen devices out of the equation. We don’t even have the equipment in our vehicle to watch anything, and we’ll keep it that way… unless we go on a long, cross-country driving trip (sanity, please!). Some of our best discussions have taken place while driving. We’ve observed clouds, bridges, and trees together as we drive along. Then if, and when, someone starts poking the other, or mimicking every word just to annoy… BAM, the music goes on and it usually does the trick! I might give them the little speech about treating others how they would want to be treated, but sometimes my only resort, other than stopping the car on the side of the road (rarely a good option), is to let the tunes temporarily distract the fidgety kids.

That’s all for today! I hope you have a good time talking with your little one and helping them pay attention to what is around them!

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