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Regain your ability to focus

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Are you having difficulty focusing? The reason could be that your brain is over stimulated. An increasing number of scientific studies are finding that as we age we lose our ability to filter out the clutter around us. And today there is so much clutter, there’s the beep of your cell phone when you’re getting an e-mail, another one for a text and yet another one when someone is actually calling you. There’s 24 hour TV, and a slew of everyday tasks and commitments. If you’re over 40, the onslaught of these things can prove distracting to the point where you become unable to concentrate or focus properly. Scientists liken what is happening in the brain to a fraying of mental filters that would normally filter out distractions. It came to light when researchers were studying brain function in problem solving. Subjects had their brains scanned in MRI machines while solving the problems. This allowed the scientists to “see” clearly how the brain was responding. The researchers noticed that older subjects could not concentrate inside the clanging of the MRI machines, in most cases, even when wearing earplugs. The MRI scans revealed that the subjects actually used more mental effort to try and filter out the distracting noise. This unexpected outcome, suggested to the researchers that it was mentally challenging to concentrate when the brain was distracted. This new information can help you regain your ability to focus. What do you do? Doctors Mehemet Oz and Michael Rozien, authors of Staying Young, offered the following tips to help. n Turn off distractions. You can recapture much of your sharp focus by removing distractions when you have to do mental work. Don’t pay bills while watching TV. Turn off the radio when you’re starting an important conversation with your spouse or when you’re loading new software onto your computer. n Clear your desk, organise your house. Visual clutter can slow down your mental capacity so that decision-making takes more time and effort. Give your brain cells less to ponder by sweeping unnecessary stuff from your workspace, cooking area, computer desktop, closets, and even your car. n Turn how quickly you can be distracted into a mental asset. Harness your well-seasoned brain’s ability to retain lots of information by giving “multisensory learning” a whirl. That’s when you use several senses at once to enhance learning and memory. Instead of reading a long magazine article about the growing list of presidential candidates, watch an in-depth TV show about them. Getting the audio and the visual is an asset in this case. n Enjoy seeing the forest, not just the trees. Having a more flexible mental filter in place means you take in more pleasure, too. Whether you’re walking in the woods, biking on the boardwalk, or people-watching, chances are you’re noticing more than you did in your 20s and 30s. Savour it!