Imagine if you could increase your concentration and memory with a snap of a finger.
You’d be more productive, you’d achieve your goals with much less effort, and it’d be easier to prioritize things. Your stress levels would probably go down too, and you would feel more accomplished in general.
Of course, there’s no magic solution for increasing concentration and memory. But meditation comes very close. Even if you’re a complete beginner, doing a 10-minute breathing meditation can pretty much increase your focus, alertness and awareness instantly.
The problem is, these benefits dissipate quickly. You need to do meditation every day for a long time for its memory and concentration benefits to really stick.
Like any other skill, meditation takes practice to master. Much like you’d practice tennis to get better at it, doing meditation consistently can increase your focus, memory, and concentration significantly over time.
In the following post, we’ll show you different meditation techniques that, when applied correctly and consistently, can give your cognition a real boost.
Meditation Techniques for Concentration and Memory
Here are three meditation techniques for concentration and memory, starting with the simplest one:
1. Breath-Focused Meditation
There are lots of ways to meditate. This can be confusing if you’re a beginner who’s just looking for a simple technique to improve your focus and memory ability. So, if you’re just looking to get a feel for meditation, just follow these basic steps:
- Find a spot where you won’t be distracted.
- Set up a timer for 5 minutes.
- Sit somewhere where you feel comfortable – a chair, bed, floor, anything.
- Now, close your eyes and start noticing the sensation of the breath. Focus on where you feel it the most. Is it in the upper chest? In the belly? Or maybe in your nostrils? Doesn’t matter where it is, as long as you place your focus on it.
- Maintain a gentle focus on your in and out breath throughout the meditation session. When your mind wanders (this is perfectly normal), just gently bring your focus back on the breath.
It’s possible, if you’re completely new to meditation, that sitting for even just 5 minutes can feel extremely uncomfortable. Try to sit with the sensations – don’t resist them, just keep bringing your attention back to the sensation of your breath. That’s all that matters. And don’t judge yourself that ‘you’re doing it wrong’ at any point. The very essence of meditation is acceptance.
If you really can’t tolerate meditating in silence, then I’d recommend trying some guided medications to being with. My personal favorite app is Headspace. Other alternatives include Calm and Breathe.
Very little or no research has been done showing any sort of benefits from meditating less than four times per week. To really get the most out of your meditation, you should make it into a daily habit. If you really want those memory and concentration benefits, then there’s no way around it!
RELATED: Does CBD Help with Meditation?
2. Kirtan Kriya Meditation
This form of meditation is a little more advanced than the previous one, but it’s been shown to increase memory, focus and reduce stress levels.
Starting with Kirtan Kriya meditation is simple. The first step is to learn four syllables. You can also mnemonics which is a great memory exercise.
Or you can just count from 1-4.
Each time you count a number, press one of your fingers against one thumb. Do this exercise minimum of 4 times per week. Every day is even better if you want to see results fast.
One standard type of meditation is counting from 1-10 while focusing on each breath. However, with this technique, you’ll be skipping the even numbers. This forces your brain to tap into more resources, and is ultimately more effective at building your memory and concentration muscles.
As always, start by finding a comfortable place to sit in. Count the first breath. Then, after you breathe out, stay focused on not counting the number two as you breathe in. Believe me, it’s more challenging than it sounds.
As you continue to practice this technique, you’ll learn a lot about our brains symbolize thoughts. You’ll become mentally stronger as you work on the “number skipping” technique and experience more insights into the nature of memory and focus.
Make it a goal to not move during meditation as much as possible.
Whether you’re sitting on a chair or a floor, keep your back relatively straight and your head upright.
Don’t be too stiff as this can be too painful and drive your focus away from meditation; don’t be too slouched as that can make you fall asleep.
The less time you spent practicing meditation the more challenging this will be. Most of us who don’t meditate also don’t spend a lot of time focusing on our posture.
So when you start doing meditation, you might be surprised with your body’s tendency to relax and slump – or that specific areas, like your jaw, are very tense.
By paying attention to your meditation posture (but not too much where you’re completely absorbed in it – this is distraction), you’re effectively training your focus skill.
Do you know those beaded wrist bracelets? They weren’t always just for the show, in fact, these rosaries (aka “malas”) were made specifically for meditation. You can take mala off your wrist and go through each bead as you mark your mantra or breath. This is a great way to be focused on the present moment.
Meditating while walking or doing any other activity can be a great way to improve focus and memory, and squeeze in more meditation time into your daily life.
Practice walking mindfully for a few minutes. Notice the sensations in your legs and feet as you walk.
Even meditating in public, if you’re up for it, can really help you develop a strong level of concentration.
You’re essentially canceling out all the distractions from the outside world and keeping your attention on a single thing. Public meditation is extremely hard for most people, though. That’s why we don’t recommend it for beginners.
Read our complete guide: How to Meditate in Public – 5 Key Tips
If your mind keeps wandering while you meditate – and the truth is, everyone’s does – there are a few things you can do.
The biggest tip I have for you is to use meditation apps, which as I’ve mentioned, are audio recordings of another person guiding you through your meditation session.
The soothing quality of meditation can easily put you to sleep – doing a guided meditation is a great way to stay concentrated, alert and at peace – especially if you’re a beginner.
As we’ve briefly said above, repeating mantras is a meditation technique renowned for its potential to strengthen focus and memory.
When you practice them with a kind and unselfish motivation, a mantra can also improve your consciousness and overall sense of well being.
Even on the most basic level, a simple mantra such as “Breathing in, I fill my body with fresh air,” and “Breathing out, I’m releasing all the tension” can be extremely powerful for your brain function.
Meditation and Concentration – The Research
All of the above methods are great to help specifically with your focus and concentration, but they can also improve your quality of life in general. With a little practice you can find one that works perfectly for you.
But meditating to boost concentration and memory isn’t just ‘woo-woo’ science – it’s actually been proven by research.
A 2018 article from the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement shows that intensive meditation practice helps offset the age-related cognitive decline.
As with everything, though, there’s an easy way and a hard way to strengthen your mental muscles. Let’s first go over the studies that investigated the hard way.
The Hard Way
In an attempt to study the link between meditation and cognition, scientists from the University of California invited 60 people to take part in a study.
30 of those people were assigned to a full-on meditation retreat where they practiced mindfulness meditation for around five hours a day for 90 days.
How committed were these people, you ask? Very. They didn’t just dedicate three months of their time to this, but they also paid $5,300 to participate in the retreat.
The other 30 people – the control group – were placed on a waiting list.
After those 90 days, both groups of people did a computer test. The test was to watch a series of artifacts flash on their screens, and click a mouse every time they saw an artifact that was shorter than the others.
This test forced the participants to maintain a very high focus on the details. In the end, the study results showed that people who meditated were much more likely to see small differences in the artifacts.
So, the meditation group was better able to stay locked in on small details thanks to their intensive concentration practice.
But of course, not everyone can afford the time (nor money) to attend a 3-month full-on meditation retreat. So, is there an easier way to get better focus? Actually, there is!
The Easy Way To Better Concentration
As long-term meditation was seen to benefit cognition, researchers wanted to find out whether less effort would be effective too. See for yourself:
In a study from the University of North Carolina, 49 students were split into two groups:
- The first group, consisting of 24 volunteers, was selected for meditation. They had no previous experience with the practice.
- The second group, consisting of 25 volunteers, were selected for listening to an audiobook.
Each group did their activity for 20 minutes, four times within one week, under the supervision of researchers.
Can you guess what they found?
At the end of just one week, the meditation group saw significant increases in their concentration compared to the audiobook group.
Meditation and Memory – The Research
So far we’ve seen that certain meditation exercises have some powerful benefits for our concentration and mental focus.
But what about memory? Can you do meditation specifically for improving your mental recollection and recall?
Let’s put our lab coats back on again to find out.
A randomized, placebo-controlled trial looked into the effects of meditation on working memory in teenagers.
200 or so adolescents were assigned to either do yoga, practice mindfulness meditation, or wait on a list (the control group).
The groups that meditated and practiced yoga did so for 15-30 minutes once per day. This, in addition to two formal teaching sessions two times per week.
As it turns out, teenagers from the meditation group had significantly better results than the yoga group – especially in terms of working memory.
Meditation Doesn’t Just Improve Memory in Teenagers, Though!
Another clinical trial examined the benefits of mindfulness training in adult college students. Surprise, surprise, the participants who meditated saw less mind-wandering and improved working memory capacity. The most impressive of all is that this was achieved in just two weeks of meditating 10 minutes daily.
Boosting your focus is a step towards boosting your memory capacity. Certain meditation techniques, such as “number skipping” and “Kirtan Kriya” are particularly effective for both.
In today’s day and age with chronic stress and never-ending distractions, incorporating practices to ground your mind is more important than ever.
Some people say that meditation is an unproductive use of our time.
But think about all the time you waste mentally, lost in thought, scattered, unfocused. Don’t you think that practicing meditation could actually save you time in the long run? Allowing you to be more present, and allowing you to get more out of each moment.
Meditation results don’t come instantaneously. It takes weeks, months, and years of consistent and deliberate practice.
The good news is, you don’t have to go on a meditation retreat. Carving out just ten minutes of your day, no matter which technique you’re most comfortable with. Stay committed and your mind and memory will thank you for it!