1. Doodle. A recent study shows that doodling while listening can actually improve concentration and recall, probably by keeping the mind engaged enough to prevent it from simply checking out and wandering off into a daydream. This works on the premise that the mind can only process so much of a cognitive load at any given time, and that daydreaming creates a cognitive load large enough to shut down other processes (like listening and recall). Doodling creates a minimal cognitive load – enough to stave off daydreaming, but not enough to shut down processes like listening and recall. So what seems like mindless doodling while performing a dull task can actually be a defensive tactic that improves concentration.
2. Paint the room red. Or maybe blue. Science has long recognized the importance of color to mood – green is peaceful, yellow is cheerful, etc. Red has been mainly linked to things like sexuality and aggression, but a recent University of British Columbia study indicates that both red and blue can provide a substantial boost to cognitive activities. According to the study, tests showed that red enhanced performance on attention-demanding tasks, while blue gave a boost to creativity.
3. Drink wine and eat chocolate. It sounds too good to be true, but a team of Oxford researchers say micronutrients found in both wine and chocolate can enhance concentration, improve test scores and slow the progress of age-related cognitive decline. According to Science Daily, both wine and chocolate (and tea as well, but where’s the fun in that?) contain a sub-class of subclass of dietary polyphenols called flavonoids, and flavonoids appear to be good for the brain.
4. Doze off. Briefly. Studies show that naps as short as five minutes long can improve alertness and concentration and enhance memory processes. But timing is the key to making naps work for you; we appear to be biologically programmed to sleep for a long period at night and for a short period in the middle of the day. So the next time you find yourself fighting a surge of mid-afternoon sleepiness, give in.
5. Wake up and smell the the peppermint. But lay off the ylang-ylang. The scent of peppermint has been found to enhance memory and increase the ability to concentrate, whereas ylang-ylang impaired memory and lengthened processing speed. In terms of subjective mood peppermint increased alertness and ylang-ylang decreased it, but significantly increased calmness.
6. Raise the roof. Bizarre as it seems, recent research supports the idea that ceiling height has a significant effect on cognitive processing. Study participants given a memory test in a high-ceiling room did better on concentration-demanding free recall tasks (tasks in which they’re not given any recall cues, like categories).