Train your brain to do several tasks at the same time Train your brain to do several tasks at the same time

Life today requires us to do several activities simultaneously, but is it possible? We must develop our attention.

Jenny Carolina Gómez Amado
Psychologist, MSc in Clinical Neuropsychology

No one stops to think about what it takes to start the car and back up in the morning before going to work, certainly a routine action. Charles Duhigg, in his book The Power of Habit, states that “habits arise because the brain is constantly looking for ways to work less.” Therefore, it creates routines in order to rest more often.

This makes it possible to do two activities simultaneously, for example: talking while walking, listening to music while cooking, or eating while you watch TV. However, as simple as they may seem, they require the senses to be paired with the full attention each demands. And if you want to create a new habit, you will have to train your mind with a signal (an emotion) and the reward you get from it.

But, what happens when these activities involve the risk of an accident and require more dedication, such as driving a vehicle and texting at the same time? To address this, psychologist Jenny Carolina Gómez Amado, specialist in neuropsychological assessment and diagnosis, with an MSc in clinical neuropsychology, explains that in order to achieve simultaneity “divided attention training is needed, otherwise it is best to do one activity at a time. If someone does not understand that there is the possibility of interference, in the end, one of the tasks will have a higher error rate. However, it should be noted that our brain functions with equipotentiality (which is the ability of any part or functional area of the brain to take over or process any information that comes to it), so intercommunication between hemispheres is important in most tasks,” adds the specialist.

It is advisable to avoid those activities where, for example, sight is the primary sense required. Watching television and reading at the same time are two actions that are not compatible, because attention is lost in one or both activities. The same thing happens with walking and chatting, or one with greater dedication such as, for example, “texting and driving because it involves, to a certain extent, the same sensory modality, so it is possible for it to affect attention and somehow cause an adverse event that eventually leads to an undesirable circumstance,” adds the expert.

Physical activity that is good for your mind

In addition to training the mind with full attention, by remembering past routines or reading and doing crosswords and sudokus, as usually recommended, researchers also refer to physical activity as a key to maintaining good cognitive function. Researchers from McMaster University in Canada indicated that elderly adults who leave being sedentary behind and put on sports clothes to do exercise with moderate intensity, perceived an improvement of 30 % in their ability to remember and memorize. A stretching routine can also be added to a brisk walk.

Strategies for staying active

The brain can be stimulated every day, you just need to activate certain practices that also help to communicate and live better.

  1. Brain plasticity: neuroscientist Sandra Jurado, in an interview with the SINC Agency (Scientific Information and News Service), says that from this, “the ability to change, modify predetermined habits or knowledge and learn new things” is configured. To preserve it, it is necessary to maintain a discipline of learning and exposure to new things.
  2. Active listening: it helps to understand what the other is saying, by reformulating and asking questions. It is an exercise to be present at the time of dialogue and is a technique for good communication.
  3. Memory: an article published in the Scientific Reports journal indicated that good sleep (between 7 and 8 hours) is key for consolidating memories. If you are deprived of good sleep, or not getting enough sleep becomes chronic, memory becomes vulnerable.
  4. Conversation: social interaction allows us to recreate routines, new associations, and accounts of the activities to keep our mind active, while also helping to maintain bonds. A good way to do this is by talking about movies you have seen or books you have read.
  5. The ability to filter: the brain can anticipate catastrophic events, so the ability to filter information is imperative. For this, sleep is important for the restorative function, so that your mind is cleansed of the unnecessary.
  6. The “media diet:” infodemic is a term coined by the WHO to talk about the excess of information, especially negative or false information, that we are exposed to. We must spend a few hours informing ourselves, but not all day; make sure to choose official and reliable sources. •

Balancing tasks or activities that need to be done is recommended. Doing them consciously allows you to avoid making mistakes and deliberately improve your skills to do what you set out to do.