How to Improve Your Working Memory for Better Cognitive Functioning as Executive Protection

By: Luiz G. Neto

Our brain is constantly processing information. From making our coffee in the morning to dreaming while we sleep, our neurons are always working to figure out what to do with the information they’re receiving. Every scenario is carefully calculated within our brains which then tells us how to respond to certain stimuli. In the field of Close Protection, it’s crucial that we train our brains to respond to stimuli in a quick and calculated way so that we are able to execute our responsibilities and keep people safe.

Everyone has a story about the time that they responded to a stimulus the wrong way. When we are presented with a stressful situation – one in which our brains are not familiar with – we go into “fight-or-flight” mode. This response has been developed in mammals over millions of years as a way to protect themselves from impending danger; they either stay and fight or run away. 

Now, as we’ve developed into more a more civilized society, the term “fight” doesn’t necessarily mean putting up your dukes and getting ready for combat. Often times, it means facing the problem ahead of you in whatever way you can. Unfortunately, our brain doesn’t always make the correct decision when in “fight mode” which might cause you to do something that you wouldn’t normally do under less stressful circumstances

In the field of Executive Protection, these incorrect decisions cannot be tolerated. Making the wrong move in a stressful situation can cost you your career, your reputation, or result in someone getting hurt. It’s important to be able to maintain emotional balance and strengthen your synapses so that your brain can learn to process information faster.

Working memory

There are three types of memory: long-term, short-term, and working memory. Your working memory is a system in the brain that is made up of many components and it allows you to process what you see efficiently in order to make complex decisions based on the stimuli. Essentially, our working memory helps us to filter and manage information.

There are three sub-parts to working memory: verbal, visual-spatial, and central executive. Respectively, they help to manage what we hear and say, visualize, and do. The central executive working memory essentially works as the control center of our mind and is responsible for the manipulation, processing, and recall of information that is necessary for paying attention, solving problems, and making decisions.

Working memory is our ability to process and execute both everyday (walking, talking, eating) and highly skilled tasks. There is some connection to working memory and long-term memory in the way that working memory helps us to recall and perform functions that were may have learned 20-30 years ago. At the same time, however, our working memory is always learning new information that helps us to never stop improving. 

In the field of Executive Protection, your working memory must be strong and agile. We are all born with a certain level of cognitive functioning that improves as we learn and grow. That growth doesn’t necessarily have to stop when you’re an adult. Luckily, there are steps that you can take to improve your cognitive functioning, working memory, and the way you filter and manage information.

Let’s break down the idea of cognitive thinking into 9 different categories. This will enable us to develop a better understanding of limitations in enhancing cognitive skills. Through this, we will understand that two different individuals under the same training regime give different results. This is because of certain unavoidable factors like age, genetics, and personality differences, life experience etc.

Sustained attention

The ability to stay focused on a certain task for a sustained period of time. The limitation faced in this can be old age and personality problems.

Divided attention

Ability to remember certain while focusing on a different task. Someone who feels uneasy in performing two different tasks simultaneously. This can be due to personality disorder and age.

Selective attention 

To be able to focus on a task despite distractions. Limitations are old age and personality disorder.

Reasoning and logic

Problem-solving and forming ideas. Limitations can be genetic and old age.

Long term memory

Allows you to recall information stored in the past. The limitation is age and genetics.

Working memory

Ability to hang on to information while using it. It is affected by old age and genetics.

Visual processing 

Enables you to think in the form of images. Lacking creativity and genetics.

Auditory processing

Allows you to analyze, segment, and blend sounds. With old age and genetic lacking, it can only be increased to a limited level.

Processing speed  

Enables you to perform different tasks more efficiently and quickly. Ability declines with age and psychological disorder.

Improving working memory

If we have a healthy brain and attention span, there is nearly no limit to what we can learn. This means that if we put in the time and work that it takes to train our brain and improve working memory, there is no limit to our cognitive functioning.

In fact, studies show that working memory training can significantly improve the control that we have on our attention spans and help us to be less distracted. Ignoring distractions is crucial in the field of Close Protection because we always have to be agile and prepared for anything. In addition, working memory training positively effects the way we filter and manage information which may help to control emotion and anxiety.

You can improve your working memory by exercising both physically and mentally. Physical exercise has been shown to improve concentration, memory, problem solving, and attention to detail. Mental exercise, however, is what’s going to really challenge your brain and help it to become stronger.

Just like any other muscle, you can engage your brain in activities that improve its cognitive skills. Some of the activities that help in strengthening brain functionality and resultantly increasing cognitive thinking are mentioned below:

Mindful meditation: A pilot study in 2013 in Harvard’s Beth Israel deaconess medical center identified the effect of meditation on brain function and how it enhances cognitive thinking. 

Brain-training games: Scientists are developing a better understanding today that the individuals engaging in brain training games like Sudoku and chess show improved cognitive thinking compared to those who do not participate in such activities.

Working with puzzles:  Solving puzzles and engaging in mentally challenging activities can boost the cognitive thinking of the brain and speed up its processing ability. ·   

Push your limits by taking an activity to new levels!

  • Be complex – complexity forces your brain to function at a higher level.
  • That is something that takes practice – just like your muscles develop “muscle memory” your brain can too. The more you practice something, the better your brain will be at automatically responding to the task.

Social connections: Researchers concluded that the feeling of isolation can disrupt sleep, increase stress levels, increase blood pressure, and increase depression. All of these factors contribute to disrupt optimal brain functionality and result in decreased cognitive function.

Basically, most of the time we find ourselves in that situation.

In the field of Executive Protection, our cognitive functioning levels and emotional balance must always be working efficiently. Every decision that you make when you’re protecting someone must be the best possible decision for the situation, otherwise the consequences may be dire. Improving your working memory gives you the power to better filter and manage information which is crucial in keeping others safe.

What do you do to improve yours?

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