What You Focus On Grows!
Description: In this episode, Melissa and Maribeth (from ADD Professionals) explore the brain and explain why the thoughts and emotions we focus on grow in our mind.
We all know that if we want to learn something new, all we need to do is practice over and over again. Then, we can do it automatically! It’s like learning to drive a car. At first, you had to think a lot and it seemed stressful and overwhelming!! You didn't think you could ever do it! However, now, how much do you even have to think about it? It is automatic! What you focused on grew! We now know, because of neuroscience, that what you focus on actually, physically grows in the brain, at a cellular level. When you practiced driving, you created a “car driving” program in your brain. If we could scan your brain while you were driving, that “car driving” part of your brain would literally light up now.
Let's look at how that happens in your brain, how you can control what you focus on and therefore, what grows in your brain.
First of all… a little anatomy. The brain has three main parts:
1) Hindbrain: It is the maintenance room. This part of the brain keeps your heart beating, your lungs breathing, your body temperature at a perfect 98.6 degrees and makes sure you sleep each night.
2) Midbrain: This is basically where most of the basic programming or memory is. This is like a hard drive. It is your "instinctual" brain. Your automatic reactions and emotions originated here.
3) Cortex: This is the outer part, the "thinking" brain. which processes all of the sensory input. The "boss" of the whole brain is the pre frontal cortex - right behind your forehead. It decides what to focus on and what to do about it.
Basically, information outside of your brain is taken in by your senses, processed by your cortex, managed by your pre frontal cortex, stored in your midbrain, while your whole brain is kept running by your hindbrain.
Now, there are thousands of pieces of information that you could focus on at any given moment. Things you see, hear, taste, touch, smell or feel. It can be overwhelming to ADDers, because their filter lets in too much sensory information, making it hard to choose. It’s overwhelming!
Your brain, however has a system that you can use to help you get out of that overwhelm. It is call the Reticular Activating System. Here’s how it works.
Out of the thousands of things your brain could focus on, the reticular activating system works like a louvered door, only letting one thought at a time go to memory. The thought with the highest electrical charge is the one that gets through. Guess what gives that thought the electricity? FOCUS!
The super power that you posses is your ability to choose what you focus on. What you focus on is what will be stored in your programming – your memory. By focusing, you are giving that thought the electrical charge - the super power to push through to your memory – your programming.
So, if you are looking at your day, feeling overwhelmed by too many things to do and you just want to shut down and do nothing, use your super power! You could focus on how overwhelmed you are and program that into your brain, or you could use your reticular activating system to choose to focus on one positive thing that will make your day go smoothly. Maybe you could just make a priority list and choose the three most important things. Then give the first item lots of electricity – focus on it! You will be surprised that, after a short time, it will be done! You focused on a positive activity rather than the negative overwhelm. Great job!
You can use this super power every moment of every day! It just takes practice! Remember how you learned to drive? What You Focus On Grows!