Attention and the Reticular Activating System


The reticular activating system is a brain network involved in attention. It is responsible for filtering sensory information from our environment to our conscious awareness or our prefrontal cortex. It is essentially the attention filter in our brains. The reticular activating system is the reason why the “law of attraction“ has some validation to it.

I’m sure everybody has heard the saying “you become what you think about most“. Or “fake it till you make it”. Or even “if you dream about it, it can become your reality”. Now, obviously, a lot of these sayings are motivational or inspirational in nature. There are a whole host of other requirements in addition to just thinking, like hard work, some luck, accountability, etc. 

But, the first step when making any kind of change, is absolutely to engage in thought. To activate the mind. Think about what you want to change and think about how you can bring that change to life. The reticular activating system is the brain mechanism involved that can help.

That is why we emphasize consuming healthy content on a daily basis. Engulf yourself both physically and mentally with health related activities and content. Your brain will then continuously look for the related material in your environment. Your reticular activating system will filter through what your conscious brain asks for or desires.

The Attention Filter

A classic example of this is when you are looking to buy a car. You want a blue corvette because there aren’t many of them on the road and that is your favorite car. And then, once you start looking to buy one or actually make the purchase, they are everywhere on the road! No, people didn’t start buying them like crazy, you just started noticing them because they were top of mind. That is the reticular activating system at work.

So, when trying to make a change in your life to improve your health, really think about it! Whether that’s eating better, or getting more sleep, or starting a meditative practice, or bringing your passion to life, consciously flood your brain with thoughts and requirements pertaining to that change. Your reticular activating system will allow pertinent information to filter through to your conscious attention (your prefrontal cortex). 

There is certainly some truth to the notion that you become what you think about most. And, if you want to become healthier, you have to think about it a lot, first and foremost. And then, more importantly, you need to take the necessary action to create the change in your life. Start with the thinking, and then follow up with a lot of doing.

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