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Wellness

How To Be Focused On All Things, Even In Your Own Head

There are various kinds of “focus,” including the attentional focus that we give to a task or a person or a conversation. The attentional focus can easily go haywire, however, when it becomes our primary or only focus in life-all or nothing gets your attention? It’s hard to resist being obsessed with things that don’t mean anything.

One of the challenges of being human is that we are always distracted by the things around us. If someone looks at you in the wrong way, you become very uncomfortable. That’s why it is so important for us to understand what it means to focus on some things, and ignore others. Let’s look at this more from a neurochemical point of view. Your brain releases substances called beta-endorphins after experiencing an anticipation of an unpleasant experience. Beta-endorphins are known as “feel-good” chemicals. When your brain doesn’t have to do it anymore, though, it releases beta-endorphins to make you feel good, even when it’s not appropriate, and it produces a little “high” when you’re being unproductive or do the wrong thing. The body normally has these beta-endorphins stored up in a special part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. You can also get the chemicals when you work out but the brain just doesn’t release enough of them naturally. You have to be vigilant in the gym, of course, and that means you need to know how to get that natural release of beta-endorphins going at the right times. You also need to make sure you don’t spend all your time on the treadmill rather than enjoying the physical challenge. You’re going to get more “high” running or lifting than if you sit and think. This “high” is actually a form of addiction.

Once your Beta-Endorphin receptors become activated, your body begins to make you feel a bit more “high” so when you’re not feeling too good, the brain will activate them again. You might feel an “unpleasant” sensation, like your head hurts or your back pains, but your brain won’t get the information about what caused that feeling. This “overstimulation” of the beta-endorphins gives you a feeling of physical discomfort like you’re drowning, or that you are sick. When we get too much of this stimulation, we become “sedated,” i.e. we become lazy and have trouble concentrating. The brain uses this “sedation” as a warning sign that something needs to be worked on, i.e. it needs to be focused on something else. We might also call this attentional or attentional focus , because it is like focusing our attention on the object of our focus. When you’re focused on something, you don’t notice yourself distracted, so by getting distracted, you’re “breaking focus.” (There are other attentional strategies, like “tunnel vision,” that can be helpful if someone tells you your attention is being distracted. These can help you “discover” when your attention is not being focused on something you know you should be paying attention to, but your brain will focus on another idea in the absence of the distracting thought, which can throw you off your game.) This attentional focus, the way we turn to the next thing to grab and focus our attention on them, is why we sometimes have “spoiled” “attention.” This may sound like the perfect recipe for procrastination, but it is also one of the key elements of success, as I mentioned earlier. Another thing you might feel distracted is if you’re not doing the right thing or aren’t able to get on with the task or person. The way you do that is to put your attention on something else that you want. You can do this by doing what I call the “focus-at-arms-length” style or the “do the task-then-turn-away from the task” technique. You should think of it like doing something that takes a lot of effort—you’re not going to put your hands in your pockets and do it right away. You can do it, though, once you get started with it, once you get the right intensity. You may be able to say, “This task requires me to be very organized, and if there’s too many pages in my desk drawer, I’ll need to get rid of all those paper clips and scrapbook papers.