The reticular activating system RAS or why do you all of a sudden notice certain things...?

You know this weird thing… You may have never noticed a certain car… If someone talks about that specific car, you don’t even have a clue what it looks like… Then your friend buys that car and all of a sudden you notice it everywhere….

The reason is simple: it is now important for your brain to notice… Because hey, I might see my friend…

The reticular activating system (RAS) is the part of your brain that is in charge of prioritising, noticing and delivering information… The RAS is in charge of deciding what to notice, what to pay attention to and what to ignore. There are millions of bits of data available to you every second but you only notice a tiny selection of those. What you notice and what goes unnoticed is up to your RAS. 

Simply out your RAS notices what is of value to you. Which is nothing more than what is in alignment with your unconscious values and beliefs. 

You can massively influence what your RAS notices. A few years ago I was in the US and I needed to mail something, hence I needed to find a postbox. My brain was looking for something red… Needless to say it didn’t work. I mean, I noticed a heck of a lot of people wearing red t-shirt, jumpers or shoes. I noticed red cars and posters. But no mailbox to be seen. Until I was reminded that those things are actually blue in the US….

Duh! As soon as I told my brain to start looking for blue… bing I found what I needed.  

You’re probably thinking, common Silke, how often do I need that…? Well, I agree you probably don’t… 

RAS for better relationships

But let’s say you want to improve a relationship with yourself, your boss, coworker, dog, child, friend or significant other. It is a common tendency to not notice all the amazing stuff about them, the stuff they rock at… In which case you want to give yourself a mission: Every morning ask you RAS to notice everything that person does well today, every time they make you smile or laugh, every nice thing they do. And every night write down at least 7 positive things you noticed… 

Then observe your relationship transform! 

This is also why gratitude journals work… You are giving importance to noticing things to be grateful for. And the more you notice that, the happier you get. Fact. 

Let’s say you want to improve your golf tee-off swing. (I know nothing about golf, so this will be fun…) Ask your RAS to notice everything you do well. It might be how you place your feet or how you hold your hips or how you naturally grip that club… 

Let’s say you have a problem with your follow through. Ask your RAS to notice all the people who do that part of the swing particularly well… And how they do that part of the swing. 

We are so good at paying way too much attention to our problems. Ask your RAS to pay attention to what is working for a change.

Got it?
Have fun influencing your RAS!

Today I am grateful for our fireplace… I so enjoy putting the fireplace on in the late afternoon. It is a true mindfulness exercise. I am just in the moment, watching the flames… So I’ll go and do just that now. 

What do you want?

Have you ever thought that sometimes your mind plays tricks on you?

You know when you tell yourself to not think of something… Or you’re trying hard not to be nervous? Then you find you can’t stop thinking about it or you get even more nervous…? Even though you really, really, really don’t want to…?

Don’t think about a cute little squirrel, now… Please, no matter what, just don’t think about a squirrel with its button eyes and bushy tail!

Well, you can’t do it, can you? It’s actually called the 'Law of Reversed Effect'. Which means that whenever you use the word “Don’t” you get the exact opposite of what you wanted.

Why am I telling you all this? Because it’s useful!

Understanding the ‘Law of Reversed Effect’ is your first step to running your own mind more successfully.

So, bear with me. This is why it is not easy to not think of cute squirrels (especially while I keep reminding you, what they look like with their sweet eyes and bushy tails… Bahahaha).

This applies to different contexts too: The more you tell yourself “Don’t be nervous”, the more you automatically think about being nervous. You can’t help it. It’s the way your mind works…

Aaaand before you know it, you start to remember the last time you were nervous…

And if that wasn’t enough, you then proceed to tell yourself “Oh I don’t want that to happen again!” … And because your mind still can’t process the negation, you imagine exactly the same thing happening again… and you really don’t want that.

Whether you are consciously aware of all these unconscious processes or not, the effect is the same!

The first step to running your own mind even more successfully is understanding it. And now you are one step closer to that goal! The second step is using this for your own good!

So here is your 5-step mission, should you choose to accept it:

1) Stand guard at the gates of your own mind

2) Every time you notice thinking "don’t" instantly think about what the opposite of that for you is.

3) Always think about what you DO want! Start every day by writing down how you DO WANT yourself to be in certain situations. The more specific you are, the better!

4) Pay attention to how you are communicating with others. Make a habit of describing what you do want them to do, instead of what you don’t want them to do.

5) Have fun with it all!