(https://bernicemoore NULL.files NULL.wordpress NULL.com/2015/02/fotolia_15229060_subscription_xxl NULL.jpg)There’s a lot going on when we work together and it’s hard to pay attention.
There are competing personalities trying to make points in meetings. We get on conference calls with people from around the world.
It is high-stakes, complex, and complicated.
Managing complexity can be overwhelming, and we may slip into auto-pilot. Our minds drift and become unfocused.
We multi-task and lose concentration, doing more and more with less and less quality or accuracy.
3 Reasons to Pay Attention
When you stop drifting and pay attention 3 important changes begin to happen in the brain:
- You increase neurogenesis and neuroplasticity (the creation of new nerves and neural pathways)
- You create theta waves that enable creative thinking and quick learning
- You generate more neural connections that help you work with complicated and complex situations
It’s completely up to you
No one can make you pay attention. Mindfulness (a practice of paying attention) is good for your brain according to research. And, it is 100% your choice to pay attention or not.
Sometimes you can’t pay attention even if you want to. You’re stressed or distracted. Mindfulness trains us to pay attention when we notice that the mind has been wandering. We connect with our awareness and attention over and over. It’s like building awareness muscles.
Mice have taught us the importance of wanting to make an effort
Here’s the story on mice. Mice love to run—ever try to catch one?—and when they have a running wheel in their cages, they love to run on the wheel, hours at a time, 5 kilometers a night. For little guys with short legs, that’s a lot.
They run on the wheels because they want to; no one puts them up to it. Studies on the running-mice brains show that the running mice have bigger brains filled with more neurons, dendrites, and connectivity than sedentary mice.
When the mice are forced to run, put on a wheel with no way off, their brains don’t improve at all. Maybe they get stressed—who knows? What scientists do know is that without intention and willingness, the brain doesn’t improve. “Running voluntarily increases neurogenesis and increases learning, even in very, very old animals . . . .” [So there's hope for us yet!]
What about Theta Waves
Paying attention creates theta waves. Running also creates theta waves.
“People with Theta Waves have been known to be able to think far more creatively than those who don’t. Usually musicians, painters, designers, or anyone with a job that involves a certain degree of creativity – has more Theta Waves than average. . . . Theta Brain Wave activity has also been noted among individuals who are able to learn quickly. This is due to the fact that like Alpha Waves, Theta Brain Waves can induce a similar state of ‘Super Learning.’” (http://www NULL.brainwavesblog NULL.com/tag/theta-waves/)
Hey! Pay Attention! When you are paying attention, theta waves show up.
Theta waves are good for creativity & learning.
They help us relax and connect the dots.
The more connected the brain is with neurons and branches of dendrites growing, clustering together, making connections and communicating, the better the brain works.
When we are awake, alert, and at our best, we connect lots of information, making links between concepts and ideas. We quickly understand complex situations, and discover new ways to work with challenging situations.
We need to use our best thinking when we work together and the stakes are high and the situation is complex.
Pay attention to what’s going on inside and around you, and your brain will develop the ability to work with more information and complexity.
You’ll be more likely to thrive. And you’ll help others just by your presence.
Use it or lose it
Become dull and unfocused, letting your attention wander and drift, and your brain can atrophy—or at the least some neurons will be pruned away.
Let’s face it, we need all the help our brains can give us in this crazy, complex world!
[BTW I want to express my appreciation for the countless mice and monkeys who were sacrificed to help scientists study and learn about our brains.]
Here are some References
Begley, S. (2008). Train your mind change your brain. Ballentine Books: New York.
Mindfulness and the brain: retrieved: http://www.mindful.org/how-the-brain-changes-when-you-meditate/
Waves, B. Jr. (2011). Theta brain waves information, retrieved from http://www.brainwavesblog.com/tag/theta-waves/