How Controlling Your RAS Can Help You Focus Better

Image demonstrates someone who has full focus on an end target or goal.

First and foremost, just what exactly is the RAS? RAS stands for the Reticular Activating System.  The reticular activating system, or RAS, is a small section of the brain about the size of your little finger. It starts close to the top of the spinal column and extends upwards around two inches. All of your senses (except smell, which goes to our brain's emotional centre) are wired directly to this bundle of neurons.

The RAS plays a hugely important role in our everyday lives. In a nutshell, it acts as the gatekeeper to all the sensory information from the outside world as well as from within your body. Your brain is bombarded with the equivalent of 34 gigabytes of information every day. That’s a huge amount of information to process. If you put that much data onto your laptop every day for a week, it would crash!

Your RAS filters all the sensory information coming from your surroundings and also from within you. Then your RAS decides what information to let into your conscious mind. In other words, what to focus on. Then it alerts your conscious mind to important information. Examples of important things the RAS alerts you to are:

  • 1
    Your name being mentioned
  • 2
    The sound of your baby crying even when you’re in a deep sleep
  • 3
    Your latest obsession, whether it’s pugs (suddenly every other dog that crosses your path is a cute pug), chocolate (everyone seems to be eating, drinking or selling chocolate) or the new car model you’ve been dreaming of owning (strangely, you seem to spot this model 10 times a day suddenly)

Why is this important for you to know? And what is the connection between your RAS and  focusing on your goals?

Your conscious mind helps your RAS decide what information to let in. Whatever is important to your conscious mind, your RAS will ‘search’ for. This is why it’s essential that you’re clear about what’s REALLY important to you, your brain health goals and the actions you need to focus on.

So for example, if you want to focus on more cultivating a more positive mindset to overcome depression or anxiety, you could:

  • 1
    Have a gratitude journal placed on your bedside table or on your work desk
  • 2
    Print out and stick a positive affirmation or favourite positive quote on your bathroom mirror, car dashboard or have it as a screensaver on your phone or computer
  • 3
    Have a reminder set on your phone for twice a day to remind you to do a gratitude practise or a meditation
  • 4
    Keep records (physical or virtual) of when you meditate or practise gratitude
  • 5
    For 10 days, set yourself a challenge to ‘look out’ for automatic negative thoughts (ANT) throughout the day by wearing a rubber band on your wrist and snapping yourself every time an ANT crosses your mind

All these little actions will ‘teach’ your RAS to recognise and focus on the things that are most important to you.  At first, your conscious mind will need to work hard to identify these things. But quite quickly, your RAS takes over so that you automatically focus on what’s important to you and not get distracted by the many other unimportant things competing for your attention.

To learn more about how to use your RAS to help you achieve your health goals, read this article , which explains very clearly how to ‘train’ your RAS to help you achieve your goals.

Within my health coaching sessions, I will help you learn how to control your RAS so that you easily focus on achieving your brain health goals. Contact me for a FREE, no obligation 30 minute Exploratory Call to see how Health Coaching can help you.


Leave a Comment