Free: Your toolkit for change (part 4 of 5)
Reticular Activation System
Sometimes being organised and planning ahead seems easy. Lists get made and checked off, time is set aside for personal development and you never miss the gym on a Tuesday. Other times it can feel like your mind is scattered and you are constantly playing catch up.
Preparation and forethought are key in the psychological process of change. Going back to the examples in no 2 of this series, Joyce prepared herself when she quit smoking by asking the pharmacist for help and fortifying herself with gum and knitting.
It is, however, possible to supercharge your brain so that you naturally remember those important plans and subconsciously prepare for the success you want. This is achieved by flooding a part of your brain called the reticular activation system or RAS.
A small, pencil shaped blob of matter in our brain, the purpose of the RAS is to control our state of consciousness, for example whether we should be sleeping or awake. Touch, taste, hearing and sight are all wired through the RAS. This is for safety so that we can block out harmless messages like the light of a streetlamp at night time but still receive urgent ones like a cry for help.
Without the RAS our brain would simultaneously try to process every sight, sound and feel for every second of every day. Phew! Instead, the RAS acts as a filter for security, only processing information which bears a resemblance to intelligence we have acted on in the past. The RAS is the reason you can hear your own name across a busy room or a new mum can sleep through most things except the cry of her child. The RAS is subconsciously blocking out unimportant sensations in favour of vital cues.
Flood your RAS
So how do you control what the RAS processes? Your RAS reacts to whatever you have demonstrated is useful to you in the past. If you notice an advert for a cake shop and you choose to visit, your RAS will filter through other cake adverts. Therefore, if the cake advert is next to a gym advert you will notice the cake but not the gym.
Have you ever heard a brand new word, only to see or hear it again somewhere very shortly afterwards? It was novel when you heard it first so your RAS let it through. When it appeared again your RAS was already primed to filter it to you. By controlling what sensations and information our RAS experiences we can increase the health enriching aspects, priming our RAS to pick up on anything that will help us make good decisions and prevent us from slipping into bad habits.
All you have to do is learn as much as possible about your new change, what methods you will use, what benefits you expect and your RAS will do the rest. In the same way that many search engines will supply adverts targeted to you, your RAS will pinpoint anything relevant to your newly desired change.
Stimulate your RAS by considering the change you want to make and typing 5 relevant descriptions into your computer’s search engine. Not only will reading up on your goal prime your RAS to filter similar information through in the future, researching online will do the same for your advert targeting and double your results every time you go online.
Just think, even while you read this blog your RAS is already honing in on other change related information. Notice how the healthy options will start to present themselves to you. The more heed you pay them, the more will flood through.