attention and focus
Attention is our ability to focus on something while tuning out other sensory information that could disrupt that focus.
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As we are bombarded with lots of sensory information, most of the time, our brain is able to filter through what is important and what is not. This is due in large part to frontal lobe function. The act of choosing what information to pay attention to is known as “selective attention”, but the selection is not necessarily conscious. How selective attention works is a little unclear, but research tends to focus on two different areas. One school of thought attributes the selection process to arousal of the senses, while another theory holds that it is a neural process.
There are two forms of attention, passive and active. Passive attention is engaged by external events or when external stimuli literally captures our attention. Active attention is connected to alertness and a conscious choice to concentrate on information.
The first step of the attention process is alertness. Our alertness is controlled by an area located in the brain stem called the RAS (Reticular Activating System). The RAS increases mental activity in the morning so that we are awake and aware, and in the evening, it reduces that activity to help us fall asleep. Our frontal lobe helps us select and prioritize information that we take in so that we can determine its importance.
How long we can maintain focus is known as Sustained Attention. Our ability to remove or ignore distraction plays a big part on our sustained attention.
Here are some ways to improve attention & focus:
- Remove distractions that you have control over.
- Get plenty of sleep
- Create a schedule
- Practice. Find activities that draw you in and work on strengthening attention skills.