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Use the “ABC method” to hack your brain for improved focus

Use the “ABC method” to hack your brain for improved focus

Lots of people struggle to focus in their day-to-day lives. They constantly get distracted, and this makes it difficult for them to complete tasks so that they can achieve their goals.

The Problem With Multitasking

Multitasking is a big part of modern society. You will notice it at home and at work: when you are watching a film with your family, you may notice that your family members are using their laptops and phones at the same time. When you are in a meeting, you may notice people texting under the table or sending emails.

Most people don’t see this as a problem. After all, multitasking is often seen as a sign that you are hardworking and efficient.

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However, the truth is that multitasking means that you are more likely to forget things and make mistakes. You are also less likely to retain new information, which can make it harder for you to solve problems or be creative.

Research has found that most people have very short attention spans, and multitasking is only making the problem worse. People are constantly being bombarded with work, home and technology demands, and so they are finding it even harder to stay focused.

Thankfully, an article in Harvard Business Review suggests a method called the ABC method to help people improve their focus.

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Teaching Your Brain to Stay Focused

There has been a lot of research in recent years into how the brain works. Scientists have made huge advances with neuroimaging, and studies that looked at adults with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) are teaching us more about how the brain focuses on tasks.

The research has also revealed more about how easily the brain can be distracted. This research is very relevant to modern society, as most people struggle to focus for long periods of time.

So, what have researchers found out? They’ve found that anyone can teach their brain to ignore distractions so that they can stay focused. This helps to you to be more productive and creative, and it will help you to achieve your goals.

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The ABC Model

An article published in Harvard Business Review describes the ABC method to help people to stay focused. It gives you the chance to metaphorically press the brakes on your brain when you encounter a distraction. There are three steps to follow.

The first step is being aware of your options. You can either follow the distraction and become unfocused, or you can keep going with the task that you are working on.

The second step is breathing deeply. Take a minute to relax without thinking about the distraction.

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The third step is making a choice. You can choose to be distracted or you can choose to stay focused.

This may sound simple, but it works. This is because you are openly acknowledging that one of the options is a distraction, rather than a useful or important task, so it is much easier for you to ignore it.

Set Your Goals

The author of the article recommends that people make a conscious effort to be aware of where their attention goes. When you start your day, you should ask yourself these questions: what is my main task for today? How do I feel? Do I expect to succeed?

This will make you aware of what you want to achieve, so it will be easier for you to stay focused and motivated. However, this will only work if you also use the ABC model at the same time to avoid distractions. Setting goals is important, but if you aren’t willing to work on your distractions then you will still struggle to stay focused.

Featured photo credit: Tookapic via pexels.com

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Amy Johnson

Amy is a writer who blogs about relationships and lifestyle advice.

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Last Updated on June 6, 2019

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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     A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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    The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

    “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

    In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

    The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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      A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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      Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

      “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

      When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

      The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

      As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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      “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

      Silence relieves stress and tension.

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        It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

        A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

        “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

        Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

        Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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          The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

          Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

          But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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          Summation

          Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

          Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

          Reference

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