Focused Attention Exercises
Focused attention exercises tie movement and learning together in this Neuroplastic Triad. Learning something new with your body requires focused attention. We'll go deeper here. We'll explore attention & focus and consider why looking in or looking out can improve your brain and nervous system.
We'll also look at the emotional brain body. Reading these next paragraphs will require your focused attention. (I hope you'll stick with it and thank me for this later :)
How to of Focused Attention Exercises:
Learn something new.
Practice looking closely at the environment around you.
Pay attention to your breathing.
Pay attention to your habits.
Notice subtle details.
Sink into the feeling of seeing -pay attention as you look slowly from side to side.
Notice different shapes or colors.
Stop, pause, and look intently at a small spider or other creature.
At first, especially, it requires more effort and energy. With practice a learning curve sets in, and you become conditioned. There is muscle memory. The grooves and patterns are set as certain neurons get used to connecting in that way. It gets easier. You become a seeing, feeling whole. They say that neurons that fire together-wire together- thus making up the highway of doing without thinking about it- a habit. The actions, that at first were hard, requiring so much focused attention becomes unconscious: easy. Hard not to do. If we want to keep the brain vibrant and nimble, we try new things, we improve on our capacities, we take the time, energy and attention to focus and grow and we use our whole body to do so.
We have simple focused attention to an outer point or sharp gaze, observation to something far away or close by. Your eyes usually leading the way. This is easy enough, keep an eye on something and know that you are paying attention-focused attention. We can also focus our attention inward.
There is introspection but also interoseption. Both can be used for practicing focused attention exercises.
Introspection is where we focus inward, we contemplate. It becomes focused attention when you have an end goal, a specific task, or you are purposely reflecting on a situation.
Reflection is good for the brain. Ideally give your attention to reflecting towards positive end results or greater hopes and beliefs.
Negative thinking traps (called default mode networks in brain science speak) can generate more of the same panic or anxious pouring of more negative feelings and thoughts. Because we have emotional memory and hormonal connections you can get stuck there. I can't get fully into here, however
I'll give a shot at a short introduction here:
1st you'll have to practice a novel learning experience by learning two more terms:)
Interoception and proprioception.
Introspection is reflection.
Interoception on the otherhand is where we know and feel what it is to be in our body. We actually have the sense of "the hip bone connected to the leg bone". In both introspection and interoception we focus inward.
But proprioception takes us from the inward to the outward. Proprioception is knowing by doing-how much force, for example, to use when you pick up a bottle off a table. You know from prior experience AND the present feeling of the thing-the weight and size of it between your palm and fingers. You know deeply in your body how much effort, control or mobileness is needed. Proprioception requires you to be attentively present in your body, to be aware of your environment, be aware of what's around you and be aware of the thing that you are interacting with. Proprioception enlists interoception naturally. You don't actually think about it. You feel it. Its muscle memory + environment and the things you are coming in contact with.
In practicing focused attention exercises I like to use the senses. You can go deeper still. The eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin being both a core and satellite to the nervous system are keys into the brain, actually. Where each of these meets, at the center of the scull, we find master glands: the makers and directors of hormones and hormone production. Thus interweaving another magnificent web of the emotional body mind. Without getting into it too much of course, I just want you to know that having a deep emotional connection solidifies the attention piece. And using the senses deepens the body mind learning.
Aerobic Activity, along with Novel & Motor Learning Experiences and Focused Attention Exercises make up what is known as The Neuroplastic Triad. These 3 key actions are known to increase the brain's level of maleability, which is also known as neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is THE indicator of brain health.
To optimize neuro function, you need novel motor learning experiences as well as aerobic movement, and focused attention practices. These we'll look at in depth in part 1 and 2. Links at bottom of page.
The three keys to optimizing neuro function can be summed: move, learn & pay attention.
Although it can get super complicated and nuanced, basically all we're doing is tying the mental, emotional & physical together.
We're not merely brains or merely physical beings. We know that brain and body impacts emotions and that emotions impact brain and body.
Studies in Health & Human Development and Exercise Sciences help to explain how and why. We know these things in our body even without the language to say how it is so.
Working as an emergency medical technician and as an American College of Sports Medicine physical activity and public health specialist, I've had the privilege to learn, witness, see and know how truly remarkable the body brain is. You can practice moving (aerobic movement), hands on learning (novel learning experiences), and tuning in or tuning out (focused attention practices) separately or you can do things that combine all three.
Slowly, carefully attentively is good. I love to combine all three. It gets me reaching into flow states. We can talk about this later.
Norman Doerge The Brain That Heals Itself
Curt Thompson Anatomy of The Soul
John Ratey & Eric Hagerman-Spark
Sozo Somatics-Michelle Theillen
Nikki Myers Y12SR
Yoga for Addictions by YogaFit
ACE PT, EX SC, Health Coach Cert.
National Emergency Medical Tech.
American College of Sports Medicine Physical Activity & Public Health Specialist
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This is how I train. This is how I coach. Whole body health. Mental. Emotional. Physical. Whole.
When I say Fields of Recovery, I'm talking about
Recovery of Land based practices and hands on learning
Recovery around mental health, behavioral health, addictions to things that harm us and the community and fellowship that comes with it. Patterning healthy habits with lifestyle medicine as a group.
Day to day physical body recovery. Healing the body with preventative medicine. The necessity of intentional active recovery for optimum physical performance.
You need to have ebb and flow- recovery and rebound. I especially value endurance - sustained effort. It requires organizing your conditioning in concert with the functional demands of your daily life being certain to incorporate healing time= recovery.
Train with me and my teachers in the Adventure Wellness Club. Reach out. Call. DM. Find a way to get what you want FOR your body & From your body. I can help you to get moving.
I use many of these strategies that support optimum brain function. Breath. Slow attentive movement. Tuning into your surroundings, heightening the 5 senses-, counter movements to support daily demands and stresses, periodization, scheduling rhythm and routine... stealthily moving from fight or flight to rest and digest and back again as necessary.
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To learn how to use physical movement and experiential learning to help the brain- See Moving the Brain Part 1 Aerobic Movement
Moving the Brain Part 2 Learning