If you have ever struggled with focus you will know that this can be a serious obstacle to achieving your goals.
For some people, trouble focussing may be a matter of a simple lack of discipline, or just never truly having acquired the skill of directing concentrated effort towards one thing for a sustained period. For a few, lack of focus may be caused by a learning issue that requires outside help to overcome. In others it may be due to conflicting demands on the mind that create a state of high distraction.
Often one’s feeling of being perpetually distracted can be caused by what I refer to as a noisy brain.
This phenomenon tends to be characterised by an onslaught of ongoing, sometimes overlapping thoughts occurring for a substantial period of time (most often days, weeks, months). These thoughts can make it hard to concentrate on other things and can become very frustrating and annoying.
These thoughts are different from intentional, self-directed thought patterns. They seem to be more-or-less involuntary, may conflict with one another, can be very persistent and resist being quieted. In my personal experience, I find them to be exhausting at times. I may even find that my brain compensates by composing or repeating music to ‘cover the noise’. Others may find that they want to listen to loud music or have constant background noise to give them a mental break from the internal chattering.
I realise that if you’ve never experienced a noisy brain, this probably all sounds a little odd. However, for those of us who deal with this, it can be quite an obstacle in our daily lives. At best, it can drive us absolutely crazy and at worst it can really do bad things to our productivity and ability to focus. This is why I have chosen to lay out a few simple suggestions to help quieten the mind down.
First, it’s good to understand some of the causes of a noisy brain.
One variation, which I will refer to as overdrive, can occur when your brain is taking in and processing new material or experiences. When you are going through a paradigm change or perhaps just taking on a lot of new information, your mind may have difficulty shutting off for a period of time as it makes the transition.
You may find that you are mentally repeating facts over and over, or that your brain wants to put these facts into different contexts so you can reach a better understanding of their relevance. Of course, this is normal functioning of the brain, and most people have experienced this to some degree.
This thought overdrive can keep you awake at night, unable to ‘shut off’. You may wake up after a night of poor sleep where you dreamed about the same topic, still milling over the same material.
You may very well tire of overdrive quickly, but thankfully it is generally self-limiting. Your mind will become comfortable with the influx of new information and you’ll find that the noisy thinking dies down relatively quickly with no further action required from you.
A noisy brain may also be the result of personal disorganisation. If you are relying on memory too heavily or trying to keep track of too much in your head, your brain may become very noisy indeed. This ‘disorganised brain’ can leave you feeling distracted, unfocused and scattered.
Our brains work better as processing machines rather than storage facilities.
Trying to remember and track all of the millions of things we do or need to know every day, from phone numbers to answers to random quiz questions can bog us down and weaken our ability to process information.
There is a correct way to use your memory power, but tracking minutia is not it. Use your memory power to remember things that are highly relevant to your daily life, like phone numbers of your next of kin or where you left the car keys. Also remember facts that you can refer to to help you reach immediate goals, such as a mental cheatsheet to help you work through anxiety or the steps to making a u-turn when you are about to take a driving test.
But don’t rely on memory to track the phone numbers of your child’s friends’ mothers, what you’re having for dinner on Thursday of next week, all of your appointments for the next month or the birthdays of everyone in your address book (if you even have an address book!).
If you currently have a disorganised brain, it’s time to start putting systems in place to keep track of the millions of things you’ve got going on. Begin writing things down on paper, or keep track on your computer or phone.
However you choose to rid your brain of all of these distracting information particles, do make sure you’re organised in storing it so that you can refer to your data easily whenever you need to. I prefer to have things organised both on my computer and my phone so that I can have necessary information at my fingertips wherever I may be. Whatever you do, find a way to store these details so that you can free up your brain space to focus on moving forward with your goals!
Finally, a noisy brain may indicate a lack of self-listening. If you have personal issues that are unresolved, perhaps things that you have pushed down and are attempting to ignore, do not be surprised if your thinking becomes quite jumbled and loud. Your subconscious mind will always try to assert itself in an attempt to get you to listen and deal with things. Your conscious mind will continue to push it away and try to hush it. This causes a lot of lost mental energy and creates inner tension.
The mind always seeks healing, but it can’t heal if you refuse to acknowledge that anything is wrong.
Often this type of noisy brain can throw off conflicting statements. You may ‘hear’ thoughts like “I’m so stupid” and then contradictory responses like “No I’m not!”. Our minds repeat negative statements we’ve taken on board at some stage in our lives that have made a significant impact on us. On one level we believe these things about ourselves, but our subconscious knows that they’re not true, and this is what causes the conflict inside. If you struggle with issues of negative self image, then listening to that little voice that keeps trying to be heard can help you to change that.
Brain noise that is caused by inner conflict indicates that you need to learn how to communicate with yourself, and to be diligent in listening to and interacting with your own thoughts. This is one of the most healing practices you can undertake if you suffer from self esteem issues or a lack of confidence. My favourite way to communicate with myself is through writing, which I do every single day. If you’d like more information about improving your inner communication, click the hyperlink to read my article, ‘Create efficiency in your inner communication system’.
Finally, finding ways of centering yourself and actively seeking quiet can help train you to have a more peaceful mind. Practices like yoga, acts of self care or just taking time reflect and seek peace should become a regular part of your day. As much as it may seem counterintuitive to slow down your thought processes, doing so with intention will actually help you to become a much more focused and productive person.