Each week discover something new about wellbeing, business or the use of alchemy to change your life with my blog posts. I share personal experiences and proven research with tips for you to try out.


Brain Improvement: Addictions To Get Focus

Oct 18, 2022


Addictions get a bad rap often because we use them to escape from our lives rather than as a tool to build focus. Attentive deficit diagnoses have been on the rise, apparently due to the use of technology constantly distracting us. Quality memory is also in decline as we can ‘look it up rather than have to recall information but also because we have to pay attention to commit something to our memory. When my memory became poor after my brain injury the doctors told me to rebuild my attention so that I could remember again. How can you use addiction to help rebuild your attention and learning capacity?  


Ways the brain focuses on things

Evolution shows that all creatures use the same mechanisms to search for food, as food is not in equal abundance. The brain works in a similar fashion to search for information when applying knowledge and intellectual function.


The balanced brain searches for an area abundant in information and works through that area until it has no more sources available (an “area-restricted search”), then it searches for another abundant area. 


Attention deficit and brain injuries will see no pattern to work through. It will scatter the search randomly firing out all over the place with no coherence. It performs worse on testing.


Addicted brains only search for the same information repeatedly and cannot open the remit of search. This also performs worse alone but can be used to help those with attention issues.


An example of each is with listing animals on demand:

  • Balanced brain results = animals, mammals, cats - lion, tiger, panther, domestic cat, dog - sheepdog, wolf, dingo, etc.
  • Attention issues results =  dog, fish…erm what?...animals… bug… snake…erm….  
  • Addicted brain results = dog, dog, dog, dog…dog

Thus, two errors from the brain are (A) giving up too soon, or (B) staying too long.


Harnessing Addiction Patterns for Attention

Brain injury survivors and attention deficit give up too soon, and addicts stay too long and focus too much on the same thing. The former may feel ‘useless’ at the task because they can tell that they are ‘failing’ at the completion of the task. 


Dopamine in the brain affects how long you focus on an area-restricted search (this is across all animals including the roundworm). If the dopamine receptor neurons are destroyed or blocked (brain injured) then the brain cannot do the area-restricted search, so the brain goes on an extensive search even when there is information in the local area. This explains the lack of structure if given a list search as above for the animals by the attention issues. 


If there is excess dopamine receptor activity in the brain then the area-restricted search will increase, this is the case for addicts. The results will reflect the desire to stay in the area where a result has been found and immediate satisfaction is being produced with that result. 


To be smarter with a brain injury or attention issues, adopt the addicts' approach to help improve focus. Create categories and sub-categories for information to easily store, access, and retrieve when demanded. This is why word associations and mnemonics help to commit information to memory - it gives categories.


Attention Building Exercise:

  1. List cities in the world for 1 minute - write them down!
  2. Look at your list and confirm if you're categorizing or randomly searching.
  3. Then try to create categories and sub-categories for how to recall cities.
  4. Repeat the 1 minute of listing cities and see if you improve - did you use the categories to help you?

Do this exercise with other topics. E.g. animals, foods, movement shapes, etc.


Meditation as a Tool for Attention

There is often a misconception that meditation is ‘emptying the mind’ and having ‘no thoughts. Yet, there are different types of meditation - focused and open monitoring. 


The latter is more akin to observing your thoughts or feelings and is often used in mindfulness. The former is where we use the focus of the mind to train different aspects of the brain and attention. Depending on what you want to improve and how you like to learn, different meditation techniques will suit you better. 


What meditation to try? 


Here is a simple list of meditation styles and what benefits they can support:

Click on the above links to listen to a practice. 


If you would like more support on your path of improving where your attention is placed in your life, then connect with me for a free 30-minute CLARITY CALL where we will agree to focus on your path forwards and what steps you can take for yourself next. 






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Nids Nidra acknowledges the Traditional Owners of country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to land, waters and community. We pay our respect to them and their cultures; and to Custodians past, present and emerging.


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