You Are How You Think: The Brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS) and Why It’s So Important

“Thoughts Become Things… Choose The Good Ones!”

     Mike DooleyRAS

 Last month my friend asked me to help him purchase a new GMC Terrain.  I agreed to help and set out to negotiate a deal on a white Terrain (his color of choice).  I spent a few days and several hours calling and contacting dealerships and negotiating the best deal.  Suddenly, every time I would drive somewhere I kept noticing white Terrains all over the road yet I hardly ever noticed them before.  Suddenly, these vehicles seemed to be everywhere.

Why is that?  Did the GMC Terrain suddenly become more popular in white?  Was it just a coincidence?  NO and NO. The vehicles were always there; I just never noticed them before.  I was noticing them then because of something in the brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It is a tiny portion of the brain but the role it plays in our lives is nothing short of HUGE. Despite its importance, most people have never even heard of it.

The RAS is a cluster of nerve cells at the base of your brain which basically acts as a mental filter.  In other words, it controls what you focus on.  Each day we are constantly bombarded with sounds, information and all sorts of stimuli from our environment such as sights, sounds, and feelings.  We can’t possibly pay attention to every single thing that comes at us.  Without this filter, we would experience an overload of senses and it would be impossible to function in this world.

This powerful portion of our brain brings to our attention the things we think about consistently while filtering out the things that are unimportant to us.  The RAS brings to our conscious mind only the things that are important to us.  As an example, I suffer from bilateral hearing loss.  When I was pregnant with my daughter Erica, I was always worried about not being able to hear my baby.  But when she was born, I was amazed at how well I could hear her.

I was always so focused on hearing the baby that it was almost like her slightest whimpers were amplified. Looking back, I now know that this was because of the RAS in my brain.  My conscious mind passed instructions to my subconscious (my need to hear my baby) and filtered out other sounds around me.  It allowed me to focus on what was important to me while ignoring what was unimportant.

However, one of the many interesting things about the RAS is that it cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is imagined.  As far as it is concerned, both are one and the same.  It only knows what you tell it.

So here’s the kicker.  If you are afraid of something whether you have reason to be or not, you will create reasons to be afraid in your subconscious mind.  Your subconscious mind will continue to create situations in your life in which you feel anxious or fearful.

It works both ways.  If you constantly focus on the positives and take note of all the things you have to be grateful for, you will continue to notice the good around you and filter out the bad.  What you focus on, you become.  What you pay attention to, grows.

By now I hope you can all see the full potential of the RAS.  It can work for or against you; it’s your choice.  One of my favorite quotes by Henry Ford is “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”  This is true because of the RAS.  Think of it as an on/off switch in your head.  The good news is you have total control of which way you want to flip the switch.  If you think the world is a terrible place, it is.  If you think the world is beautiful and extraordinary, it is.  It’s as simple as that.

It is your beliefs and your thoughts—both positive and negative—that will sway your subconscious mind one way or the other.  It is the RAS that makes positive thinking more than mumbo jumbo.  It is the RAS that makes saying daily affirmations and writing in a gratitude journal far more than just a fun exercise.  It has been proven to work time and time again.

The RAS is the reason why you could have an amazing opportunity right in front of you and not even see it.  It’s the reason you’ve missed out on so many life-changing experiences and never took all those incredible chances.  It’s the difference between achieving your goals and just looking at that tattered bucket list pinned on your wall.

As I mentioned earlier, the RAS cannot differentiate between your imagination or reality.  You are the one who makes it real based on what you focus on.  You are the one who makes it real based on your beliefs.  It’s there 24/7 waiting to help you create whatever you desire.  Knowing what you now know about the RAS, why wouldn’t you use it to your advantage?  Why wouldn’t you feed it anything but positive thoughts?

Remember, what you think, you create.  Envision the world as a blank page.  The words that appear on that page are created by your thoughts.  Make it worth the read.



One thought on “You Are How You Think: The Brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS) and Why It’s So Important

  1. Pingback: Shake Off the Rust – Jay Brushett

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