In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

January 29, 2015

This Is Your Brain … Paying Attention

By In the Loop

Image of video character Broody the brain. The other day we spotted some sage advice in the virtual pages of The Atlantic on intentionality and attentiveness from Mayo’s own Amit Sood, M.D. Naturally, we stopped and paid attention. In the article, “Attention: A Muscle to Strengthen,” we learned that giving things due consideration is not so natural these days as “most of us spend more than half of our mental energy flitting from thought to thought, from app to app” and so on. More than half of our mental energy. (If our calculator app is correct, that’s more than 50 percent.)

Thankfully, Dr. Sood has some ideas about how to change that. And up our mental energy. The article points to Dr. Sood’s website, for some thoughts on “helping people to ‘create intentionality’ … choosing where you deploy your attention and how you process information.” Not to mention, training your mind to become “more productive and resilient, less depressed, and physically healthier” by being “more deliberate with our cognitive energy.”

A good place to start doing that, according to Dr. Sood, is with his five core principles: gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning and forgiveness. And he suggests putting them into practice by focusing on the little things. “We have multiple set exercises throughout the day where you basically bring intentionality to your attention,” he tells the reporter. Simple things like focusing on five people you’re grateful for or sending a note to tell someone how important they are to you. That will strengthen relationships, he says, by giving them the attention they deserve. “By choosing where to deploy your attention and what you're processing, you're basically strengthening your attention,” he says.

To bring the point home to a broader audience, Dr. Sood recently released a YouTube video called, “A Very Happy Brain.” He tells The Atlantic that he enlisted his young daughters to help with the voiceovers to reach younger viewers. The video tells the story of “how Broody, a very unhappy brain, became very happy.” Broody, our white-board cartoon hero, struggled with fear and self-doubt but learns some important lessons during his journey, which doubles as a “short course in happiness.” Lessons like, how “cultivating deeper gratitude and compassion” make you “happier than the pursuit of happiness.” The idea, Dr. Sood says, was to “create something that is fun and uplifting and humorous … to try and translate the neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and spirituality of emotional resilience into something that people enjoy.”

Watch the video below. Then we’d be deeply grateful if you’d share your comments below and share this story with others.

Tags: Dr. Amit Sood, Intentionality, Mindfulness, Uncategorized, Wellness

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