Decluttering Your Brain

Do you feel like your brain is in a fog?

Struggling to focus?

Fighting anxiety?

Stressed?

We live in an age of distraction.

Our minds are constantly pulled in a thousand directions.

Everything is competing for our attention.

It’s hard to deny.

Recently I found an article online arguing that the “age of distraction” is a myth. Ironically I couldn’t even read the article without being distracted. Sixty-one different ads, videos, and click bait articles popped up while scrolling through the article.

And what was really scary was that most of the ads were specifically targeted toward me.

Callaway golf irons.

PenFed investments.

123RF stock photos.

Dell computers.

Anything that I had searched for in the past few days was flashing before my eyes, enticing me to put down my research and to start shopping.

This is our world.

It is designed to distract.

And we are feeling the impact.

Neurologically our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time. 

Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT, makes this point clear:

People can’t multitask very well, and when people say they can, they’re deluding themselves. …Switching from task to task, you think you’re actually paying attention to everything around you at the same time. But you’re actually not. You’re not paying attention to one or two things simultaneously, but switching between them very rapidly.

When our mind is hit with a multitude of distractions, our brains kick into high gear to try to attend to each thing. We burn through glucose at a rapid pace and we eventually experience fatigue and disorientation.

The condition has actually been given a name.

Continuous Partial Attention.

And the symptoms sound familiar:

  • Having a stressful lifestyle
  • Feeling like you are always in crisis mode
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor decision-making
  • Inability to regulate emotions
  • Loss of impulse control
  • Feeling unfulfilled
  • Feeling a sense of powerlessness

We are overstimulating our brains…overloading our senses…overstretching our attention…and then wondering why we feel overwhelmed.

We simply cannot function this way.

Our humanity calls us back to limits.

Our minds are craving concentration.

Deep thinking.

Meditation.

Reflection.

Rest.

When our brain focuses on one thing, our neurons actually synchronize. The signals become stronger. Clearer. Deeper.

The different parts of the brain work in harmony.

We learn to think…rather than react.

One longitudinal study, conducted with over 1000 children over the course of several decades, discovered that the ability to concentrate was the strongest predictor of success in a person’s life.

This ability [to concentrate] is more important than IQ or the socio economic status of the family you grew up in for determining career success, financial success, and health. …The more you can concentrate the better you’ll do on anything, because whatever talent you have, you can’t apply it if you are distracted. (Dr. Daniel Goleman)

So how do you declutter your brain?

It begins with recognizing the distractions that are all around us and then making an intentional choice to limit them…and eliminate them…as needed.

Start with your smartphone.

Turn it off for a period of time each day.

Put it away once a week.

Keep it away while you are trying to focus on a task.

A “media sabbath,” especially in the mornings, may be the best thing that you can do to help your brain rest…and to be renewed and rewired.

Learning expert Jim Kwik notes:

When you wake up you’re in this theta alpha state and you’re highly suggestible. With every like, comment, or share, you get this dopamine fix and it’s literally rewiring your brain. What your smart device is doing especially if that’s the first thing you grab when you wake up…is rewiring your brain to be distracted.

In an age of distraction, decluttering the brain requires intentionality.

The force of decision.

Discipline.

Spiritual discipline.

Because it is ultimately a spiritual issue.

We were created for a singular purpose–to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, to worship Him alone.

When our central focus is on His glory then everything else falls into its proper place.

By seeing Him, we see everything else clearly.

A.W. Tozer defined faith as “the gaze of the soul upon a saving God.”

And the writer of Hebrews reminds us:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

The secret to the spiritual life…the restful life…the joyful life…is learning to fix our eyes on our Savior.

To have a vision higher than the distractions of this world.

To have a focus sharper than the blur of flashing lights around us.

To have a passion stronger than the temporal temptations of our time.

To have a purpose greater than yourself.

To have a love deeper than the lure of distractions.

The old hymnwriter had it right.

O soul are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free

Turn you eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

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3 Responses to Decluttering Your Brain

  1. Sharon L Lowery says:

    even as i was reading this i was distracted by the next emails, trying to skim it. my brain is always in hyper speed. no wonder I don’t retain what I hear. we all need to take a breath!!! this article is all so true it hurts. life is too busy but we are doing it to ourselves.
    what God must think looking down at us as little worker bees. and the more distracted the more isolated.
    always a timely word.
    thanks!

  2. Sharon Jones says:

    Also we need enough sleep for our bodies to perform something amazing called lymphatic transfer. While the body is enjoying restorative sleep, the brain is flushed of the toxins and debris left from the brain work of the day. God is faithful.

  3. Gina Lang says:

    I have never deluded myself into thinking I could multi task. Because I have known all along that I simply could not. My brain has never even given me the appearance of being able to concentrate on more than one task. But I find that it is more my inner struggles and worries that cause my distraction. And my mind wanders. It is not as much the outside devices.

    But the smartphones do prevent us from being fully engaged in our relationships. With God and others. Because we pick them up constantly and we do not stay committed to God or the people we are with.

    But I remember my step-father and his newspaper. It was no different back then. Once that paper his the porch, his mind was elsewhere.

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