Editor's Note: This article was authored by Stefanie Faye, for the Institute for Organizational Mindfulness (IOM). Thanks, Stefanie!
Do you find yourself in a state of mental fog, or not being clear-minded, ‘out of it’?
Fighting Mental Fog
This is something that I hear a lot of people reporting issues with. In the brain maps that I do, I see the reporting of this correlated with a significant amount of theta brainwaves, particularly in the frontal areas of the brain. The theta brainwave is a slow wave, and is related to a state of sleepiness - it’s the state we’re in right before we drift off to sleep. So it’s not a ‘bad’ brainwave, but if we are trying to learn or pay attention, it’s not ideal to feel like we are in a fog or drifting off.
When people come to me to get help with mental fog, or other mental health challenges, especially if they are inquiring about a certain therapy or modality such as neurofeedback, they often ask me ‘how long will this take to change to my brain’, or how long until i see results?
This is difficult to answer because there is no one modality or magic bullet that will completely change our brain or behavior. Our systems are much too complex for that.
Some people will express disappointment when I encourage them, in addition to whatever modality they are using - to also ensure they are sleeping and eating well, exercising and staying connected to nurturing relationships. They’ll say ‘I thought the whole point of this was that my brain would change without having to do all that work’.
Focus Three Key Mindsets
The cultural and industry mindset of symptom alleviation and interventions (rather than preventions)
The marketing mindset used to sell techniques, modalities, medication, etc. as though there is one magic cure that requires no effort
The neuro-industry mindset that you can ‘fix a brain area’ as though the brain works in isolation from the body and the environment.
These mindsets lead to disappointing results in a ‘magic-fix’ because our brain-body system is a mechanical-physical-chemical system. It requires certain conditions in order to function at its highest levels. So we need to not only have a certain type of mindset and modality to create change, we need certain conditions as well.
Mindset is Important
Our belief in our ability to change our brain is a powerful leverage point for change.
But if we don’t set the stage for certain aspects of our life, it can make that change really difficult.
If we don’t create these conditions, it’s not that change is impossible - but we’re really making change a lot more difficult for our brain-body system to implement.
Get to know your patterns.
We are Pattern Recognition Creatures. We are designed to do this.
The more we start to notice the rhythms we have in our brain states, moods, relationships, and day-to-day functioning, the better we get at cultivating the right conditions ahead of time, in a preventative, systems thinking and growth-oriented way, rather than staying stuck in the reactive, symptom alleviation mindset.
Not only that, but as soon as we become noticers of ourselves, of our habits and patterns, we are activating a meta-cognitive process that recruits our most most highly evolved mechanisms for problem-solving, projecting into the future and updating our algorithms and mental models so we stop repeating maladaptive patterns from our past.
Questions to Activate Meta-Cognitive Networks
Are there certain times of day or certain days where you notice a particular amount of mental fog or drowsiness?
Are there certain interactions you’re having with people where you notice a higher level of fatigue shortly after?
What kind of tool could you use to take an inventory of your internal states and how your brain is performing? (Examples: journal, 5 minute end-of-day reflection, making a note in your phone’s calendar when you notice a lot of fatigue)
Changing the Brain-Body System
There is no getting around this. If it doesn’t exist yet as a behavior or mindset, your brain-body system has to divert resources from what already exists to the new behavior. This will ALWAYS feel like effort. *Specifically 'emotional effort'... there will always be some sense of difficult emotion that occurs with change. More on that in August.
The most important effort we can put in to creating change in our life is in developing ‘meta-cognition’ or awareness of ourselves and our patterns.
Your brain-body system is giving you signals about possible nervous system activations and unconscious triggers, as well as deficits in what it needs to function optimally.
Learn how to decipher these clues by understanding a specific brainwave related to brain fog in this video.
Stefanie Faye is a neuroscience researcher and clinician. She has been consulting in countries across the globe and works to bridge the gap between complex research and practicable application. Through group training, development seminars, and lectures Stefanie helps individuals find new ways of using their talents, discomforts, failures, and challenges as pathways to growth and evolution.
Institute for Organizational Mindfulness (IOM) is a membership association of researchers, educators, and executives, with a shared mission to bring science-based neural training into the mainstream of business, healthcare, education, and government. We're working to create a global community of shared experience, conduct research, define standards and practices, develop educational programs, and determine the measures, metrics, and analytics for organizational mindfulness.