What comes to mind when you think of the word pain?

The word pain reminds me of a journey I’ve been on for the past 2 plus years. A journey defined by a mysterious undiagnosed chronic illness.  Yes, I experienced true physical pain that at times felt unbearable. However, the physical pain paled in comparison to the emotional and mental toll I faced; most days 24/7.

The good news is I am embarking on a healing journey.  As I walked through the dark night of my soul where more times than I’d like to admit, I wanted to give up, I promised myself during this trial that nothing would be lost in this battle.

I was determined to come out stronger on the other side so I could encourage those who find themselves facing their own forms of pain.

Thus this new Inner Warrior Series was birthed: Overcoming Pain with Resilience.

In today’s blog post, I will be sharing two potent tools that hold the key to building resilience: Focused Attention and the miraculous Reticular Activating System.

Focused Attention

Positive Psychology recognizes that attention acts as a spotlight, directing our focus toward either positivity or negativity.

This is the proverbial good news bad news; it can either serve you well or it can prove to be your worst enemy.

Positive Attention

By intentionally and repeatedly focusing on positive thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, you automatically create new healthy neural pathways and weaken negative wiring.

What you repeatedly focus on will drastically influence the neural networks in your brain and ultimately impact your thoughts, emotions, and life experiences.

This is called Self-Directed Neuroplasticity.

Self-Directed Neuroplasticity is the intentional process of physically changing your brain structures by choosing to redirect your attention.

Research in the field of Positive Psychology has shown that individuals who regularly practice Self-Directed Neuroplasticity exhibit higher levels of resilience in the face of adversity.

This process of focused attention also serves as a powerful tool for managing stress and regulating emotions.

By incorporating mindfulness – the act of paying attention to the present moment without judgment – you can develop greater self-awareness and emotional resilience even amidst life’s storms.

Negative Attention

Let’s look at the flip side of the coin; by placing excessive negative attention on your thoughts and emotions, you build negative neural pathways while weakening positive healthy ones.

Research shows that excessive focus on negative information comes with detrimental effects; mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Pessimistic people have higher levels of stress, anxiety, and reduced resilience. When you are consumed by negative circumstances, it can cloud your judgment and impair your ability to make solid decisions.

Negative thinking can deplete your energy and consequently your motivation. This makes it difficult to focus on tasks, goals and adversely impacts productivity.

The Battle of Your Mind

Negativity Bias

Studies show that negative events are remembered better, noticed faster, and have a greater impact on your impression.

This is because of a psychological phenomenon called the negativity bias.

The negativity bias, in a nutshell, states that as humans we have a greater sensitivity to negative stimuli as opposed to positive ones.

According to the National Science Foundation, 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of them are repetitive.


Recognizing and addressing this bias is a game-changer in the way you perceive and navigate your life circumstances and consequently grow resilience.

How can you start making a shift in the way you view negative events?

Strengthen Your Belief System

When facing adversity, how much attention do you pay to these negative life events? To change negative associations, you need to give your brain positive associations.

It is not the negative events themselves but rather how you think (belief system) of them and the amount of attention you give them.

You may not have control over the occurrences of positive and negative events in your life but you do have control over how much attention you devote to these events.

How you experience life depends in large part on what you focus your attention on.

“Your life will go in the direction of your greatest focus.”    Rita Hudgens

How to Override This Automatic Tendency

Optimistic people have an unconscious attention bias for positive stimuli.

If you are not naturally optimistic, don’t worry. Neuroscience proves that optimism can be cultivated.

By training your attention to notice and savor the good moments, you not only enhance your ability to bounce back from setbacks but also cultivate a deeper sense of fulfillment and happiness.

Reticular Activating System

The next tip to help you overcome pain with resilience is to intentionally be aware of and activate your Reticular Activating System (RAS).

The RAS is like a gatekeeper in your brain. It is located at the base of your brainstem and its main job is to filter and prioritize the incredible amount of information it receives from all your 5 senses.

You cannot directly control the RAS but you can influence it by…wait for it…what you focus on. That’s why focused attention is so important.


Another way to influence the RAS is through the mindfulness exercise of visualization.

Visualization activates your RAS. When you are stimulating your brain with visual images, you are training your RAS to filter all this incoming data.

Consequently, the RAS will adjust its filtering system to select ONLY what it thinks is valuable or supportive of what you are thinking.

You consciously create the vision you want and put the RAS to work. It works subconsciously to identify the pathways towards what you are focusing on.

Activating the RAS helps you focus on your goals, build motivation, gain clarity, and enhance optimism. It can help make your vision a reality.

Purpose in the Pain

Living with a mysterious undiagnosed illness has been one of the greatest trials I’ve faced, and I’ve faced a lot.  When I focused heavily on my symptoms, I lived more in Camp Fear and Hopelessness. When I chose to direct my attention to supporting my body in the healing journey, to be thankful for what I was learning, and to commit to someday sharing what I’ve learned with others, I grew in resilience and found purpose in the pain.

It is always a choice. What are you going to choose to do when you’re faced with negative life events?

My hope for you is that you realize that it is possible to flip the switch on pessimistic thinking, to extract meaning out of difficult situations, and to live a life with enhanced resilience and greater purpose.

By harnessing the principles of Positive Psychology and neuroplasticity, you can unlock the transformative potential of attention, paving the way for greater resilience and well-being.

In Optimism


Always remember – Nothing is Impossible


Crisis Kit

I have created this anti-anxiety and anti-stress tool kit, proven by science, to help you reduce anxiety and stress. I guarantee you that if you implement some of these ideas and use these tools; you will navigate this uncertainty boat like a highly skilled Captain.

Rita Hudgens
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