Monday, August 8, 2011

What's Your Focus?

Last Friday I had a nice day. I was off work, and got to do some things for myself. Since I'm trying to be more disciplined about journaling, I finished the night by sitting down to write. The first thing on my mind was an unresolved issue that I've been worrying about. I started to write about this at length, getting into details about what might happen, how things could go wrong, and how upset I would be. That led me to think about my frustration with someone I felt wasn't doing as much as they could to resolve the situation, and I spun on for pages in anger. I finally stopped to take a breath and realized I felt very anxious and upset! How did that happen after such a relaxing day?
Luckily, I recognized my role in creating this mood, and quickly turned the page. Literally. I started my journal entry over and focused on the positive events of the day, how pleased I was to have time to myself, how grateful I was to have friends coming to visit, and my mood became cheerful and relaxed again. The events of my day hadn't changed, and neither had the worrisome situation, but my focus had shifted completely. Staying stuck on the negative, or mired in future worries, I was allowing my mind to create unnecessary drama which made me feel terrible.
So, the real question is, if I can choose my focus, why would I allow my mind to lead me down that path? And the question is just as valid when thinking about journaling or simply the thoughts in my own head. My mood is affected by my thoughts, and my thoughts are under my own control. Therefore... I think you can see where I'm headed here! So do I choose worries and anxiety, or negativity and anger, or can I look for the silver lining? I'm not saying my worries are invalid, or that my anger is unjustified. But I can choose to evaluate them and decide how to respond, rather than allowing them to spin uncontrollably through my head, affecting my emotions and behaviour.
It takes work to look for the positive, especially with all the bad news around us. I choose to practice gratitude, and that often allows me to reset my perspective. Some days I'm grateful for a roof over my head and enough food to eat. Other days, my list can go on and on. Either way, I start to focus back in a positive direction, and I notice the shift in how I feel. Try it yourself. If you notice your thoughts spinning in an anxious or negative direction, turn the page. Think of 5 things you are grateful for today, and allow your mind to really feel that gratitude. If you're journaling, end each entry with something positive, or write down your gratitude list. How can you shift your focus today?

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