This post is written during the pandemic that is affecting us globally.
I have to confess two weeks ago, I was obsessed with what was happening in the news, especially as its effects became more evident closer to home – from checking the news every few hours to watching the stock markets more closely than I ever have and watching my savings shrink in value every day….and just when I thought that things could not go any lower, a new low gets established. All of a sudden all the post-apocalyptic zombie movies start to take on a whole weight of reality and I could sense the anxiousness building inside me.
I realized that the more I focussed on livestream, twitter feeds and social media posts, the almost “addicted” feeling I got yet it did not leave me satisfied…it only left me more anxious and unsettled.
The ability to focus and maintain that focus over long period of time is an incredible skill to have. The key is to focus on the right things – things that improve your state of mind.
Over the last year I have invested a significant amount of time and effort to find ways to still the mind by having a regular practice of solitude. This one practice continues to help me stay calm despite the changing situation that most of us are facing in these unprecedented times. One of the things that became evident to me is that what I focus on grows – here’s an example: you decide you need a new car and you have an eye on a red mustang. As you start to do your research, you start to see red mustangs everywhere – even a coworker or two have red mustangs. By the miracle of Google search everytime you surf the web or social media there are reminders of red mustangs following you online and as you drive on the roads it seems that red mustangs are everywhere.
This can work both ways – if it is something positive, it can improve your level of positivity. For example, when I started to focus on what is working in my life – like the positive mood altering effects of deep breathing even if it is for a couple of minutes a few times a day. Or the mood altering effects of taking 5 mins off everything and just breathing in fresh air outside of your house or office. This creates its own feedback loop that you want to invest more time in doing the activity.
On a negative front, I have seen this work too – so obviously recommending not to use this technique to focus on things that lead to negative well being. So here’s an example: we have teenagers in our house and we are on a rotation to load/unload the dishwasher – however, the teenage timeline and sense of urgency to take care of this is quite different from the adults in the house – the result is that the sink starts to fill up with dishes which then triggers irritation, leading to harsh words and it spirals out of control to the point that the first conversation in the morning would involve the dishes. I am not saying to avoid having the real conversation and lay out expectations on how soon dishes need to be done…but the moment you let your mind fester on the dishes piling up, the sooner that just expands to fill the space you give it.
This is exactly the situation I found myself when I started to gorge on pandemic related information…it expanded to fill my thoughts that drove my anxiety level up. The more we operate from the place of scarcity, then less free our ideas, thoughts and presence will be. Freedom comes in the mind first before it is visible in our lives. The birds below are always aware of the danger that they are facing from predators, buildings etc. but they don’t let it limit them from soaring on the air currents, migrating to their nesting grounds and generally being who they are meant to be.
Practically the key is to be aware of the triggers and have your toolkit to redirect.
Here are some things you can do to change your focus:
- Change your focus – seems easy enough to say but likely harder to do. Start to become aware of what leads you down the path – it very often involves several steps. In my case of the information hunt, I would first need to have access to a phone, computer or
TV – so I limit my access to it. Keep in mind, I am not avoiding getting the info – I do want to be informed but I only check once a day for any new safety precautions that are recommended
- Go outside – thankfully we are still not in full lock-down so walk around your neighborhood, or even your own backyard. As winter unfolds into spring, you will be amazed at the changes that are happening … you will only see it if you look closely enough.
- Be thankful for what you do have – I am so thankful for email, video conferencing that allows me to connect with friends and family so readily even though we are all self isolating as a country. I am thankful that I am surrounded by nature that is constantly surprising me.
What are you doing to be focussed on things that keep you positive?