Yesterday I wrote a little post about focusing on good things instead of messes. The post felt charming and complete to me, so I didn’t want to alter it, even though I knew there was more to be said on the topic of focus. Because changing focus is sometimes no harder than deciding to do it, other times my brain can be uncooperative. As was the auto-focus on the camera was while I was trying to get it to focus on the hot chocolate instead of the spill. It stubbornly kept that spill clear even when the frame was almost entirely full of blurry hot chocolate. I was fortunate that Gleek knew a trick. She put her finger into the frame and the addition of that one new element made the camera immediately re-focus. So when I’m trying to teach my brain to focus on the good things, I’m going to have to use some tools to control the auto focus.
Tool #1 Write the Good Stuff.
I’ve heard people praise gratitude journals as a place to write down the good things of the day. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A list of good things will do. They can be small good things. The very fact that you know you’ll be writing it down later teaches your brain to look for and retain the good things that happen during the day.
Tool #2 Conscious Attention
When anxiety for my kids is eating away at me, I have to spend some time thinking of the qualities that they already possess that are the opposite of my fear for them. Usually to do this I need some quiet space and time where I really think about the kids good qualities. Because writing is how I process my thoughts, I often do this by writing things down. The thing is, once I have that list of good qualities, I can suddenly see how those qualities are express every day. Thirty minutes of conscious attention changes my perspective for days.
Tool #3 Break Your Patterns
Do something outside the usual schedule of your life. It could be going to see a play, visiting a park, taking a jog, lunch with a friend, participating in a service project. When you step outside of what you usually do with your time, it causes all your thoughts to shift around. While your thoughts are shifting, it becomes easier to refocus.
Tool #4 Attend Church or Other Worship Service
Religious services are structured to remind people of grand priorities. They provide a perspective that is sometimes absent from daily life. It is like standing on a hill in the middle of a hike, you can see where you need to go next. I also believe that God is there in those services and he wants you to be happy in your life. He can help you change your focus if you ask. For me, this is really tool #1, but I didn’t want non-religious people who need those other tools to be turned off by seeing the religion focused one first.
Tool #5 Enlist a Friend
If you’re having trouble seeing the good things in your life, have a friend sit down and help you find them. It is possible your life doesn’t have enough good things, then maybe your friend can help you add some.
Tool #6 Seek Additional Help
It is possible that you’re unable to focus on the good things in your life because you are experiencing anxiety, stress, or depression. These things seriously interfere with a person’s ability to feel positive emotions. A therapist or doctor can help you identify if you are depressed and what steps to take next. This may be your situation if logically you can see that you have good things in your life, but you’re unable to feel happy about them.
These are far from the only tools, but they’re a good place to start.