Focus is a powerful tool. And it can be either positive or negative.
Let me explain.
Here is a positive look.
Recently, we had a cord of wood delivered to our front yard. It needed to be carried into the backyard, then stacked. Kids were busy with school work and hubby was working too (though in the end, he was able to get a few runs in between projects), but most of it was left to me.
I bundled up and went outside. The first thing I thought when I got out there was that I should turn around and go grab my IPod.
If I was going to spend the next many hours doing this, wouldn’t it be much more enjoyable with music? I took a moment to put my focus on that question. Would it really be a good idea?
The answer was no.
And here’s why.
I was looking at moving a mountain of heavy, unwieldy items a lot of times, over uneven sopping wet ground. Lifting and pulling, pushing and stacking…
Music allows me to relax and take my mind off of things. Though that can be a good thing sometimes, and it would have made the time go faster, I knew I would lose the focus of how my body was moving and how I needed to use my breath while lifting.
I know myself well enough to assume I’d quickly find myself shimmying and dancing, and generally having way too much fun.
And that’s how I was going to invite injury in.
Instead, I left my iPod inside and chose to be more mindful. I listened to the birds overhead and the leaves whisper. I tuned into my body and focused on each and every move I made. I used my breath properly to lift the loads and wheel them to the backyard. I focused on finding freedom of movement in my knees as I squatted, in my hips as I hinged, and in my torso as I twisted.
Hours later, I finished injury-free and ready to keep going.
Many people’s minds run from the idea of focusing on their body and their movement. Perhaps they had traumatic experiences at some point and it’s just too much emotionally, or it could be that they simply never learned to think about it.
Some are more naturally wired to tune into themselves than others, but anyone can learn and develop this skill with a bit of practice. I definitely urge you to work on this.
On the other side, the more negative one, are those that focus only on the pain and aches that they feel.
Everything else is shut out.
And that way of hyper-focusing on the pain isn’t in their best interests at all. I realize it can feel impossible when you are in pain to feel good.
And while I do want you to notice the pain, because we can’t just ignore it…
Ask yourself –
Could you be focusing so much on it that it’s become the norm for you? Can you even imagine what life would be like without it? Do you believe that there is no way to change it because it’s simply the progression of aging?
And if that’s the case, could you possibly be creating it in yourself because your brain believes you expect and want it?
Yes, that’s possible and there is a growing body of evidence and research that is showing more and more possibilities of it.
It’s such a fine line.
I know you are thinking, “but wait? … You want me to notice, but you don’t want me to notice too much? What gives? How am I supposed to do that?”
It’s murky and there is no right way. There is only your way, your body, and your interoception.
The next time you are checking-in with your body (which I hope you are doing or will start doing frequently)…
After noticing the aches and pains. Try focusing on the other side. Find places in your body that feel relaxed and comfortable. Focus on the body parts that move with ease.
After bringing your mind there, see if that focus-switch changes the parts that weren’t feeling so good before. Does it bring the uncomfortable parts some ease?
And remember, this isn’t just work for your physical body. I’d say it’s even more important to check-in with your focus on an emotional level. This can make your day (read, life) either a nice one or a rough one.
Side note (but it is relevant) –
Did you know that race car drivers are trained to get out of swerves by noting where their focus is? If they focus on where they don’t want to go (which is where most people will focus; the guardrail, ditch, etc…), then that’s exactly where they’ll go.
Instead they are trained to focus their eyes on where they actually want the car to go (ie, stay on the road). And IT WORKS! Isn’t that a great tip for the winter when the snow and rain are abounding? Place your eyes on the direction you want to go! You’ll automatically position your hands and steering wheel to take you there even when the car seems a bit out of control.
This is exactly the same thing emotionally.
See how I just brought that around for you?
If you focus on the rough day you just had and the same negative visuals and conversations go through your head over and over. It’s then impossible to put yourself in a better mood. You’ll swerve your mind and mood off the road and straight into the ditch.
Similarly, if you focus and make a poor mantra in your head that you repeat every day about someone that will “never change” and think about how frustrated you are by them. How do expect that relationship to be? I’m sure you can guess that one.
But you can shift these things, by shifting the focus inside yourself.
Focus your mind toward the road where you want it to go. Make small changes in your thoughts daily. Take the person that frustrates you and make a list of some things you are grateful for about them (I’m sure you can find something) or things that you admire about them that perhaps you could learn. Use that as your mantra instead of the negative one. It really works. I use this exercise all the time.
I’m not perfect (at all). I struggle too, but I try very hard to keep these tools in mind as I check-in emotionally and physically at the end of each day.
I find the time to be grateful for my strong, resilient, healthy body and mind and choose to focus on that before I fall asleep at night. It resets me for the next day.
Since this is the month of gratitude try putting that to the top of your focus list and see if anything shifts for you.