Where the Focus Goes, the Energy Flows.

Rafael Dupre
Written by Rafael Dupre

Have you ever noticed how often you focus on what can go wrong during an ordinary day?

It often goes unnoticed, almost subconscious: “Did I lock the door when I went out?” or “Better check if it’s going to rain,” or “Be careful, child, that’s a bit steep to climb on; you might fall!” We are actually genetically designed to do this, to always check and be cautious. If you think about it, thousands of years ago when we were roaming the woods as hunter-gatherers looking for food, we had to pay attention to all the dangers and what could go wrong simply to stay alive! So to some extent, it makes sense.

We don’t roam the woods anymore, looking for food or avoiding bears, and society has changed considerably, but…our genetic makeup hasn’t. 

We still focus on what can go wrong, and up to a certain level, that’s healthy; it keeps us safe.

Main – Photo by Inzmam Khan

However, things change when one develops low mood or depression. If you suffer from this for a short while or chronically feel low or depressed, then this focusing on the negatives happens in a more extreme way. You can develop tunnel vision and start to focus ONLY on what is wrong, what is missing, what you are not able to do, or what you feel overwhelmed by.

Nothing seems right, and everything appears doom and gloom.

Your focus is completely on the negative, and there is no extra attention or even room for positive experiences to focus on what can go right in the future. Our impression of our life and the world is properly out of balance. The scales tilt completely one way: Life sucks!

Under different circumstances, we would derive energy from the pleasant things in life: achievements, social interactions, warm sensory experiences, simple things like sunshine, the smell of coffee, or a purring cat, a hug from a friend… But when we are depressed, we don’t even notice those things anymore. There is only the negative at the end of the tunnel, and we simply pay no attention to anything outside the tunnel of doom. By not paying attention to the positive, or not being able to see it, we miss out on the energy that would enable us to cope better with all that negative stuff.

This is where consciously shifting your focus comes in. Where the focus goes, the energy flows. So why not focus on the positive rather than letting all that energy be drained by negative thoughts? I am not suggesting we look at life through rose-tinted glasses and ignore all the negatives. That simply doesn’t work. No, anticipating situations that could go wrong or existing difficulties that are real need to be dealt with or at least considered. But by shifting your focus more to the positive again, you gain the energy to do so and feel lighter.

You actively start to lift the depression, even if it is just a little or for a while.

Remember, your depressed self will push back and try to ban more positive thoughts from your mind. It wants total control; it doesn’t even believe feeling better or lighter is possible. It is conditioned to be a spoilsport and ignore every positive.

Luckily, whatever was conditioned can be re-conditioned, and you can re-condition your negative thinking brain starting with a simple exercise that I often recommend to my clients: Put a small notebook by your bed, choose a nice one, one that looks good and you like the feel of, as you will be writing nice stuff in it.

Every morning, you write down one thing about that day that you look forward to or that could be nice. Something simple like ‘I will take the dog for a nice walk’, or ‘I can watch another episode of my favourite show’… You start the day with a positive thought rather than scrolling through the news or getting lost in negativity straight away.

At the end of every day, before you go to sleep, you write down 10 positives about that day. Just bullet points, however small: somebody smiled at me, the sun felt warm on my skin, I saw the first crocus, the dog was silly on our walk, I made leek and potato soup, the water in the shower felt nice on my back… And if you struggle to find ten and only get to eight, number nine could be: I already found 8 positives today! Or you can complete the list with things you feel grateful for.

In the first instance, it makes you feel better about a day that you thought was a complete write-off. You realise not all was bad and go to sleep feeling slightly better, lighter even.

Secondly, after about two weeks of doing this exercise, you will start to notice nice things during the day and say to yourself: ‘I need to remember this so I can write it in my little book of positives tonight.’ And that’s where you need to be: you start to pay attention to the positives again in the moment, as they happen. There is life outside the tunnel of negativity. The scales start to balance out again.

Photo by Jodie Cook on Unsplash

Little bursts of positive energy reach your brain, small explosions of serotonin during the entire day enable you to deal better with the more difficult emotions or tasks that day. Serotonin is one of our ‘feel-good hormones’ which make us feel happier, lift our spirits, and lighten our moods. And you can stimulate the production of that feel-good hormone by simply shifting your focus. It is amazing how our mind and body work together.

Is it a bulletproof remedy to obtain a happy, carefree life?

Probably not entirely. But it might be the start; it can offer you that window on a better, more positive, and fulfilling life again. It might lift you enough to believe again that you can feel better, to undertake further steps to generally feeling more positive and proactive. To achieve something, we need to take the first step. This could be your start to feel lighter and create a more qualitative life again, to feel content.

Many of my clients continue this habit of writing in their little book of positives long after they finish therapy, by the way.

If nothing else, it is a reminder that there is good in every day, a nice way to reflect and switch off for the night with a little smile on your face.

Main – Photo by cottonbro studio