Positive focus could be the key to a better mood

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Yesterday it was hot. The nerves in my left leg are spitting pain in my hamstrings and calf. My head ached from previous stress from a work project. I really wanted a beer and a pizza.

That’s part of the story, at least. But here’s what I haven’t told you yet:

At the same time, I complained about the heat, my head and my hunger. I was with my husband (love him) playing golf (love him) with the sun setting (beautiful) and a cool breeze blowing (ahh). I was in this beautiful place with my favorite person, doing one of my favorite things.

And I complained?


After a bad shot to the green, I lost my mind and insulted the club. After all, it was all the 9 iron’s fault. Eventually I realized how ridiculous I was.

I pulled myself together.

Why was I lingering in evil with all the goodness of the moment? Why was I only repeating one side of the story when there is always so much more?

Focus on the best

We do that, right? Focus on one part of the story, usually the bad news angle.

We are wired with a negativity bias that illuminates and clarifies various threats, discomforts, and issues so we can walk away from them. It’s very handy if a woolly mammoth is chasing us.

[Note: Humans lived alongside woolly mammoths 2,000 years ago. Can you even imagine?]

But not so necessary when we hit a bad putt or can’t find our show on Netflix. And yet, our negativity biases and our amygdalas remain on high alert. If we are not paying attention, they will direct our attention to shitty things rather than happy ones.

Our lives become what we most often notice and focus on: the pain in my leg. If I focus on that, it hurts a lot more and that pain can last all day. But playing golf with my husband is great. When I put my focus on it, the pain and everything else becomes easier to bear.

It all depends on what we focus on.

So I got into the habit of identifying what makes me feel good – nature, petting my cats, reading, good pens and paper – then slowing down and savoring the experience of those things and… ‘other stuff. Stop and enjoy the experience.

I do it with other favorites too. Like when I hear my daughter sing in the shower, take that first sip of morning coffee, or take the four-lane stretch up the side of Saddle Mountain and smell the salt in the air as I get closer to the Pacific.

I savor these things. Give a small nod of thanks. And I appreciate them all.

Get the helping hand

I wasn’t wired that way.

When I wake up in chronic pain or spill hot coffee on my hand, my first thought isn’t “oh, yay.” Focusing on the right things does not mean avoiding difficulty or danger. It means taking everything into account – the good and the bad – and then fixing your attention on the best.

At first, I did this by writing “Savor the Good” on my to-do list several times a day to remind myself to stop, breathe, notice my experience, and then dwell on things. positive. This kind of mindfulness practice felt like a relief in the middle of a stressful day – a reprieve.

Now that’s second nature. The practice keeps me from getting stuck in all my moans and complaints and helps me face the tougher parts of life with a more balanced perspective and a greater sense of calm and clarity.

Sure, I still feel pain and anxiety about the state of the world and the state of my hair, and the state of college football, but an intentional practice of appreciation sustains me in times the most difficult, scariest and scariest.

Today, decide to notice and appreciate the people, things, and experiences you love.

To slow down. For 30 seconds, focus on the good.

If you’re into a funk and need a boost, get outside and take in the view, or snap a photo of a laughing baby or a cute animal and tilt your view towards something more uplifting.

Feel the flow of good feelings that flow from this appreciation. Give thanks.

Build that appreciation muscle. It will make the good feelings even better and keep you going when things aren’t so great.

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