The power of focus

Learn how mindfulness channels focus to the present moment and can help stay in a positive state of mind.

The ability to focus one’s attention is a critical skill for obtaining success in life and in healing. Without focus, learning would be fragmented and dull. In the book “The Act Resilient Method: From Trauma to Transformation” by Jeanie Joseph Ph.D., it states that focus requires mindful attention to the challenges both within (your thoughts and emotions) and without (your environment). She states that focus puts you in the driver’s seat of your life. Without directing your focus, your mind slips into past habits.

Without focus, and with enough stress, the mind gets hijacked, throwing positivity into the trunk! Everyone has negative thoughts and you can’t get rid of the thought but you can choose where to redirect and reinvent your attention. The more you put your focus and attention on positive thoughts, the more these thoughts gain dominance in your consciousness, weakening the power and pull of negativity. 

Mindfulness redirects focus to the present moment. Focus is the most basic and absolutely essential skill needed to regain control of your experience and state of mind. Learning to direct your focus away from what doesn’t serve you and to redirect awareness to this moment is the key to feeling mastery and self-control. In regards to healing, mindful focus uses your conscious, cognitive mind to redirect focus away from pain, suffering and negativity. Joseph provides two tools to help you redirect your focus: changing physiology and changing sensory focus. Changing physiology means changing what you are doing with your body. Changing sensory focus means using a different sense to shift your attention or focus. 

Changing your body posture is an example of changing physiology. Changing your posture even for just a couple of minutes has been shown by researcher Amy Cuddy, in her book “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges,” to change your hormones, your emotional state and your mind. An example of changing sensory focus would be if you are hearing sounds you don’t like, switch to focus on something that looks pleasing to you. Similarly, if you are seeing something you don’t like, either in your mind or in person, shift to focus on something that sounds good. Focus training helps you learn that you can and must turn away from negativity and deliberately focus on positivity. 

Focus is a trainable skill. Michigan State University Extension offers a mindfulness series, entitled Stress Less with Mindfulness that helps develop focus. To find a program near you, contact your local MSU Extension county office for more information.

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