When we’re young, we tend to require or demand attention from our parents in order to learn and develop. When we’re at school, we require attention from teachers and peers, within the workplace we need attention from whomever might be within a specific team, or perhaps an employer, and of course any healthy relationship (be it platonic or romantic) requires the giving and receiving of attention.
So we know we need attention directed at us, and indeed some people enjoy ‘attention’ more than others, however what’s also important to consider is what we give our attention to. Consciously, we may give attention to loved ones and pets, those who ask for help, workmates and acquaintances. We put attention on the things on our to-do lists, on booking holidays, on how much is in our bank account each month, but we also put our attention on more subtle and potentially harmful things on a day to day basis. So very often, we put our attention on fear.
The Effects of Fear
It’s likely most people have experienced what it’s like to be surrounded by 99% positivity and 1% negativity (whether at a party, at work, with regards to feedback or the results of a competition) and focus entirely on that 1%, whilst ignoring the other 99%. This is of course a natural human instinct; that 1% negativity disrupts the nervous system and sounds a mild panic alarm, a feeling that something isn’t safe and everything isn’t quite right.
Almost every single ‘negative’ emotion or feeling is related to fear on a much deeper level – and it’s often a fear of being unsupported, alone, hurt or worse – ultimately though, any feeling of fear is essentially a subconscious fear of death. We overcome this moment by moment by creating a sense of permanence and comfort in life – by making plans and carrying them out, by surrounding ourselves with loved ones and friends, by taking photos and making memories, and by attaching to a sense of belief – religious or otherwise. These things are all good and enable humans to live a happier and more comfortable life, however what’s not good, is when those things aren’t enough. What’s not good, is the fact that so many thousands of people experience acute anxiety, trauma, stress, depression and general feelings of darkness because sometimes the mind wanders into unknown territory and decides to focus on fear, on the negative, and eventually causes symptoms.
When we think about something fearful (and genuinely feel fearful), heart rate increases, blood pressure rises and cortisol is secreted. This is the body’s ‘stress response’, and in small occasional doses it’s actually not a bad thing, however on a daily and almost constant cycle, it begins to damage DNA and have an incredibly detrimental effect on health, wellbeing and overall life. Catching these thoughts before they create damage is far easier said than done, but that’s why practices like meditation and mindfulness are supposed to be practiced daily and with commitment.
Feeding The Focus & Harmonising Thoughts
‘You feed what you focus on’ is something many of us may have heard before – and it’s totally true. Everything around us – including everything within us – is vying for our attention, demanding our attention, just like a small child would to its parent. Thoughts we’d rather not have and situations we’d do better to avoid want our attention too, and so the practice is in consciously deciding what to give our attention to. Your attention is both very precious and very powerful; it can waver at any moment, but when it’s fixed on something, the effects can be life changing.
The laws of attraction and entrainment governs that what we think about most – i.e. what we put our mental energy into – is more likely to happen. Like attracts like. Even subconsciously, when we think about a certain outcome, we cultivate a situation in which that outcome is more likely to occur. Discovered by Christian Huygens in 1665, ‘entrainment’ could be defined as the synchronisation of an organism to something outside of itself. This can be seen in studies on heart cells taken from two different bodies and placed underneath a microscope, which when moved close together, begin to beat in synchronicity with each other. The law of entrainment is basically the universal law of harmony – that everything is always attempting to find homeostasis, balance and synchronicity.
If thoughts are energy, and with the thousands of studies on anxiety and stress, meditation and mindfulness – not to mention the personal experience of everyday thoughts and emotions – I’m sure we can all agree that the energy of thoughts is very potent and incredibly powerful. If we continue to use our thoughts to think about what we don’t want to happen, or to think about the things we fear most, we’re making it more likely for the world around us to start harmonising with those thoughts. We essentially ‘put out’ a fearful state of being, and therefore obviously that’s what we receive and perceive of the world. IF however, we start to visualise and focus upon positivity, where we want to head in life, and the things that make us feel powerful and energised, we start to attract those things, and the idea goes that our positive thoughts invite the world around us to move in harmony with us in a more positive way.
For the next week, try carrying out this practice daily and see where it takes you and your mind:
- Upon waking, write down the first 5 things you think of
- Observe whether these things make you feel positive or fearful
- Write down another 5 (positive) things you want to focus on that day (it could be something as simple as breathing properly, taking care of yourself or something you’re grateful for)
- Take the list of 5 positive things with you throughout the day, and whenever you notice your mind wavering and leaning towards fear, look at the list and choose something to actively focus on.
- Observe physical sensations that happen when you focus on fear and when you focus on positivity, write them down if it helps you
- Do this daily for a week and observe what happens