Moody Musings: Redirecting your focus
I was sitting in the UC when I overheard a group of students experiencing what seemed to be mild panic attacks about their upcoming schedules. There was a girl who kept expressing how afraid she was to take her next chemistry exam, her friend looked distraught as she listed every assignment she didn’t think she’d have time to finish, and their other friend just couldn’t stop saying how tired she was.
We often get so caught up with the things that could go wrong that we forget to think about everything that could possibly go right. These negative thoughts tend to hover over us, occupying our lives and time.
In order for us to change our thought process, we must focus on what we want and not what we fear.
Fear is considered to be one of the most powerful human emotions because of the impact it can have on our well-being. When all of our thoughts are directed towards negative outcomes, we begin to live anxiously. We give power to our emotions and we see the results of this power through our everyday actions.
Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina, wrote a research paper on the effects of positive thinking: “Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources.”
She used positive emotions on different groups and tested their impact. In her research, she described the “broaden-and-build theory,” or the idea that positive thoughts broaden your mind so that you may receive value in other areas of your life.
“Just as the broaden-and-build theory predicts, then, when people open their hearts to positive emotions, they seed their own growth in ways that transform them for the better,” Fredrickson wrote.
Aligning your thoughts with your goals is the easiest way to redirect your mind to think about the positive outcomes instead of the negative. If I set a goal to get an ‘A’ in my chemistry course this semester, this ‘A’ will probably be on my mind quite often.
Instead of thinking, “If I don’t do well on this test tomorrow I probably won’t get that ‘A’ I wanted,” think, “I’m going to study hard for this chemistry exam, so that I’ll be one step closer to receiving an ‘A’ in the course.”
Redirecting your thoughts doesn’t mean ignoring the fact that things can go wrong. It’s choosing to only give energy and attention to the better outcome. Things don’t always go as planned and you won’t always do as well as you wanted to. As a college student, this may be one of the first lessons you learn.
If I didn’t perform as well as I anticipated on my chemistry exam, I won’t completely give up on my goal or allow my ambition to slowly decrease throughout the semester. Use this opportunity to learn, grow and to encourage yourself. I like to refer to this as turning losses into lessons.
Before you get into bed every night, tell yourself that regardless of what happens, you’re going to make sure tomorrow is a good day.
Start off by spending ten minutes a day focusing on the good things in your life. During this time, erase all negative thoughts, fears and worries. The more positive thoughts you have, the more positive your life will become. Now go get that A!