Stress Relief Methods: Hocus Focus

by Doc Orman, M.D.

This week, I’m going to explore the relationship between focus and stress. 

One of the most interesting things about human beings is that we all have this incredible power to focus.  We can focus our thinking, we can focus our attention, we can focus our actions, we can focus on achieving one goal instead of another, we can focus on ourselves, we can focus on others, we can focus on the past, we can focus on the future, etc.  And we can literally produce magical results in our lives, depending upon what we choose to focus on.  Hence the title for this discussion: Hocus Focus. 

Magic And Focus 

We don’t have a choice whether to focus or not.  We are biologically designed to do so.  The only choice we have is what we consciously choose to focus on.  Absent a conscious choice, we will automatically focus on whatever our bodies have been conditioned to focus on.  This will be largely determined by a combination of genetics, our unique past history of experiences, and our past history of focusing on certain things and not on others. 

Magicians are well aware of our biological tendencies to focus.  In fact, the performance of magic as an entertainment art, is entirely dependent upon the magician’s ability to direct our focus.  Magicians are very skilled (if they are any good) at causing us to focus on things that distract our attention away from other things the magician is doing, but they don’t want us to notice.  This is the basis of all magic performances, and when we are entertained or amused in the process, we are grateful that our focus was so skillfully manipulated.  In other words, we recognize that we were “tricked” by having our focus manipulated, and we don’t view this as a problem. 

Focus And Stress 

However, there are many other times in our lives where having our focus diverted from what’s really going on can lead to problems and stress.  And rarely is this amusing or entertaining. 

Take the classic conundrum:  Is the glass half-empty or is it half-full?  The truth is that it’s both, but depending upon which perspective you choose to focus on (or that you automatically tend to focus on) you can end up with two very different internal experiences.  Hocus Focus! 

Do you tend to be optimistic or pessimistic in life?  There are many people alive today who frequently (and automatically) tend to focus on the negative.  Psychologists have labeled this tendency as:  negative thinking, learned helplessness, victim thinking, etc.  Whatever we call it, its essence has to do with focus, and sometimes with very unrealistic thinking. 

Focus Can “Magically” Make Stress Appear…Or Disappear! 

Our ability to focus on certain things, and not on others, is so incredibly powerful  that it literally has the ability to makes stress appear or disappear for us.  If you focus on the wrong things, or if your focus causes you to misunderstand how life really works…this can lead to problems and stress. 

On the other hand, if you already have certain problems, and you are trying to free yourself from them, what you tend to focus on can make all the difference in the world as to whether or not you will be successful. 

Even success itself in life—with career, relationships, accomplishments, achieving goals, being happy, etc.—is largely a matter of directing your focus.  Take any individual goal you may be working on right now.  Are you totally focused on achieving that goal, or are you easily distracted by other things?  Are you focused on the right actions that will allow you to achieve that goal, or are you unclear about what may be needed, or even worse, are you focused on actions that won’t result in you reaching your target, even if you do complete them?

So focus plays a major role in how much stress (or success) we have in our lives. What we consciously or unconsciously focus on can both add additional layers of stress to our lives, or it can help us to reduce or eliminate stress. 

In the next two posts for this week, I will continue to explore this important determinant of human stress.  In the next post, we’ll take a look at one major category of hidden causes of stress—Either/Or Thinking—and how focus is involved with this very common form of thinking. 

Then, in the third and final post on this topic for the week, we’ll look at how focus plays a big role in the success (or failure) of our interpersonal relationships.

 

 

 

 

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