How Selective Focus Can Help You Choose or Enhance Your Mood

Selective focus of meadow where butterfly has landed on tall waving grassWe’re going to consider a simple practice, selective focus, that may help you gain influence over your moods and therefore increase your ability to choose your mood at any given time.

Start by looking around you. Perhaps you’re in your home, or waiting for a bus, or sitting in a coffee house or park.

Find something around you that’s red. It can be anything for this practice—a flower or a pillow, a car parked across the street, or part of a painting or book cover. If nothing in sight is red, you can select another color, but red is easy to focus on.

Look at the red object. Concentrate on it. Take a moment or two from your busy life to direct all of your attention to that object. What shade of red is it? Dark or light, dull or bright? Let that shade of red fill your eyes. As you do, notice any subtle feelings you have in response to the color—any mild sensations in your body, any mental associations that come. Simply notice any of these responses with no need to do anything with or about them. Stay with the red object, being as fully present to the red as you can be.

Now find a blue object. As you did with the red one, look as deeply into the blue as possible. Observe this particular shade of blue. Notice any feelings you have as you focus on it as well as any sensations in your body, in your chest or stomach or shoulders. Also notice any associations that come up as you gaze at this blue area. Stay with the blue while you see it, feel it, respond to it.

We’ll do this a second time. Shift your eyes back to the red object. Notice any changes in your responses as you move from the blue object, whatever it is, back to the red. Be attentive to how you respond to red. Notice your feelings, sensations, any brief memories or thoughts that come up as you look deeply into the red.

Now, once more, return your attention to the blue object. Feel yourself responding again to blue, with those feelings, sensations, and associations.

And now for the last step. Look at either the red or the blue object, whichever one you choose to focus on. Possibly you liked the way you felt with one color more than the other, and that will guide your choice. Gaze at that object, giving your attention to it fully, feeling your responses to the color.

When you focus, you respond. How you respond depends on what you focus on. And you have some say in that. Not always, and not absolutely. But some, and more than you may have thought.

This practice is simple but can be highly effective. And like any practice, it becomes more effective the more you perform it.

When you focus, you respond. How you respond depends on what you focus on. And you have some say in that. Not always, and not absolutely. But some, and more than you may have thought.

From colored objects in the environment you can move on to photographs of people you love or places where you’ve been happy, to music that makes you feel calm or joyful, and to your own thoughts and memories. For instance, notice the different ways you respond to a memory of something you’ve been successful at or the responses you have to a memory of a time when someone helped you out.

There are many opportunities to perform this simple practice. When you’re stopped and waiting in traffic, for instance. In this situation, many different thoughts are possible, and the ones you focus on and review may cause you to have different responses. Some thoughts can increase feelings of frustration, anger, or even fear. Others, such as what enjoyable activity you’ll do when you get home—eat, shower, talk to friends, or read—may bring feelings of happiness and pleasurable anticipation. You have it in your power to select and enhance your mood.

You can also use selective focus to decrease an existing mood. When you already feel sad, you know if you focus on something that usually makes you feel sad—a picture, song, thought, or memory—your response will strengthen the mood. But if you feel sad and you watch your favorite comedy, or listen to music you sometimes dance to, or call someone you like, or focus on memories that make you feel proud, your response will go against the mood. Your selected response will tend to limit the sad mood and act to decrease it.

Discover free moments in your active schedule to experiment with it. Make note of what makes you feel sad, happy, energized, or peaceful so you know what to focus on when you want to have those responses. Choose your mood.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Peter Cashorali, LMFT, therapist in Pasadena, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jeremiah

    Jeremiah

    March 30th, 2017 at 12:38 PM

    It can be a tough challenge but I say to focus on and accentuate the positive!
    If you stare too long at the misery then guess how your own mood is going to turn out.

  • ellis

    ellis

    March 31st, 2017 at 6:35 AM

    I have been working on this on a personal level since the start of the new year and just working on it even a little has made an amazing difference to me in my life. It is like I have chosen to be happy, and guess what? I am. I used to think that there was some huge secret about how to achieve happiness but the longer I have worked on selective focusing I have begun to realize that the biggest difference is simply that now I choose to look more intently on the things that I can control rather than dwelling on that which I can’t.

  • Nicole Urdang

    Nicole Urdang

    April 6th, 2017 at 3:42 AM

    Great article me an excellent grounding technique.
    Thank you!

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