“Anxiety is misdirected attention” – Morita
When you can direct your attention skilfully anxiety evaporates
Your mind is a constant flow of thoughts. Those thoughts are a mixed bag of opinions, judgements, beliefs, reflections and ruminations. All thoughts, whether you notice them or not, will have an emotional response. We get into habits of attention without even knowing how we are being effected.
Most thoughts slip through the attention unnoticed by the conscious mind yet still leave an imprint in the deeper essence of you. It’s a bit like having the radio on in the background; you’re not really paying attention until something interesting or serious floats to the surface for consideration.
It’s this ability that allows us to function in day to day life. You are designed so that 95% of your waking day is managed by your unconscious programming because your conscious mind has a short attention and would be overwhelmed by having to be in charge.
Your thought-flow is like a river rolling in some direction or another. Anyone who has ever had problems with water will know that when water is misdirected it can cause no end of trouble because once it has found a troublesome path of flow it can be hard to manage. That’s when problems can occur. However, when the flow is intelligently directed it has the potential to support life and encourage growth.
Most of what goes on in your mind creates a response in your body on some level, whether you are aware of it or not. For this reason, there is a lot of benefit to be had from taking moments in your day to spend just 5 minutes paying conscious attention to the direction that your thoughts are flowing in. Don’t wait for the tidal wave of anxiety to threaten to overwhelm you; when you take short moments during your day to pay conscious attention, you can use simple techniques to redirect your mental flow and improve the quality of your emotional experience.
You don’t have to spend hours every day doing meditation. You can make a significant difference by simply taking 5 minutes three or four times a day to pay attention.
7/11 Breathing Get into the regular practice of ratio breathing. 7/11 breathing is so called because it implies that you breathe in for a count of 7 and breathe out for a count of 11. Don’t get too hung up on the numbers, we each have different lung capacity. The idea is to take a deep and comfortable breath through your nose, followed by a long slow exhale through your mouth, whilst paying attention to allowing your muscles to relax. Each time you breathe out, you will be giving your physical body an opportunity to release tension.
The added bonus of taking time to consciously breathe is that it provides an opportunity to become conscious of thoughts. Worrisome thoughts are difficult to change overnight because they have a powerful emotion driving them.
My next blog will give you a simple and strategic approach to worry well and reducing anxiety.