Waking up to thunder and rain on the roof is not the way to start a Monday to someone prone to anxiety in the fall. It’s dark, dreary, damp and all-around gloomy. When fighting the anxiousness in my soul, the desire is for light, sunshine, warmth.
However, as I sat in front of my “Happy Light” (that’s its name) a light box of 10,000 lux, designed to fool my body that the days are actually longer than they are, I was reminded in my readings to focus.
Focus on what? Focus on filling my mind:
fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Philippians 4:9a
The word that jumped out to me was lovely. Since it was such a dreary, dark day, lovely seemed like an oxymoron, yet there it was.
Focus on lovely. Let go of anxiety.
So what have I already seen today that was lovely?
- The smile of my four-year-old grandson
- The loveliness of natural art at a coffeehouse
- The yellow of the leaves outside my window
- The heart emoji and thanks in a message from my adult daughter
Beginning to focus and look for lovely, you see it all around you. For me, those things occurred in less than three hours. What else will the day bring?
Focus means directed attention or emphasis…. a short, simple definition.
When I focus on lovely… energy, insight, emphasis for the day… is on lovely. Our brains like specificity so by choosing something to keep our direct attention upon, we will see much more of what we want to see- like coming into focus.
In reality, we can calm some of our anxious thoughts by retraining our brains on what to focus upon. Some anxiety is good, like a signal, as a reminder we need to get something done or as heightened awareness before a performance.
Some anxiety, though, can be just noise, and I can first listen to the noise to determine its value. In the book, Stopping the Noise in My Head, Dr Reid Wilson reminds us to ask ourselves,
Is it needless worry?
If it is a worry we have no control over, then we can discard the noise, change the channel and focus on whatever might be pure, lovely, beautiful in our line of sight. Over time, slowly some of that noise will begin to diminish. What noise do you need to discard?
The biggest takeaway about a dreary, dismal day is not to focus on the dreary, dismal day. Ha! Right now my office is lovely and hospitable:
- all lights are on and cheery
- soft music is playing
- my favorite cat companion, Willie, is nearby
- autumn leaves are turning colors out my window
- and because I work at home, I get to eat lunch with my husband.
These are all things that are noticeable in your environment or can be set up in your environment. Turning on lots of light in a dreary day can especially be helpful. Think about whatever it takes to set up your environment for you to feel welcome in your personal space.
Take the Focus on Lovely Challenge!
How do you go about find lovely things to focus upon when things around you are dreary, anxious and dismal? What is in your locus of control? It can take effort to change your environment, your thoughts and feelings or your actions, especially with anxiety lurking at your door.
Since your brain likes specificity, take time right now and take the Focus on Lovely Challenge.
Choose 5 lovely things around you to focus upon.
They could be thoughts, feelings or actions. Notice what happens to your day and your outlook. .
Choose 5 ways to change the environment around you to make it more hospitable.
Record this challenge for five days in a row. Also notice how your anxiety goes up and down.
What differences do you notice?
Changing your focus is not an overnight cure. However, it can be one tool in your walk with anxiety. May you become more and more aware of the noise in your life and change your dreary, dismal days to more lovely days by changing your focus.
Nancy Booth loves to walk and talk with mid-life Christian women about their journey to their authentic, well-nourished lives. She encourages them to create space in their lives to look for God’s fingerprints and give themselves permission to discover what they need to live fully present, healthy mind, body and heart. She is a certified life coach and spiritual director as well as enneagram coach. She would love to travel with you on your journey to an authentic, well-nourished life- awakened, loved and transformed.