Virtuous Circles of Attention, Thinking and Feeling

Have you ever considered how entwined our attention, thoughts and feelings are? It can be like self-determining vicious or virtuous circles. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

At the weekend, I was queuing for about an hour or so to get into a music festival. It could have been tedious, but it was actually fun! Admittedly, I did have my deck-chair with me so I could sit down in the sunshine, but queuing is often a time when people go inwards and start thinking.

Attention & Vicious Circles

In response to the situation, some people start to run an internal narrative about how boring it is. They complain to themselves as someone ahead takes too much time to move on. Occasionally, there’s even an audible huff and puff, as they check their watch for how much time they’re wasting… And of course, they are right! They are wasting time. Wasting time making themselves feel bad, stressed and angry. The act of waiting becomes a vicious circle of negative thoughts and bad feelings generating stressful body chemistry. The more angry or negative the thoughts, the more cortisol and adrenaline are generated in the body. When that happens you are less able to feel happy and think positively.

Attention & Virtuous Circles

Instead, I chose to focus my attention outwards.

As we sat there, I smiled at the person next to me. Smiling is infectious! You have to be pretty ignorant, mad or sad not to return one that’s freely given to you. She smiled back. So, I took the opportunity to break the ice and start a conversation.

I commented about the weather – always a good opening gambit in the UK. Then moved on to asking about how far they had come to be here, inquiring about their journey. I noticed the people behind them were looking at us, so I included them too. We swapped stories about previous experiences of seeing the bands. The conversation started to  flow as we smiled and laughed at each other’s stories. The six of us were merrily chatting away, as the rest of the queue sat or stood in silence. They appeared to be either quietly eavesdropping or lost in boredom.

Suddenly, along the line came a family entertainer dressed in a yellow and purple diamond-checked suit – enough to brighten any day. But what he did, as I watched him come along the line, was to focus people’s attention outwards on him and make them smile. When they smiled, they started to feel good. And when they started to feel good they began to talk to their fellow queuers, and soon the whole line was full of happy chatters!

Smiling and Laughing Connect People

Smiling and laughing are social activities. You are thirty times more likely to laugh in company than you are on your own. When you laugh you produce a heady cocktail of feel-good chemicals, neurotransmitters and hormones in your body. They relieve pain, and allow your body to repair, regenerate and renew. They also reduce stress and anxiety. And when you are feeling fine, human contact is easier and more fun. It becomes a virtuous circle.

Smile! Choose Where You Focus Your Attention

Even if you are no good at ‘small’ talk, a smile freely given will often be rewarded with one in return and a word or two, which can lead to a question, an answer, and before you know it time will fly and you could have made a new friend. We did on Saturday. We spent all afternoon and evening together and made a date for the next gig. Is it time you smiled, laughed and created some good feelings and virtuous circles?

Come to Laughter Room to let out your playful side and find your inner joy. Or have some coaching to become more confident in communicating – contact me here. Get my new book – A Book For A Changehere, and read some more stories about how to change your mind for the better.

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