In my journey through my various seasons of depression, I have extensively focused on the negative thoughts, feelings and sensations in efforts to reduce their intensity. I have spent so much time and effort working incredibly and ridiculously hard to not feel the sadness, anger, anxiety, dread, despair, discontentment, unhappiness…. But of course, what I focus on expands.

focused thinking

However, in the last month, I have realized that it isn’t enough to just minimize the undesirable. Reducing the negative does not default to automatically experiencing the positive. My AHA moment was discovering that the positive behaviors I desire are habits that I need to cultivate and practice. Wow, that means I really have my work cut out for me! Not only do I need to use skills to reduce the unfavorable, I need to use more skills to practice that which I want. Using skills is a lot of work.

As I continue to catch the moments of happiness, joy and contentment, and as I notice the smile on my face or sparkle in my eye, I continue to expand and create more of it. Although it would be easy to wish away all the negative and hope to never have to experience it, I have accepted the truth that I can only begin to feel the highs when I embrace the lows. I can’t know joy without knowing sadness. I can’t feel peace without first feeling the war within me. We can’t have one emotion at the exclusion of the others – trying to pick and choose the ones we like best. Brené Brown, one of my favorite authors, says, “We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.”

Although I will continue to feel painful emotions, as we all do, I do have the power of focus. While I can acknowledge the feeling and be curious about its presence, I can shift gears and choose to concentrate on that which brings more life, radiance and abundance.