Attention As A Spotlight
Reading time: approx. 1 minute
Your attention is like a spotlight for intensity. When you move your attention to a specific sensation in your body or to a certain emotion, the intensity in which you perceive it will increase substantially.
This is especially important to know when it comes to dealing with panic attacks and certain forms of anxiety.
One typical strategy that is often being used by people suffering from panic attacks for instance is to watch their bodily sensations very closely for any sign of a panic attack. If your heart beats just a bit faster because you just climbed a flight of stairs for instance, this usually goes unnoticed. But when you are highly attentive of any sign of a possible panic attack, your attention might rest with your heart beat (consciously or unconsciously). This will lead to you feeling your heart beating much more intensely than you would otherwise.
When we are dealing with panic and anxiety, we tend to be very attentive towards our bodily sensations that signal fear. We thus feel symptoms of fear sooner and stronger than usual.
Luckily we can consciously shift our attention and put the spotlight on something more calming or joyful. For instance you might want to experiment with shifting your attention away from your anxious sensation and look for an area in your body which feels the calmest or brightest to you at this moment in time. Rest there for a couple of deep breaths and watch as the nice sensation that you are now focusing on becomes more prominent.
If you feel like it, you can then experiment with your headlight-attention a bit:
Move your awareness back to that part of your body that holds an anxious sensation and curiously observe how that shift in awareness causes a shift in the perception of it. You may also find that when you observe this anxious sensation in your body curiously and calmly rather than trying to flee it or push it away, this changes the experience of it significantly in a pleasant way.
End the little experiment by resting your attention on the more comfortable or positive sensation in your body. You might even want to ask yourself the question: "If this positive sensation in my body had a color, what color would that be?" And if you can come up with a color, you can just breathe for some time and watch that color float around and spread throughout your body.