When was the last time you lost your car keys? The last time you couldn’t find your phone, even though you could have sworn you were holding it just a few minutes ago? The last time that the important piece of paper that you really needed seemed to have disappeared into thin air?
If we had to guess, any one of these situations probably unfolded like this: You realized something was lost (ugh) and you began frantically tearing through all of your belongings looking for it. Within minutes, you found that your panic had left your home or office a total mess, and you still hadn’t found what you were looking for. Most likely, it was only after you’d stepped away from your worry for a few minutes to take a shower, a walk, or a phone call that the missing item suddenly made itself clear to you — and it was probably in such an obvious place that you spent the rest of the day kicking yourself for failing to notice it in the first place.
Sound familiar? We thought so.
Just like embarking on a frantic search for something you’ve lost can cloud your ability to actually see what you’re looking for, obsessing over a bigger-picture problem or concern in your life can make it feel impossible to find a solution. When your brain is working in overdrive to figure out the best way to overcome a challenge, you can often experience tunnel vision, which means you won’t be open to creative possibilities that your less-tense self would be able to identify easily! What does this mean? It means that sometimes, you have to allow yourself to unfocus in order to more effectively focus later on.
In the podcast, Dr. Melikian references positive emotions like joy, love, curiosity, inspiration, and amusement as catalysts for more creative, open thinking, so as you take the time to unfocus, it’s best to find ways to tap into those feelings. When you can’t stop thinking about a problem at work or when a disagreement with a family member feels un-winnable (or even if you’ve simply lost your car keys!), take some time to unfocus. Pursue those positive emotions by catching up with a friend, reading a book, listening to upbeat music, or taking a yoga class. Science tells us (and we agree!) that taking this time for a mental break will allow you to come back to the problem later on and find a more effective solution.
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