Lose yourself in the flow

By Elaine MacDonald

My family would say my daily mantra has forever been “drink water, get out into nature and find something to get you into a state of flow.” Water and nature are straightforward, but what is a state of flow?

Amid the challenges of this pandemic, many of us are dealing with feelings of boredom, loneliness, even loss of hope. For the first time in our lives, we can’t escape our situation because this is a worldwide crisis. We are being stretched to explore new ways to find happiness.

Luckily, there are several positive tools that we can call on to sweeten our days, even if just a little. One of these tools is finding our state of flow. What is the meaning of flow? Positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi describes flow as a state of complete immersion in an activity. While in this mental state, people are completely involved in and focused on what they are doing. One sign that you have achieved true flow is losing all track of time while doing your activity. The best part of getting into a state of flow is feeling far removed from any troubles and concerns.

Getting into a state of flow is more difficult these days because our usual routines and safety zones have been disrupted, and technology and social media are often our go-to relief. However, with a little planning and by choosing an activity that turns our crank, we can achieve flow and find some well-deserved peace. Flow is just one self-care tool that can bring more positive energy into our days while working from home, home schooling our children or simply being in lockdown.

Brainstorming a list of activities is the place to start. Remember, the activity must stretch us a bit but can be anything. Examples include sewing new curtains, drafting the subject of your new book, redesigning your garden or learning a musical instrument. If you have older children, getting them involved in creating their own lists can also bring new energy to the home. Everyone can benefit from carving out time for an activity that leads to a state of flow. What we can achieve when in flow can be very satisfying and soothing, plus we benefit from natural, pleasure-inducing, performance-enhancing chemicals that make the brain happy and make us feel more in Zen.

Here are the key steps to achieving and benefiting from flow:

  1. Commit several hours before to doing this activity.
  2. Choose a task or activity that you like and that you feel is important and of value.
  3. Make sure it’s challenging and requires your undivided attention, though it does not have to be too difficult.
  4. Clear away distractions so that you are completely free – the means putting away phones and computers!
  5. Tell your partner/spouse/child that you will be unavailable while engaged in your activity.
  6. Learn to focus on the task for as long as possible. Getting immersed for a minimum of 30 minutes is recommended. Take breaks of only five minutes between the 30-minute blocks to keep you in flow. Use a timer.
  7. Enjoy yourself.
  8. Keep practising.

Following your first intentional attempt at achieving flow, notice how you feel. If you feel good and you feel uplifted, commit to making this a regular practice. You will be grateful that you did.

Elaine MacDonald is a health and life coach at Finding Your Zen Coaching.

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