Have you ever been so absorbed in an activity or a conversation that hours felt like minutes? That's flow. Flow can be thought of as the state that emerges when completely mindful and present. People often refer to it as being "in the zone."
As a writer and new podcast host, I find myself in the zone when deep in my work. Whether it's writing the scripts or recording the meditations. I'm captivated with the material and challenged just enough to keep me in the moment and focused. Hours seems like minutes and days seem like hours.
It is impossible to always be in a flow but the more of it you have, the better. Being in flow allows us to truly be present. By living in the moment and being mindful, we have less time to focus on problems and worries that drain us. Anxiety is the leading cause for mental health treatment in the United States, costing more than $42 billion per year nationwide. In the workplace, 50 percent of employees are present but uninspired (unengaged) and 20 percent are very unhappy at work (entirely disengaged).
Flow looks different for everyone. To find your flow, I suggest immersing yourself in an activity that stimulates and challenges you without making you feel overwhelmed. That can be a new home project, signing up for that certification you've always wanted to do, a new dance class, rock climbing or writing that book you've always dreamt about.
What gets in the way of flow?
Multitasking. Flow can only be accomplished when fully engaged in the task.
Being critical. Judging yourself too harshly or criticizing yourself (or others) takes you out of the moment and therefore prevents flow.
How do I find my flow?
Finding your flow may not be as difficult as you think. What activities do you enjoy that captivate your full attention? What skills do you need to exercise during this activity? Does it challenge you enough to keep your attention? Describe how you feel while in this experience?
Another question to ask yourself if how your lack of challenge impacts your overall energy and wellbeing. When I was in my depression, I'd come home from a long day of schoolwork, soccer practice or work and turn on the television for hours. Due to my lack of real stimulation, I was bored and this allowed negative thoughts to ruminate in my mind. I chose to break the cycle and stimulate my brain in different ways. From a weekend workshop, a new fitness certification or producing my own podcast, I'm finding flow and trying my best to leave the inner critic on the curbside. Each of these choices has led to greater connections, deeper conversations and richer experiences that have increased my happiness.
Today, it's so easy to get lost in social media (Facebook and Instagram to name a few). For lent, I chose to remove all social media apps from my phone to be less distracted and more fully present. It wasn't an easy choice because I use them often for work related content. However, I've noticed an improvement in my productivity and as a business owner and writer/host, I need to value my time so that I can spend it doing what I enjoy.
So ask yourself, how can you create more flow in your job/daily activities? What aspects of your life are most affected by the lack of flow? What can you do to enhance more flow in your relationships?
As I mentioned on my previous blog, I've launched Meditate with Kate a new podcast (available here and iTunes). It was created for those looking to find more mindfulness, joy and self-compassion in their daily routine. Each episode is 10 minutes or less with the intention to share what I've learned in my 14 year health journey and offer free guided meditations.
The Happiness Track by Emma Seppala, Ph.D
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