Finding your Flow

Incorporating ‘flow activities‘ into your everyday life is one of the keys to gaining balance and happiness.

Remember as a kid how you got lost building castles on the beach, swimming, roller skating with friends, play games – those are examples of flow activities. As adults when we spend time reading, writing, gardening, dancing, painting or spending time with good friends we find ourselves getting lost in the moment in similar ways. Flow activities are those states of effortless attention and concentration on a project that evokes pleasurable feelings.

suspended water drop

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote the now famous book, Finding Flow, in which he describes how to evoke and experience the blissful state of flow. He says,

“Imagine that you are skiing down a slope and your full attention is focused on the movements of your body, the position of the skis, the air whistling past your face, and the snow-shrouded trees running by. There is no room in your awareness for conflicts or contradictions; you know that a distracting thought or emotion might get you buried face down in the snow. The run is so perfect that you want it to last forever.”

Perhaps skiing doesn’t bring you into this deep state of immersion. Singing, cooking, playing games, writing, or dancing might evoke this feeling of joy and inner connection. Flow can also be found in your work. This optimal experience could happen while engaged in a business deal, during philanthropic missions, performing a complicated surgery, teaching a class. It might be a sense of rapture when attending a fabulous concert, watching a dance performance or listening to an inspiring teacher. It can also be lying on the beach and feeling the sun warming your body, swaying to music, or floating on a raft. You know it when you experience it, because afterward you feel calm, energized and a sense of joyfulness.

Whether at work, at home, or participating in recreational activities, it is important to find those activities in which you are so engrossed that you lose your sense of time. Integrate those activities into your everyday life. Getting lost in the moment is a good barometer of what truly brings you pleasure. Building in flow time helps stimulate and cultivate creativity, a sense of calm, balance and happiness. It means immersing yourself in what you are or want to be good at. Involvement in these compelling activities is often referred to as ‘being in the zone.’

On a separate note, it has been repeatedly shown that television watching and surfing the net do not qualify as a flow activities as most people do not feel a sense of calm, balance or happiness after these experiences.

What matters most is enjoying the activity for its own sake. The result counts, but not as much as the feeling of concentrated attentiveness over whatever is being done. Even the most mundane tasks like doing the laundry, the dishes, organizing closets and drawers can become more fulfilling if we approach them with mindfulness and see the ‘art form’ in whatever we choose to do.

According to Csikszentmihalyi, “To make a creative change in the quality of experience, it might be useful to experiment with one’s surroundings as well. Outings and vacations help to clear the mind, to change perspectives, to look at one’s situation with a fresh eye. Taking charge of one’s home or office environment–throwing out the excess, redecorating to one’s taste, making it personally and psychologically comfortable–could be the first step in reordering one’s life.”

Improve the quality of your life and overall happiness factor by incorporating flow activities into your everyday life.

What are your favorite flow activities?

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