How many times do you hear the phrase ‘going with the flow’? Maybe you say it yourself? If you are anything like me then you say it alot! We are all very aware of this age old term yet how many times do you actually practice it? Do you even fully understand it? In short, it is a state of mind you achieve when you are fully immersed in task. When our awareness is not smothered in every thought and detail of our lives we allow ourselves live from the heart instead of the head, thus in turn enrich every aspect of our existence and revel in our happiness.
In depth studies carried out by Hungarian researcher Mihály Csikszentmiháyli, have contributed pioneering work to our understanding of happiness, creativity, human fulfilment and the notion of “flow” – a state of heightened focus arising from total immersion in activities such as art, play and work. Over the course of 30 years of researching positive psychology, Mihály found that people most often reported being at their happiest when they were at work, doing a task that totally absorbed their attention. He found that usually flow occurs when people engage in some task that activated and challenges their skills and strengths, which is why it mostly happens at work.
Mihály explains that for most people a typical day is full of anxiety and boredom, flow experiences provide flashes of intense living against a dull background. For me, I usually get into my flow when I am being creative, working, meditating and being outdoors as well as doing many other things I love so I was a little surprised when I learnt that you don’t actually have to be doing something even pleasurable to achieve your state of flow. It could be something like climbing a mountain, working on a to do list, solving a difficult problem in work or play or even listening to someone’s problems when you experience it. What’s important is whatever it is we are doing that;
A feeling of exhilaration often arises from this state, also known as a deep sense of gratification. Researchers have proved that gratification produces a much more lasting effect on our mood and happiness levels than simple pleasures which can be much more fleeting so anything that makes the good last longer I’ll gladly embrace!
Being in your state of flow is very similar to the state you are in when practicing Yoga & Mindfulness. Both of these traditions have at their core the training of the mind to produce effortless absorption in everything that you do. The emphasis from both is on being present in your life, being in the now instead of living in your head and allowing thoughts bombard your every move. Mindfulness, for most people, is the key to mental relaxation and to calming the mind that is in constant overdrive (we have approx. 50-70,000 thoughts each day so it takes practice not to let these rule us). All that said, we have to be careful not to go too much one way and not enough of the other. By that I mean when you practice getting into your flow that you are mindful not to go too far into autopilot mode as this prevents you from living your life freely and pretty much reduces the quality of what you experience every day. It’s about balance.
I promise to delve more deeply into the benefits of breaking the autopilot mode another time and share some ways you can practice getting into your state of flow. The reason being is that for now, I simply want you to just focus on the importance of knowing that Flow relies heavily on the connection with your inner being and true self. You only need to be who you are. Know that you are good enough and perfect just as you exist right now. There is nobody else designed to have the exact combination of qualities that you have so never compare yourself to someone else – you are needed in this world exactly as you are. The more you honour your true self the easier it is to get into a state of flow. I also want you to just think about this feeling before knowing anything further at this stage as we often get too caught up in the details – “Flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”. Try being aware of experiencing this feeling, you’ll know it when it happens and when you do, do more of whatever it is that makes you feel this way…Go with your flow!
I was fully in the flow while bringing this piece to you and could keep going and going such is the great feeling. Through my own further training with the Irish Mindfulness Institute there is plenty more to share with you and I look forward to bringing it to you through various different avenues. I would like to dedicate this particular piece to my brother, Ken, whom is a constant source of inspiration, fun and love through his infectious ability to fully live in the present moment. ॐ
For further knowledge on Mihály Csikszentmihályi work, connect here.