and how to get it back for the New Year!
“Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river.” Lao Tzu
We’ve shared a bit about flow over the past year and wanted to dive a bit deeper while we are in Winter still and water is the element of the season.
All of us have had times in our lives when we are “in the zone” – when we feel entirely tuned in to what we’re doing and fully energized towards a specific goal.
In positive psychology, this experience is referred to as the “Flow state.”
Psychologists have studied Flow for many years. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi helped formalize our understanding of the concept and created awareness around when and why it happens.
When we’re in Flow, we lose track of space and time. We’re so engaged that we lose ourselves to whatever it is that we are doing.
Some of us reach the Flow state while playing music. Others get there while painting or skiing through the trees on a snowy day. In both eastern and western cultures, yoga has also become a popular way of entering into Flow regularly.
In Flow, we’re genuinely happy. We escape from life’s difficulties and hardships and can be our best, most productive selves. The Flow state often comes about when our passions and skills are balanced with the challenge at hand. We aren’t bored or outmatched. Instead, we are completely absorbed in the experience.
“Enjoyment appears at the boundary between boredom and anxiety when the challenges are just balanced with the person’s capacity to act.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Flow requires deep concentration and focus, so our minds have to be healthy to get there. And guess what helps our minds operate at the highest levels?
Sleep! We love talking about this!
Think about how much more you are able to do and process after a great night of sleep. You’re more alert. You’re emotionally strong. And you’re a better problem-solver.
After a good sleep, you are also better prepared to enter the Flow state if the opportunity arises. You can immerse yourself in whatever it is that you love doing at a high level. Those who get rich sleep consistently have more chances to enjoy the wonderful and unique experience that is being “in the zone.”
I wanted to pose a few questions to get you thinking about Flow more intentionally. Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts with your clients or with me!
“Of all the virtues we can learn no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
What gets you “Flowing”?
Everyone is different when it comes to Flow. Some reach the transcendent state while doing intense physical activity. For others, the experience is entirely cerebral.
Think about when you last lost track of time doing something that you thoroughly enjoyed. Reflect on the last time someone had to pull you out of an activity because you had no awareness of the world around you.
That was you in Flow!
Although many people have never heard the formal definition of Flow, the underlying concept comes easily because we’ve all been there at some point. Now you know exactly what is happening in those moments and why you cherish them so much.
“For true love is inexhaustible; the more you give, the more you have. And if you go to draw at the true fountainhead, the more water you draw, the more abundant is its flow.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery
What circumstances lead to your Flow state?
Think about what circumstances or situations tend to produce your Flow states.
Are you well-rested? Are you exhausted? Are you alone? Are you with people? Are you relaxed? Are you stressed? Are you in love?
See if you can develop awareness around what is happening when you enter and leave Flow. My guess is that it comes about more often after great nights of sleep when you are physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.
Some people tend to attribute their most creative times when they are sleep deprived. However, this isn’t a great strategy if you are chasing after your most productive and lively self every single day.
“Intention is one of the most powerful forces there is. What you mean when you do a thing will always determine the outcome.” Brenna Yovanoff
For those well-practiced, are you intentional with your Flow?
Flow is a state of being that you can enter into with purpose. Fortunately, this is the best season to learn this practice if you haven’t already!
One of the primary virtues of Winter is intention. Once you develop a deeper understanding and awareness of Flow, you can actively use it to your advantage rather than just being a passive participant on the journey.
See if you can guide yourself to situations that you can thrive in and enjoy. I’ll wager that you can 🙂
Want to talk more about the holistic benefits of sleep? Let’s do it!