Finding Your Flow: Activities that bring satisfaction and focus
Have you ever been so engrossed in a project that you lost track of time, forgot to eat, and didn’t feel tired? Maybe you were playing your favorite instrument, working on a craft, fixing a tractor (my husband’s hobby), preparing a favorite dish, involved in a sport, etc.
I notice this happens when I’m creating slides for my next talk. Even if I’m tired when I start, I get energized and feel satisfied when I’m done.
This state of being is called “Flow.” During this time, we’re focused, fully absorbed in the activity so our minds are not distracted with worries or stresses. It’s like an active mindfulness meditation that keeps our mind centered and present on the current “task.”
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi spent much of his career studying flow and the impact it has on our wellbeing. In his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience(1990), he says that happiness is not a fixed state but can be developed as we learn to achieve flow in our lives.
Studies by Csikszentmihalyi and others have found that focusing on the present moment makes us happier. For example, a recent study from Harvard used an app on the phones of 2,250 adults that would chime at random times throughout the day. The app would then ask how happy they were in that moment (on a scale from 1-100), what they were doing, and if they were thinking about what they were doing. The results showed that 46.9% of the time people’s minds were wandering, and they tended to be less happy when they weren’t focused on what they were doing.
To help you find activities that may bring you flow, here are some common traits:
- There are clear goals every step of the way.
- There is immediate feedback to one’s actions.
- There is a balance between challenges and skills.
- Action and awareness are merged.
- Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
- There is no worry of failure.
- Self-consciousness disappears.
- The sense of time becomes distorted.
- The activity becomes an end in itself.
What projects or activities put you in the zone where you’re in flow? How can you add more of these in your days?
To get more Positivity Tips like this delivered to your inbox, sign up here.
Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is Chief Positivity Officer of The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association