LOGAN — It is easy to get caught up in the events of the past or the future. However, doing so only brings worry and causes people to miss out on the present.
On the other hand, mindfulness – or focusing on the present moment – leads to better health, lower anxiety and greater resilience to stress. Learning to incorporate the concept of “flow” is one of several ways to increase mindfulness.
It is possible for a person to enjoy an activity so much that they did not feel time passing. This intense absorption and involvement in what they were doing in the present moment is called flow, and it is generally pleasurable and fulfilling.
In addition, the enjoyment is usually lasting and reinforcing and provides a natural high that is not accompanied by negative feelings.
Although it is easy to experience flow during a person’s favorite activities, they can enjoy this feeling more often during other activities with practice, and experiencing flow will come more naturally. Consider these five tips:
Try to keep full attention on the task at hand. If the mind tends to wander, bring it back to the present moment. When having a conversation with another person, try to stay completely focused on what they are saying. Be patient with yourself while working to develop the ability to stay focused.
Try to enjoy life, even if it unfolds differently than what was planned. (Which it often does!) In order to do so, be open to new and different experiences, and be willing to keep learning until the last day of life.
Many times, people do not realize that they are having these experiences. In order to create more of these in life, a person must first recognize when they are happening so they can increase them.
During dull, daily tasks, seek to add micro-flow activities to make them more meaningful. For example, while waiting at the doctor’s office, a person could read a book or draw a picture. They could try to make their work more meaningful by viewing it as a calling in life rather than just a job.
When brushing teeth, try doing some lunges or squats. When driving, instead of listening to the radio, listen to audiobooks, podcasts or TED talks to learn new ideas.
Find the balance between challenge and skills. Flow experiences occur when people are sufficiently challenged to the point that their skills are stretched, but not so much that the task seems daunting.
Activities that challenge a person’s skills too much result in anxiety, while activities that are not challenging enough result in boredom; herein lies the paradox of flow experiences.
The intrinsic rewards of engaging in these kinds of activities can make a person want to keep doing them, yet a person has to continue stretching themselves because their progress will eventually leave them bored during the same experiences that were once exciting.
Finding activities that result in flow is exhilarating. Change things up by trying new things. The human brain craves variety and novelty. The key to finding flow is developing a balance between skills and challenges – finding something a person is good at and enjoys, but still stretches them a bit.