Get in the Flow
Perhaps you have had the experience of being totally absorbed in some activity—whether it be sports, cooking, reading, or hiking—so that you completely lost track of time. This concept of being completely present is called “flow,” and scientists claim that it’s a key part of an emotionally healthy life. Being “caught in the flow” is a fulfilling, pleasurable experience that means you are engaging in a task that challenges and excites you.
To create more flow in your life, happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky recommends the following:
- Take on new values. Be open to new experiences and learning new skills. Flow arises when you are being challenged; you may find that it requires striving to seek new tasks and challenges.
- Transform ordinary tasks. You can transform any mundane experience by placing your attention wholeheartedly on what is happening around you. Notice with interest all the details you may usually gloss over—the pattern on the doctor’s office wallpaper, the smell of the breeze, or the texture of a piece of toast as you chew it.
- Flow with others. It’s easy to let the mind wander when someone else is talking, but one way to engage in “flow conversations” is to practice deeply listening to what other people are saying and to engage fully in what they are feeling, as well as your own reactions and responses.
- Transform work. People who consider their occupation to be a job rather than a calling tend to find their work to be monotonous, tedious, or a “necessary evil.” But even if you fall in that category, you can maximize positivity at work by cultivating more flow—setting forth new challenges for yourself, accomplishing additional tasks, and seeing yourself as part of an interconnected system working for the benefit of others.
Adapted from The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, 2007.