It’s a new year and a wonderful time to re-evaluate and renew! Things got so busy for me towards the end of last year and I noticed my mind overload, my creativity drop and my sense of flow wane. I decided I needed total rest and relaxation over the Christmas period and made an intention to slow down. I walked in nature, journaled, disconnected somewhat from social media and spent quality time with family. What then began to emerge in me was a greater sense of being present and in the moment, a gradual return of my creativity and a deep sense of calm in my mind and body. By taking time out, I saw and felt that sense of flow returning back into my life.
I love being in flow. I first experienced this state whilst creating art. It was one of the reasons I loved making art and so valued the process of art therapy. I lost myself in the moment, losing my often active mind and entering into a space of openness, connection and total presence within myself. I felt awake, alive but yet content and calm.
In positive psychology, flow, also known as the ‘zone’ is described as a mental state where the person is fully immersed in a state of energised focus, full involvement and enjoyment of the process. Jeanne Nakamura and Csiksgentmihalyi identified the 6 factors of flow as:
- Intense and focused concentration
- Merging of action and awareness
- A loss of reflective consciousness
- A sense of personal control over a situation or activity
- One’s subjective experience of time is altered
- Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding
In combination, these aspects form a flow-experience, which in turn aligns closely with a sense of passion and purpose. When in flow people connect deeply to what they really care about; their passions, which ultimately leads to them moving into an energy space that aligns with living on purpose.
So, do you feel like you are living in a state of flow? Can you recognise times in your life when you have been in flow? Or are you experiencing more the experiences of low energy, anxiety in your day to day life or a lack of focus in daily activities? Would you like to have more flow-experiences in your life?
Below are four easy ways that you can access your flow state every day and in turn connect more to your passions and sense of purpose.
1. Feel thankful and connect yourself to gratitude.
The practice of gratitude increases the state of feeling happy, as well as improving physical and mental health. Giving attention and focus to that which you are thankful for naturally shifts your perception away from the negatives. The mind goes where intention flows so the more thankful you feel, the more thankful you become. This is the basis of solutions-focused coaching; focusing on what is going well and then building on it. Giving attention to what you are thankful for is also the basis to many meditation-type practices.
Completing a gratitude journal every day is a fantastic way to build awareness of what you are thankful for into your life. Every morning and/or evening make a quick entry of 5 things you are grateful for in that moment. Regularly review it, especially if you find yourself feeling down or negative. You can also write about what you appreciate in others and share this with them to brighten their day!
2. Letting go of trying hard.
Trying too hard at anything in life more often than not, results in frustration, tension and pressure which is not indicative of a flow-state. There is a principle called the ‘Pareto Principle’ which states that 80% of results come from 20% effort and that it takes four times the effort to shift the remaining 20%. This links to why perfectionism and the quest to be 100% can be so fraught with challenge.
It is, of course, valuable to do your best in any given situation, however letting go in this belief and ‘knowing’ will result in much better outcomes than over trying and forcing.
3. Allow space
Give yourself space away from pressures, expectations and demands and allow yourself to think in a relaxed, non-judgemental way for a time. Quiet thinking time is useful in every part of our life. It allows us to feel refreshed, rejuvenated and able to tackle what is needed including being available and supportive to others.
4. Being in the moment
Being present to your life in the here and now is a wonderful way to wake up to your life! To take our minds away from the past and the future shifts us into a state of being which is focused, energising, productive and stabilising. It removes all the confusion and conflict caused by numerous feeling states and grounds us in the joy and opportunity of the moment. Something good can always be found in the present moment, the mind is always able to acknowledge something it can be thankful or grateful for.
Some questions to ask yourself to take this further are:
- What are you really thankful for in your life?
- When and where do you drive yourself? Where can you let go?
- What allows or enables you to experience the greatest sense of spaciousness in your life?
- What stops you being present to your life?
- When or where do you really experience being in the moment?
Regularly ask yourself these questions to support shifting into a flow state more often in your life!
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