Flow is the mental state in which we are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus and full involvement. In other words we are absorbed in the present, no thoughts about the future or the past, or even about the present, just an absorption in the present.
Recent studies have demonstrated a direct link between this "flow state" (see- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lance-p-hickey-phd/flow-experiences-happiness_b_811682.html) and personal happiness. And remember happy people live longer, have better emotional health are more cooperative, more social and more charitable. They also produce superior work outcomes and have stronger immune systems. Adding more happiness to your life is not only better for you, it's also better for your family and society in general.
By the way, this state of flow is the objective of most meditation practices.
Last Sunday I found myself in just such a state. I was painting several pieces of furniture that are going into my wife's studio. I had them prepped and ready, the music on and I was just singing and painting… before long I was lost in it, I was totally absorbed.
When I had reached the end I was surprised to see that more than an hour had passed. I couldn't remember the songs that had played, or even thinking about anything. It was almost like waking from a deep, restful, dreamless sleep.
I must confess, I find myself in this state quite frequently, often when I'm writing I will "come to" after a several minutes, or even an hour or more, to realize that I had been totally absorbed in what I was doing.
If you have not cultivated the habit of allowing yourself to easily, and frequently, slip into flow I want to recommend it. Here are a few things that can help you access the flow state more frequently.
Focus on what you are doing. When thoughts pop into your head simply acknowledge them and let them slip away. For example if you remember that you have a "to do" later in the day that you don't want to forget, just make write a quick note to yourself and let it go. If you start thinking about something in the past, just say to yourself, I'm going to have to think about that at some point, but not now, right now I just want to focus on this. This takes some practice but you can definitely do it, it's easy, you're just procrastinating about thinking about something, we can ALL procrastinate.
If you absolutely must do something at a certain time set an alarm, I do this on my phone all the time, in fact I have an alarm set right now to remind me to put another coat of paint on that furniture, this allows me to be fully engaged in writing this right now with giving any thought to the next activity I want to do.
I believe in leaving myself plenty of time to do everything in my life that I want to do. This habit has nearly eliminated me experiencing being rushed or anxious and I'm able to concentrate fully and do the best I can at what I'm doing. This practice allows me to be much more present and focused on whatever is in front of me and it definitely allows me to access flow much more regularly.
Create Blocks of Similar Activities
I find that when I do several similar things in the same block of time, such as telephone calls, or coaching sessions, and then do another task like writing projects I can increase my flow states.
Find Your Flow
Being aware of activities that are flow inducing for you is a good idea. There are several activities that tend to get me into a flow state rather quickly like writing/blogging, walking and working in the yard. Doing these regularly adds to my happiness. Of course meditation, which I do every morning is also very effective.
For me meditation brings that flow mindset to the start of everyday. There are many different meditation methods which you can look into for yourself, but put quite simply, meditation is just sitting quietly. If you new to meditation simply find 5 or 10 minutes a day and sit quietly. As I said earlier I do this early each morning. Don’t try and stop your thoughts, let them pass through your mind and observe them. If you will just do this one simple activity you will notice a huge positive difference in your day to day life. See this as an opportunity to briefly disconnect from everything that is happening around you and it will help you flow through your day to day life.
Distractions will often make it more difficult to access the flow state. Wherever possible, remove distractions in order to concentrate fully on what you are doing. I am big fan of Facebook and email but sometimes we need to turn it off in order to get things done. Learn to be in charge of the tools in your life, rather than the other way around. If you need to focus, switch off your phone, or alerts where possible and give yourself the opportunity to concentrate fully on what is in front of you. You could even set aside blocks of time to catch up on social media, and then enter a flow state while Facebooking, don't laugh I have done it many times.
So there are a few things you can do to increase the amount of time you spend in a state of flow. I would love to hear about your flow experiences, feel free to enter them below or pop me an email.