Wexford People

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How to achieve a state of being ‘in flow’

How much of your free time do you spend focused or doing things you love to do every day? How much time do you spend relaxing?

These are questions I often ask in Workshops and the answers are always surprising - both for the participants and myself.

We all have things we say we love to do but don't often spend quality time doing them. Many of us don't do anything we say we really enjoy as part of daily life. We may collapse in front of the couch to recover after a busy day at work or spend time on social media - but it is an interesting question to ask yourself if you could be doing something that would be more relaxing, fun, enjoyable and engaging for you. Here's why.

Being in the flow

In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience Mr. Csikszentmihalyi outlines his seminal theory that people are happiest when they are in a 'state of flow'-a state of focus or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation.

It is a state of mind in which people are so involved in what they are doing that it feels like nothing else matters in that moment - a feeling of being 'in the zone'. We all know and have visited this place of flow or total engagement - for some it comes when they are watching their local or county team play - for others it may be when they are on the pitch themselves - or when they are gardening, playing music, or at work. It is a place where mundane matters like food, self, and other issues don't feature - at least for a time.

Csikszentmihalyi has described flow as 'being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you're using your skills to the utmost.'

When are you happiest?

The research of Csikszentmihalyi gives answers that may surprise you. He did studies recording peoples in-real-time levels of happiness at random times both during work and their free time.

The conclusion may surprise you. People felt happier at work, even though they said they would rather be at home! He believes this is because work provides an environment with rules and challenges that push us to pay attention. Our free time, without any structure, can easily become boring.

Free time is time spent away from business, work, job, studies, housework and personal care activities like eating and sleeping.

This research challenges us to see if we can improve the quality of our free time. Some of us choose to work continuously - or be so busy there is no space for boredom. But if you feel your family, or hobby is what you love the most why not devote more quality time to them.

You can do this by structuring your free time so it is engaging. You can ensure you sleep enough so you are not too tired at the end of your working day. You can give a few minutes a day to the hobby you love. You can find a form of exercise you enjoy and practice regularly. Or you can read or play games like bridge. Or find some other way of use your creativity and socialize.

What is important is that you do things that make you feel alive and engaged. And most importantly, practice being present and in the moment. Working to improve your habits and working on yourself will also make your free time more rewarding.

Wexford People