Of all things, I’ve been pondering the idea of flow recently.
You may ask yourself, how much is there really to think about? You can go with the flow or you can decide not to, right?
While that may be true, it’s not the whole story. There is a theory of flow from psychology that describes the flow state as one of concentration and enjoyment, as in you are so focused on your favorite activity (painting, for example), that you lose track of time.
If you give it some thought, you may come up with some activity that can put you into the flow state, where you seem to be working on instinct and completely focused on one thing. I get that way when I write, and I notice that I kind of zone out when I’m running, too. (When I get into either activity, and I stop procrastinating and thinking about it, the rhythm takes over and it’s very peaceful and enjoyable.)
Of course, when I think about flow on a daily basis, I usually go back to the “go with the flow” concept. And I’ll tell you why that has changed my life for the better.
I am prone to anxiety, and I can worry with the best of them. If I really give in to worry, my mind can spiral so far out of control with dire possibilities, I should get awards for creativity! Of course, worrying and being anxious feels really bad, so I do my best to combat it and keep those crazy negative thoughts away.
What do I worry about besides money, global warming, and gun violence? Usually 99% of my daily worry resolves around time. Will I get the kids to school on time? Will I be late for work? When will I have the time to clean my house/ write my novel/ actually relax? I’m constantly looking at the clock and seeing how much time I have until the next thing, because, honey, there is always the next thing…even if it’s getting to sleep at a reasonable hour so that I can rest before resuming my daily clock watching. (Seriously!)
Here is where the idea of flow (as in going with it) comes in. When my internal alarms start cranking up, I say to myself…”There is enough time for everything, and today I will flow from one thing to the next.” Add in a few deep breaths and a visualization of myself remaining calm all day, and I have the antidote for worry.
Each time the clock watcher starts pacing, I remind myself to just flow with what the day will bring. There are many unknowns, and meeting them calmly will solve more problems than flipping out over the clock. Am I right?
This may seem overly simple, or even kind of silly, but if you try it for real, and make the effort to imagine yourself calm and “flowing along”, it can really help. A day in flow can still be incredibly busy as you move from one task to another, but if you erase the time anxiety, there is so much less stress.
I believe there is a mindfulness component to this, too, which would explain why it’s stress reducing. If you simply go from thing to thing without thinking about it too much or adding a layer of worry, you are more in the moment. There is a task in front of me right now, and I’m going to do it without thinking ahead to the next. Yes, you know the next thing on the schedule exists, but it doesn’t have to ruin what’s happening right now. Your internal clock watcher will still nudge you, and you’ll glance at the clock and think, “I’ve still got time, we’re good.” And if time has run out, you think, “OK, I’ll get back to this tomorrow/ next week/ whenever, and move on to the next,” without having your heart rate shoot up!
Yes, believe it or not, this little bit of mantra, breathing, and positive thinking has helped me immensely. It’s quick and free, so why don’t you give it a try?
One last word about flow. By randomly browsing online today I came across the new(?) sport called Parkour. (I’d seen it in passing online before but never knew what it was.) I’m just reading about it, so I’m no expert. What I get is that it’s both a sport and an art form based on a working through a military style obstacle course. The goal is to surmount your obstacles, perhaps quickly, perhaps gracefully, but in the end you just do it.
It is supposed to be a good workout because you have to do so many different physical motions, and it’s symbolic of being creative about navigating obstacles. One website that I can’t seem to find right now said the name is French and is derived from the word “path”. You literally have to follow the path and flow around obstacles.
Yes, I think it’s a little trippy that I started reading about it today, as I’ve been thinking about writing about flow for a while.
I guess I’ll just take it as a sign and, well, you know…