Mind Boost: Finding Your Flow
Photography by Alex Moldovan | Model: Jayanne Westerman
If discomfort has become the norm, you are certainly not living in your flow
Have you ever been so absorbed in a project you are passionate about that you lost track of time? This is ‘flow’, and consistently finding it can make you happier and more successful.
Are you happy? It is a question we ask ourselves all the time, but it can also be one of the most difficult to answer.
Recent studies have shown that, overall, the UK is quite a happy country, with 75.9% of people claiming that they are generally satisfied with their lives. But that still leaves almost a quarter of the population unsatisfied and, as we all know, happiness is by no means a constant.
In his book The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama says, “happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events,” suggesting that the power to be happy lies within all of us. So if that is the case, how can we release that power?
The key to finding both satisfaction and success in life could lie in finding your ‘flow’. This is the state in which a person becomes so absorbed in their work that they lose all track of time. “Being in flow is when you are in the ‘zone’,” says Flow Finders International, “when everything seems to happen effortlessly. And it has one very important consequence – that of happiness in your life.”
Flow is the ultimate commitment to living in the present moment and there are plenty of ways to know when you have found it.
The clearest is when your work does not feel like work; instead you achieve a feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment that makes you forget you are even working. Another indicator is the rapid passing of time. Gone are the days of clock-watching; when you look up from whatever you are doing and realise the sun is already setting, it is a sure sign that you have found your flow.
So how do you know if you are in need of flow?
The biggest indicator that you have lost motivation in your life is when you feel persistently unhappy or dissatisfied with your lot. But there are other, more subtle signs to look out for that could indicate you have lost interest.
You no longer contribute
Whether it’s to share an idea with friends, start a new project or give back to your community, when you stop actively contributing to your environment – either at work or in social situations – and just accept the status quo, this could be a sign that your life has become stagnant.
You tolerate discomfort
Sometimes it just feels like too much effort to speak up against poor living conditions, unbearable workloads or people that hurt you. If discomfort has become the norm, you are certainly not living in your flow.
You are not looking for advancement
If you are unhappy with your current situation but aren’t doing anything to change it, you have probably lost that youthful spark of optimism with which you started out. Being proactive and engaged is a major part of being in flow; standing still could indicate the opposite.
It’s all too easy to fall into a groove and that is why finding flow can be so difficult, but once you have found it, the benefits are immeasurable. In fact, most people have experienced flow at some point in their lives, but it is not a feeling that can be forced. Instead you have to create the right environment in which it can happen. So how do you go about doing this? Here are some tips that will help you to find your flow in the life you have, or set you on the path towards the one you truly want.
Find your ideal working environment
The best way to get that feeling of flow is to make sure you are working in the right environment. Start off by learning at what time of day you concentrate best: schedule your biggest or most important tasks for early on if you’re a morning person, or for after lunch if your brain doesn’t really kick in until the afternoon. You should also get rid of any distractions. If you can, switch your phone on silent or even set aside a period of time in which you will not be disturbed. Once you are comfortable and able to concentrate, allow yourself to work for as long as you can – you might just surprise yourself!
Feng Shui your life
Whether or not you believe in the mystical elements of chi, getting tidy, organised and bringing natural light into your work space and home can improve your mental and physical wellbeing. Laura Cerrano of Feng Shui Manhattan recommends orienting your desk to face the front door of the office, clearing away clutter, and organising papers into colour-coded categories. If you can, add paintings and potted plants to your space to provide interest against large, blank walls and to give you something decorative to look at when you need to rest your eyes.
Embrace your spiritual side
Just like decluttering your environment, decluttering your mind is also an important step towards finding your flow. Meditation allows you to focus on the present moment and really understand your body, as you concentrate on your breathing and feel the physical flow of air moving through you. You should also do your best to discard negativity, whether this involves surrounding yourself with more uplifting people in your personal life, or confronting your own negative thoughts by actively and consistently choosing to replace them with positive ones.
Tap into your intuition
Intuition can be a powerful force that can be invaluable when it comes to making decisions; that’s why it’s important to hone it into a tool that works for you. President and CEO of Benchmark Coaching, Christen Resmo, says, “I’ve come to accept that my own intuition is one of many skills I can call upon in my business when needed.” To develop your intuition, try listening more, both to other people in conversations, and to your body. Having goosebumps, a racing heart or a sick feeling in your stomach are all indicators that you have a ‘gut feeling’, and recognising this can help you to stay true to your instincts.
Ask yourself if you are in the right place
If you are truly unhappy you should ask yourself whether you are really in the best place for you. Changing career, moving house or finding a new circle of friends can seem like a scary choice, but if your current situation is making your overall happiness suffer, it might be worth it. Alexander Kjerluf, a leading expert on happiness, says, “it pays to examine your reasons for staying very closely to make sure that they hold up.” If the only thing holding you back is a fear of the unknown, it could be time to seriously consider making a change.
Ultimately the only way to achieve flow is to choose to pursue it. This will take practice but, just like building a muscle, the more time you dedicate to it, the easier it will become to consistently find your flow.
You can read this story and more in our spring 2016 finding your flow issue here