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Have you ever felt completely in the zone without distraction? At ease, relaxed, yet focused and accomplished? It’s a unique feeling that’s generally fleeting for most. It’s a state that can be hard to come by. It might pop up on a Tuesday afternoon at work when you look up at the clock and realise several hours have passed. It could occur when you’re deeply engaged in conversation with friends. Or maybe it hits you when you’re pushing yourself while out running with your favourite music on.
This state is what’s known as flow. And flow has a range of desirable benefits like increased happiness, improved output, creativity boosts and enhanced motivation. But what contributes to this state? And is it possible to engineer more of these moments into daily life? Let’s dive a little deeper below.
It’s a state of complete engagement, no distractions, mind chatter quietens, immersion. In this state we’re creating, we’re absorbed in these efforts, meaning that regular thoughts and feelings of hunger, pain or upset disappear. Time fades into the background, and you feel connected to what you’re doing.
Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was one of the founders of the theory, with his research into the components of a happy and meaningful life. As it turns out, his research shows that the most enjoyable and rewarding moments of life come from situations that challenge skills and abilities. The results? Feelings of motivation, fulfilment, and joy.
We spend most of our working lives at work. So we want this time to be both enjoyable and rewarding. Accessing flow state can help us achieve both of these goals, and it increases the chances we’ll accomplish our work goals too—which is always a bonus.
Flow state doesn’t have to be a fleeting feeling that springs upon us in unexpected moments. We can engineer the environment, body and mind to welcome this experience into daily life more easily. Here are four ways how:
Sleep is essential to good mental and physical health. The Sleep Foundation note how sleep aids clear thinking, concentration and memory processing. Clear thinking and concentration are vital flow state components, so we can see how the two relate to each other. It might not always be possible to get the 7-9 hours of sleep you need each night, but the more you get your recommended dose, the more you increase the likelihood of flow state the next day.
Flow state arises when you are satisfied and care about the task at hand. This kind of fulfilment and interest naturally arise when engaging with things you already enjoy. If the activity is something you already find enjoyable, it makes it easier for you to immerse yourself in the process and reduces the chances of distraction. Making time for more things you enjoy increases the chances of satisfaction and contentment in these moments.
To get into a relaxed, high-performing state, limiting distraction is essential. The mind learns skills through repetition, so the more you can resist distraction, the better. Try to find a quiet space, move your phone out of your eye line and if it helps, set ‘focus time' where you fully anchor yourself in your work. Some people find that music helps them get in that zone, but for others not so much. Find what helps limit distractions in your working day and commit to making these changes happen.
Meditation involves a quality of focus and engagement that’s free from distractions. Both meditation and flow share similarities. The more you strengthen the muscle of mental focus with meditation, the easier it will be to bring your awareness to the moment instead of being pulled between thoughts, worries or emotions. Meditation can reduce internal and external distractions, which is also a component to flow too. By practising meditation, you strengthen your ability to maintain concentration despite distractions, enhancing your ability to achieve flow state.
Health Assured can help you learn more about achieving and maintaining positive mental states. Get in touch with us via the 24/7 helpline for mental health support for our counsellors—anytime, anywhere.
If you’re looking to improve the wellbeing of your people, Health Assured’s Employee Assistance Programme can help. Speak to one of our workplace wellbeing experts today on 0800 206 2547 to see how we can help you improve morale, productivity and engagement.
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