16 Jun Want to be Happier? Find your Flow.
You are spending a ton of time at work and noticing every last minute of it. Instead of feeling exhilarated by a sense of accomplishment, you’re exhausted and burned-out.
Your job shouldn’t leave you feeling lifeless, anxious, or depressed. Spending so much time at work that you don’t have any energy left to engage in activities that bring passion and a state of flow is a sure way to experience a minimum of happiness.
State of Flow
A flow state is one where you lose track of time, forget your problems, and have a sense of challenge, mastery, and meaning. Flow feels like “a door that opens up to the sky,” a poet once described. Love it. Sign me up!
Mihaley Csikszentmihalyi is a pioneer in the study of happiness. He found, after years of interviewing many people, that time spent in a flow state needs to be present for happiness to be sustainable. Essentially, adding flow states into your life decreases anxiety and depression and increases meaning and joy.
Flow State Activities
- Within skill level
Keep in mind, flow activities are different for everybody. Often sited as flow activities are playing a musical instrument, creating something, math problems, their career, or intimate, deep conversations.
Not Flow State Activities
Binge Watching a Show on Netflix: The couch is comfy and you lose track of time, yes. However, do this for too long and boredom creeps in. Invariably, depression and regret weigh you down.
A Job or Activity Beyond your Skill Level: For example, playing on a team with experts when you are just a novice. Too much anxiety and you quit before you give yourself a chance to develop any skills.
Busy – Not Meaningful – Not challenging: Enough said – boring and tedious never activate a flow state.
A beautiful sunset, life changes, or a fast-moving career may be exciting, but after the excitement dies down, so does the happiness and engagement.
My 1st career is a great example of this scenario. To start, promotions happened often, travel to new places was frequent, and I worked for inspiring people. When promotions slowed down, the day-to-day work was boring. The pressure to perform was still there, but the thrill of new challenges had stagnated. Honestly, personal meaning had been lacking from the start.
Sound familiar? This is a common example of how a career that isn’t a great fit can be exciting while it’s moving forward, but not motivating when things stabilize.
Find your Flow:
Flow State for You. Think back to the last time you experienced a flow state. Go back to your college years or the childhood playground.
Experiment. Check into your local parks, community centers, or colleges for classes to sign up for in subjects you used to love, but long ago deemed unpractical or frivolous. Do you still enjoy this activity? No? Try again.
Career Change. If your career is where you find flow instead of drudgery, the benefits to your mental and physical health are huge.
Get onto the Couch. Partner with a therapist to explore what flow states are for you. A therapist can offer support in implementing plans to include more of these activities in your life.
Is flow lacking in your life? I urge you to take some time to find it. I’m available to discuss therapy, flow states, and offer referrals if you aren’t in my area. Email me to set up a 30-minute consultation.
Kate Murphy, LMSW
Kate Murphy, a therapist in Berkeley Lake, specializes in helping you decrease stress and anxiety. You can live a more balanced, connected, and meaningful life. Kate works with individuals and couples over the age of 18 to support healing, communicating, and experiencing joy more often.