Learning to Go with the Flow

           

Do you ever find yourself in such a state of overwhelm or stress that you wish you could just relax and go with the flow? If so, you’re not alone.

 Here’s the good news. “Go with the flow,” isn’t just some catch New Age mantra. It’s a way of thinking and being that, with a little practice, you can cultivate in order to bring you greater focus and better results – with far less stress. 

When I was a columnist with the Dallas Morning News, I was fortunate to interview positive psychologist Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced Chick-sent-me-hi-yee). He coined the term “flow theory” to describe the blissful state in which you’re so involved in an activity that time seems to stand still.  Try recapturing that feeling right now by visualizing a highly engaging moment of being in the flow.   Here’s how:

  1. Find a comfortable spot and, either lying down or sitting with your feet flat on the floor, close your eyes and begin to focus on your breathing.  If your mind wanders, don’t worry.  Just continue to return your focus to your breathing.  When you begin to feel relaxed and centered, picture a time when you felt completely focused on a pleasurable activity or imagine one that appeals to you.  You might be engaged in sports, hiking in the woods, playing a game with your children or involved in an interesting work project. 
  2. As you let the scene play out, use all your senses.  What do you see in your vision?  What are you hearing around you?  Are there any pleasant smells wafting from your dream kitchen or coming from your seashore stroll? Are your hands engaged in some activity? What are you touching, feeling, chopping, hauling or painting?
  3. Bring your scene to a natural conclusion and, when you’re ready, open your eyes in real life and return to the present.  Now, think through that image.  How did it feel it be so fully engaged that time stood still?  What was the project in which you were involved?   Is it something you still do regularly?  If not, why not?  How can you bring being in the flow into your life more often?

You may find that even thinking about the scene you just imagined will bring you a sense of calm, even if you’re sitting at your desk or stuck in freeway traffic. Now, commit to putting chunks of “flow time” on your calendar so you can regularly rediscover that wonderful sense of balancing relaxation with energy. It won’t be long before you find that you’ve dialed down the angst and turned up the productivity!