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Finding Your Flow

Happiness and contentment can be fleeting feelings that are hard to maintain or even experience fully when they present themselves. To gain more insight and understanding of how you can realize more happiness and contentment in your life, exploring what drives you internally and finding your flow might be your best method. Famed Hungarian American psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, spent his life attempting to understand how individuals—particularly high performers—were able to access flow state in their work.

Csikszentmihalyi posits that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow. Flow is described as a state of complete concentration or engagement in the activity at hand. So much so that nothing else seems to matter. Sounds pretty good, right?

The key to finding flow is engaging in activities that are not only meaningful to the person but are also the right mixture of challenging but appropriate for the individual’s skill level. Most importantly, the activity should be something that you can get totally lost in.

Steven Kotler, an expert on peak performance, provides a few strategies that he has found meaningful in helping clients reach flow state.

Make a clear goals list. By creating clear goals, you can begin your day with a focused plan for what you want to accomplish. This helps to free your mind from taking on too much cognitive load.

90 to 120 minutes of uninterrupted concentration. To trigger flow, we must create the space for it. This means allowing yourself to dedicate your complete focus on the activity at hand. Give those devices a break and tackle your most difficult tasks first.

Implement a mindfulness practice. Just 5-20 minutes a day of engaging in mindfulness increases activity in your brain’s pre-frontal cortex, allowing you to get comfortable and skilled at being in the present moment. (For more tips on mindfulness, check out our blog here.)

Check off your accomplished tasks. Feeling a sense of victory each day for your hard work is important. Allow yourself the opportunity to appreciate what you have accomplished and reinforce these meaningful actions.  

By Zach Graham, M.Ed.