Flow, a mindfulness experience of being completely immersed in the joy of what you’re doing, reduces stress. Stress comes in many different forms and from a multitude of sources. It also has many rather nasty symptoms. In general, people often find themselves busy, rushed, facing looming deadlines, dealing with conflict, addressing seemingly insurmountable problems and challenges, illnesses both mental and physical. We hurt, we ache, heads pound, stomachs protest, and in general we feel that we’ll explode, and if we don’t explode we’ll certainly implode.
Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? One predominant reason is that we need to survive. To live requires effort, and it’s often difficult. Our basic needs of shelter, food, and love and belonging aren’t easily met. When we get so wrapped up in surviving that we forget to enjoy living, we experience toxic stress. To reduce stress and increase wellbeing, we need to shift our focus from trying to live to creating a quality life.
Flow: Mindfully Beat Stress
The field of positive psychology is dedicated to helping people do exactly this. Researchers and psychologists seek to understand what “quality life” means and how to achieve it, and they willingly share tools to help us overcome adversity, live beyond survival, and create our own quality lives. Once such way, according to psychologist and researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is by experiencing a state of flow.
Flow. It sounds peaceful, doesn’t it? It evokes a river, ever bubbling and flowing, paying no attention to obstacles in its way but instead fully present, in what it’s doing. Okay, so people aren’t rivers. But we can experience flow nonetheless.
Flow is a mindful state of being. We enter flow when we engage in something that captivates us so much that we focus completely on what we’re doing. All other thoughts, stresses, and anxieties drift away, the racing thoughts become still. Flow is an experience of pure enjoyment, free from stress.
Find Where You Flow to Create Your Quality Life
Where can we find this flow?! The answer is quite personal. Search your heart. What brings you joy? Perhaps cooking or baking, sewing or making crafts. Maybe hiking or biking or boating. Getting lost in a good book. Exercising or playing a favorite sport. The list is endless, and as long it’s not harmful to yourself or others, there’s no such thing as a wrong activity.
Mindfully engaged in what we’re doing and experiencing flow can reduce stress and anxiety, improve overall wellbeing, and increase happiness and life satisfaction. Experiencing flow happens when we do anything that makes us passionate enough to get into and still enough to be fully immersed. When this happens, we begin to transcend merely surviving and begin to create a quality life.