Flow With Time through Focused and ‘Absorbing’ Activities

how to flow with time

We can create plenty of happy moments

The greater the passion, the happier we are (When we pursue our interest, we ‘flow with time’)By pursuing our interests passionately, we can create far happier moments in life

‘We can never be perfectly happy, since suffering in unavoidable too

One of the inherent tendencies of mind is that it never stays in one state for more than a few moments. If we try to concentrate on any one thought then we see how the mind slips within seconds. It keeps on moving all the time in different directions unless we are attending to any activity or object.  Perhaps this was essential from the evolutionary point of view. For survival, our ancestors had to almost constantly think about all possible situations and seldom be at ease. This particular feature of mind is not required in the usual present-day scenario. In fact, worriedness and guardedness are obviously counter-productive when we are focusing on one task but the mind is wandering off to another concern. 

On an average, half the time our mind is wandering. When we are doing something very interesting and absorbing then we wander less. On the other hand, when we are getting bored or lonely or doing some habitual and repetitive task, it’s more. Like someone is travelling a long journey by train then obviously the person has nothing to do except busy in self-talk on variable possible issues relating to his life.  During wandering of mind, we are day dreaming, worrying, planning and anticipating something for the future, thinking with oneself about impeding problems relating to physical and mental health, financial difficulties, or relationship problems and likewise.    

We are now living in digital age. Almost everyone is busy in social media. Whatever spare time we had earlier is now being used in chatting, instant messaging, watching videos, scrolling net, etc. We are getting distracted by notifications or inner urge to see mobile. Our attention span, in general, is reducing gradually. Restlessness and feeling of satisfactoriness are rising especially among younger generation.

There is a FOMO (fear of missing out) factor which is prompting us to check mobile at regular interval as we don’t want to miss anything worthwhile on social media. Tremendous amount of interesting and entertaining material is available to read and watch. We now have to use mental energy to figure out what not to watch. ‘Abundance of information’ is causing distraction, attention deficit, mental conflict and above all, feeling of restlessness. As a result, we are becoming more unhappy when we are distracted and unfocused.              

Many studies have established that a wandering and distracted mind is an unhappy mind. When we are not focused, we are not happy. Studies have, on the other hand, also shown that a focused mind is a happy mind. Mathew Killingsworth and Daniel T Gilbert, of Harvard University, USA found that people were happiest when they exercise, are engaged in one to one conversation, making love, playing outdoor game etc. They were least happy when they are resting, working, or using a computer. “Mind-wandering is an excellent predictor of people’s happiness,” Killingsworth says. “In fact, how often our minds leave the present and where they tend to go is a better predictor of our happiness than the activities in which we are engaged.”

Each one of us must have noticed that when we are absorbed in an activity of our interest, not only do we feel good, but also time moves fast.  We may even lose track of time. We don’t know when an hour has passed. Everyone must have noticed that when we are focused and attending to one particular endeavour, our mind doesn’t wander. The greater the interest or passion, the happier we are while performing that activity.

When we are listening to our favourite music, painting on canvas, practicing dance with our instructor, playing games of our choice, running on a treadmill, or being engrossed in conversation with a friend on any hotly debated topic, time seems to fly.  People can forget that they are hungry or even tired when they are absorbed in interesting activities. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian-American psychologist and one of the co-founders of positive psychology, coined the term “flow state” (commonly known as being in the zone) to describe the focus, absorption, and enjoyment of full immersion in any activity. According to him, “Flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at a great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

Flow With Time can Increase Happiness

If we want to increase happiness, well-being, and creativity, then we would do well to court periods of flow. Happiness, as we all know, doesn’t come from externals; it is in fact an internally derived state of being. Csikszentmihalyi’s popular book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is based on the assumption that happiness levels can be raised by introducing opportunities for flow in our life’s experiences. Csikszentmihalyi found that people were their most creative, productive, and happy when they are in a state of flow. He interviewed athletes, musicians, and artists because he wanted to know when they experienced this state of consciousness.

There are many people who love being self-absorbed in their interests. Like for example, they enjoy doing painting on canvas, writing, doing exercise in gyms, cooking food, playing a game of their interest, practicing meditation, etc. These interests are their passions. For them, achieving ‘flow experience’ is an easy task. Rather than spending time on unproductive and idle activities, they prefer to pursue their passions. They have an ‘autotelic personality’. They are the ones who enjoy staying ‘in present’ rather than allowing their mind woo to wander. Mihaly describes people who are “autotelic as those who need few material possessions and little entertainment, comfort, power, or fame because so much of what he or she does is already rewarding.   

Flow With Time Show Us Happiness

When we experience flow state, our activity and our awareness are merged, and we are completely absorbed in the task. Our mind is laser-focused on what we are doing. When we are completely absorbed or lost in any activity, the thinking mind is not at work. “I” is lost completely. Ego is on hold. Self-consciousness is lost, and the surrounding world fades away. In a way, we have disappeared from the world for some time. One can spend hours like this, unaware of how the time has passed. Each one of us needs to accentuate or cultivate some interests or passions through which we may experience flow. In addition to awakening our inner creativity and improving our performance, flow states can also show us true happiness.

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