Flow: Lose Yourself in Something Now and Then

Flow: For Good Mental Health, Lose Yourself in Something Now and Then

Many people call it flow. Athletes call it being in the zone. I call it a Very Good Thing, a state of grace, a blessing. What is flow? Wikipedia says flow “is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”

Why should we care about flow? I suppose just because it feels so wonderful. When I experience flow, I emerge on the other side feeling refreshed, enthusiastic, and pleased with what I have been doing. I have mental clarity. I feel energized. I am happy.

Want to flow? Here are some tips:

  • I have no data to back it up, but I hypothesize that people experience flow most often when they work on tasks of their own choosing and without close supervision. This is an often ignored perk for homemakers and entrepreneurs.
  • Flow is most likely to happen when a person is already competent with a skill but challenges herself to rise to a slightly higher level of effort with the task at hand. An example is a little project I completed a week or so ago. I have been cooking for almost forty years and I have learned more and more over that time. I love it — reading about it, watching other people do it, doing it myself, and eating the results. On this day, I got the idea to try making potato gnocchi. I had seen a Cooks’ Illustrated recipe for it a few days earlier, and it occurred to me that I had all of the ingredients and the time to tackle it. I dove in and emerged an hour or two later feeling accomplished and quite proud of my little ridged barrels of pasta.
  • Flow seems to occur most naturally when one is doing something creative. Knitting, drawing, playing an instrument, designing a garden space, building a piece of furniture — these kinds of activities, in the hands of a person skilled at them, are great for flow, which brings us to…
  • …you gotta know to flow! Beginners don’t experience flow because they have no competence at what they are doing. Every step is unfamiliar, every moment is filled with uncertainty and possibly angst. So, if creative work is not a part of your life, think of what looks appealing and possible and see if you can take it up. Pottery? Sewing? Folk dancing? Get past the beginner stage, and you’ve got a good chance to start flowing.
Sometimes flow makes a mess.

I got so into the flow of making gnocchi that it didn’t occur me to take photos until the very end!

Tell me: Do you ever experience flow? What gets your creativity going? How do you make time for it?

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6 Comments

  1. Sylvia
    Posted November 18, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Maybe I’m not skilled enough to flow at much, but I definitely got that feeling after FINALLY accomplishing biscuits (years ago) and pie crusts (this fall). Maybe one day I’ll feel it on something else. 🙂

    Well stated!

    • Posted November 19, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

      Biscuits and pie crusts are BIG accomplishments! Neither of mine are yet as good as my mom’s, but they are acceptable. 😉
      Lori recently posted..Autumn Basil Bounty? Pesto!My Profile

  2. Posted November 18, 2014 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    I lose track of the time when I’m taking pictures, writing something really good, editing my photos in Photoshop, making a video….If I don’t have flow when completing a task or I don’t like my job, I distract myself with Facebook, Twitter, etc., which gets to be unhealthy.

    • Posted November 19, 2014 at 8:35 am | Permalink

      I think social media is probably one of the biggest obstacles to flow and also to just plain old concentration, at least it is for this undiagnosed-but-probable-ADD person.

  3. Kathryn Bingham
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    I love that you found a way to put this into words! Flow. I experienced it this week rather unexpectedly. I recently became a business women—I am now a Juice Plus+ franchise owner. I thought I would just get my product wholesale, share with a few friends as they had need (which I had already been doing), keep my expectations low. But then this week I had a few days where I ended up devoting nap time to learning, researching, planning, creating, and brainstorming, and got more excited as I went. It has been so fun and rewarding.

    My parents are taking Bella for two days next week, and I am planning to decorate sugar cookies, figure out a new sewing project, and learn how to crochet boot cuffs. Bring on the flow!

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  • In My Kitchen, In My Life is a place where women (and the odd male) can be encouraged, nudged, and occasionally kicked in the pants toward living their lives on a higher plane. Oh, and readers get plenty of chances to laugh at the author's foibles, which is always worth a click.

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