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Julia Matheson


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how to find your flow

Where do you lose track of time?

What is it that brings about pure joy and happiness?

My sister is an artist. She says she loves creating beauty because time stands still for her. She get’s in the ‘zone’ and nothing else matters.

Scientists call this the “state of flow”.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Positive Psychologist that has contributed pioneering work to our understanding of happiness, creativity, human fulfilment and the notion of “flow” – a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, describes this state, in which an individual is completely absorbed in a task and nearly 100% of conscious cognitive functioning is aimed at the task, as “flow”. He argues that flow correlates with the greatest levels of happiness, suggesting that there is scientific truth to the saying “time flies when you’re having fun”.

If you’re keen to check out the TED talk on this topic, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.  Click here to watch.

God I love science! We now have empirical evidence to support that when we do what we love, we lose ourselves in it.

We all experience flow during different experiences, activities or tasks. For some people it’s writing, for others it’s getting lost in spreadsheets of data, for others it’s performing on stage. You may experience flow when you’re playing with your kids, or your favourite fury friend.

Ironically, the key to managing time is to lose time – or, more precisely, to lose track of time intervals. We’ve all experienced how time seems to fly when we’re fully immersed in something. This happens because when your brain is fully engaged, it’s ‘time-keeper’, located in the cerebral cortex, diverts its resources to the parts of your brain that are working hard. It therefore doesn’t have enough resources left to keep up with it’s job: keeping track of time. As a result, time seems to go faster, allowing you to work harder, faster, and longer.

This same is true for any experience or activity you fund dull or boring. If you don’t believe me, watch how many times you check the clock during the next boring meeting you are attending.

–  Shawn Achor, ‘Before Happiness’.

I LOVE being in flow. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. For me, being in flow is a form of active meditation, a conscious practice of mindfulness that grounds me solidly into the present moment at hand. I’m aware of my body in space, I feel deeply connected to myself, my body and mind are one – which rarely happens.

So what about you? How do you get in your own state of flow?

Below are 4 ways to help you find the answer.


    Start to notice the tasks, activities and experiences where time ‘stands still’ for you. Write these things down to form your own personal “flow” list. Is it swimming? drawing? dancing? public speaking? sewing?
    Take off your watch, hide the clock on your desk and put your phone on silent. The more you focus on time the slower it will feel and the less present and engaged you will be. So remove all distractions from your world, and set yourself up for some deep blissful flow time.
    A great way to expand your flow activities is to try something new! You may be surprised at what you find. Join your local meditation class, buy a mindful colouring book, go for a walk in nature, build something with your hands, write a journal, cook a new recipe. You never know where flow may be hiding . . .”
    Once you find those things that really resonate with you, the things that bring about your state of flow, you now need to make them a priority. Make YOU a priority. How can you schedule some “me time” throughout your week? How can you add some moments of reprieve and stillness? Is it waking up a little earlier to do something first thing in the morning, or skipping a tv show at night to get in your flow. Perhaps it’s as simple as going for a mindful walk at lunch time. Experiment with different ways to bring more flow into your days. Make time for yourself.

Moments of fear, worry, anticipation, and boredom keep your timekeeper on high alert. That’s why when you are waiting for 5:00pm, before summer holidays, or when you are delayed on a tarmac, it seems to take forever to pass. It’s why, when you have to wait a day for test results from your doctor, the day seems like a week. The more you can decrease your focus on the things you worry about or fear, the easier it will be to lose track of time so you can direct the entirety of your brain’s resources towards succeeding at the task at hand.

– Shawn Achor, ‘Before Happiness’.

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