Experience “flow” for recovery
Being in “the zone” or experiencing flow at work can provide recovery, give us an energy boost, and make the day more enjoyable.
Psychologist Michaly Csikszentmihalyi first described flow as the state we experience when our concentration is high, we experience deep satisfaction, we stop feeling self-conscious (or self-critical) and time flies by. You may have experienced flow when you are completely absorbed in a hobby you enjoy, or a satisfying project at work.
Csikszentmihalyi suggested that one of the best ways to bring about flow is to match the challenge of the activity we are doing to our level of skill. Easier said than done and this takes ongoing adjustment because our skills keep changing, but the aim is for balance between challenge and skill. Flow also becomes more likely when we get frequent feedback so that we can see progress and adjust what we are doing.
Experiencing flow is beneficial to our wellbeing because it produces positive (feel good) emotions, which help us recover physically and emotionally from stressful or demanding experiences. Experiencing flow also helps us to persist with challenging tasks, which in turn leads to the further development of skills.
Exercise: Boost your flow
Take 5 minutes to think and write down all of the things you have done for the past few days or week. These might include work, spending time with friends or family, leisure activities, sport or some kind of community involvement. Think about and write down, in which of these activities have you experienced flow. With large activities like work there may be some aspects where you experience flow and not others, for example you may experience flow when you are working on a strategic project or as part of a team.
Once you have an idea, make a plan for how you can repeat some of your favourite flow activities over the next week. You can make a note of how you feel afterwards to see if your predictions are accurate or if you may want to experiment with other activities to boost flow.