Want to feel amazing? Spend some time in flow

You know what feels amazing? Flow!

In which I challenge you to find some time for flow, a little reminder to do Spring/Summer planning, and a book recommendation.

Someone speaking as a matter of fact, "We're just going with it."

I recently finished teaching a course on positive psychology as part of the Saskatoon Seniors Continuing Learning program – and loved it! Side note: this is a perfect example of when work can also be self-care. That is, I find this activity restorative and meaningful.

One of the first topics we covered was flow. Flow is AH-MAY-ZING. This is one of the few times I will give pretty specific self-care advice! You need to incorporate flow into your life.

What the heck is flow?

Flow is a concept extensively studied by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. When we are engaged in a state of flow we get completely absorbed in what we are doing. We lose track of time and what’s going on around us. Flow feels great and is associated with subjective well-being. For an even better description, check out this video:

Link to a YouTube clip about flow
My only criticism of this video: I don’t think spending your entire life in flow is possible!

Flow is also a great example of thinking outside the box when it comes to self-care, and why we need to think broad when we define what works for us as self-care. You might be thinking, “Okay Jorden, but this applies to… work? How is this self-care?” First, flow can happen anytime, not just when we are working. Second, it’s a state of being that many people find restorative (and pleasurable).

How do I make flow happen?

Flow happens when we are engaged in tasks and activities that are well-balanced between the level of Challenge and Skill. When we can find that sweet spot, we can enter into flow. We need activities that are moderately challenging for us (not too easy, not too hard) and that we are moderately skilled at. That is, we know a bit about what we are doing, but we’re not experts. Flow happens when we are sufficiently challenged and stretching our current skill set.

Here is a helpful graphic from Positivepsychology.com that illustrates this balance:

Here are a few examples of activities where I experience flow: gardening in the perfect temperature, reading a book about something new, learning new software or business systems, and doing qualitative data analysis.

Where does flow happen for you? And how can you do it more often?

Not one, but two really awesome resources!

This week I’m sharing two related really awesome resources! The first is Csikszentmihalyi’s own book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

The second is the book Deep Work by Cal Newport. I read this book on my first sabbatical in 2016-2017 and I’ve returned to it many times since then. If you do any type of knowledge work, I recommend you check this out. This book is all about making time for the deep non-urgent but important work a lot of knowledge workers engage in. (Note: Deep Work’s recommendations, however, are not without their problems. Some of them require a lot of privilege to implement and I find Newport’s lack of acknowledgement of that problematic).

Do you know what’s good self-care for the planet? Not supporting billionaires! If you want to buy either one of these books, you can order from my local independent bookstore or you can find one near you.

In self-care solidarity,