You know in this multitasking, multitrack, insanely busy world, I’d like to put in a word about the joy and power of being in flow. Wikipedia defines flow as:
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.
For me, being in flow is a powerful force in my life. I find as I get older, I seek more and more opportunities to be in flow, to be absorbed by a single task or experience, and to live in the moment.
Don’t get me wrong. I am as busy as the next person. And don’t think for one minute that I’m not spending a significant portion of my life trying to do two things at once: driving and talking on the phone, eating dinner and watching TV, walking down the street and thinking about what I’ll make for dinner that night. I’m as guilty of trying to do two things at once as the next person.
But can I let you in on a little secret? I really, really suck at multitasking. I am not good at trying to do two things at once. And my experiments in multitasking–well they usually end in tears. Driving while talking on the phone means ending up in a part of town where I never planned to go. Eating and watching TV often results in me not really enjoying my food or the TV very much. Thinking about dinner while walking down the street just may mean walking right into another person or even a light pole. (True story, sigh…)
The truth is, I’m more effective doing one thing at a time, and I’m much, much happier. In fact, I’m happiest when I get to live in flow. This happens when I start writing my blog and an hour goes by and I didn’t even realize it. This happens almost every single time I teach an exercise class. It happens when I sing in public. This happens when I speak in front of others. This happens when I fall into a really great book. I find myself actively seeking more opportunities to experience this wonderful state of flow.
Flow is the experience of living in the moment and being utterly and joyfully absorbed by only one thing. Time passes quickly. Worries about other, unrelated things, melt for a while. Flow is being with another person and giving that person your full undivided attention. Flow feels good. And it is my instinct that flow is really good for you. There’s not a whole lot of evidence regarding the health benefits of flow. It’s hard to induce and hard to recognize and measure. One study, done on pianists shows that the players not only performed better in a state of flow, but also experienced lower blood pressure, lower heart rate, and a relaxation of the major face muscles.
I know the more I’m in flow, the less I’m worrying or obsessing over things I can’t change, and the better I get at doing whatever the heck it is that I’m trying to do. I just worry sometimes that in our hyperactive, wired, highly stimulated world, I’m more than a little bit too antiquated to keep up with the pack. Oh well, I guess there’s a place for the the lone wolf too. I wonder if I’ll achieve flow howling at the moon?
The Fat Chick