The Government’s restrictions on our daily activities over the past year have
been incredibly challenging for everyone. We had to learn how to live with the loss of our normal routine and had very limited interaction with other people. Suddenly most of our time was taken up with focusing on ways to stay healthy not only physically but mentally. If mental health was something we didn’t give much thought to before, being in lockdown will certainly have changed that.
The life changes and uncertainty caused by the pandemic were perfect fuel for anxious thoughts, and many of us found ourselves looking for ways to give our mind a rest from over thinking. Mindfulness meditation is often suggested by mental health professionals as an effective way to help quieten a busy mind. It helps focus our attention and bring us fully into the present moment. Of course, when we are paying full attention to what is happening in the moment, it is impossible to be overthinking or worrying. I would recommend everyone give mindfulness a try, however it takes time, commitment and regular practice and I know it is not for everyone.
So, what else can we do that will help keep us fully in the present moment so we can enjoy the benefits of peace of mind? The good news is that it needn’t be hard work and if you have a hobby or activity, you can fully immerse yourself in you may already be enjoying the benefits it brings to your mental health.
The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was the first to recognise a state of mind he named ‘flow’. When we are in a ‘flow state’ we are so completely focused and totally absorbed by the task in hand that we are beyond distraction. Our senses are heightened, we lose track of time and there is a fluidity between our mind and body. Physical sensation such as hunger or tiredness fade into the background and most importantly mind chatter quietens. Csikszentmihalyi found rock climbers, surgeons and ballet dancers all enjoyed being in the ‘flow’ when they were doing their thing. You may have enjoyed being in a ‘flow’ state while taking part in activities, such as, sport, ballroom dancing, playing chess, drawing, painting, or playing a musical instrument.
It appears when we are completely focused on doing something we love, ‘flow’ happens in a spontaneous and natural way. So, if you are unsure if you have ever experienced ‘flow’ but curious to have a go, here are a few pointers that will give you the best chance of enjoying that blissful state.
The great benefit of being in the ‘flow’ is that as well as keeping our mind focused on the job in hand, and therefore away from negative thoughts, it is very enjoyable and brings a great sense of satisfaction and wellbeing. I dare say we could all do with some of that!