Experience flow

Time may well fly when you’re having fun but boy does it move at a snail’s pace when you’re not. You know, I think we first discover this as kids, when the most enjoyable days probably came and went in the blink of an eye. But on rainy days when there was nothing to do and nobody to do it with, the hands of the clock often seemed glued in place.

Cruel, wasn’t it? Good days felt annoyingly short, while the bad ones seemed to go on forever.

Perhaps like me you’ve experienced a similar kind of feeling, when your disposition is anything but sunny? All too vividly I’m afraid I recall days, weeks even, when my mood was low and time dragged its heels like a stubborn donkey. Thankfully though, I’ve had periods which felt completely the opposite. I hope you have, too.

When things go well, when the blue bird of happiness perches contentedly on your shoulder, time marches on at an altogether brisker pace.

Albert Einstein, who knew a fair bit about time and – it seems – attractive women said: “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”

Fair enough. But best of all is that dreamy feeling you get when you’re doing something you love, and time seems to cease having any meaning at all. It might occur when you’re making something – baking a cake, painting a picture or planing a piece of wood. It could be when you’re ‘lost’ in beautiful music or a great book. Or perhaps you’ll experience it when you’re deep in happy conversation with an old friend.

It’s a phenomenon psychologists refer to as ‘flow’, which put simply means being completely absorbed in what you’re doing. Almost always it’s a good feeling to have. Importantly, though, the emphasis is on ‘doing’. The truth is, you’re unlikely to experience a state of flow when you’re slumped on the sofa.

So can you use this to your advantage the next time you’re going through a rough patch? You know, I think you can, although it may take a few minutes to work out exactly how.

Here’s what I think you can do. Try and think back to the last few occasions on which you entered this magical state of flow. What were you doing? Where were you? Were you with someone else, or alone?

Then when your mood is low, quite simply aim to engage in a similar activity, in a similar way.

Getting started may not be easy, as your fed-up head will likely try to trick you into believing you’re too tired, too depressed, or too demotivated to bake, paint or plane – or whatever it is that’s your particular thing – but once you’ve got over the initial hurdles, you’re really quite likely to become engaged. You might even enjoy it. It could even help elevate your mood.

Why not give it a try? And if it’s baking that’s your flow-bringer, and it’s alright with you, I’ll pop round for a slice of cake at three o’clock.

2 thoughts on “Experience flow

  1. Thank you for this reminder! I definitely find that I have to force myself to walk into yoga class many days, but I almost always walk out feeling blissful, breathing more deeply, and being more open to the flow of the world around me.

    I guess that’s another to look at flow – you can find your own flow in doing your favorite activity, and you can also find yourself flowing along with whatever the river of life brings your way. I read a quote the other day saying “You can either become the ocean, or feel seasick every day.”

    And hmm… I haven’t made a cake in a while, but I do make some pretty delicious oatmeal chocolate chip cookies! 🙂

    1. It’s funny, isn’t it, that it can be hard at times to persuade ourselves to do even those things we know we’ll enjoy?

      I do like the sound of the chocolate chip cookies. Making them probably makes you feel good. Eating them will almost certainly put a smile on the face of others!

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