Most of us understand the importance of play. We did it as children. It came naturally. Yet as we age and we have more responsibilities life seems to get a little more serious. We forget how to play and don't prioritise it in our lives. We forget what play means to us.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a Hungarian psychologist who is noted for his study on happiness and creativity. He is also known for his writing about the topic of flow. Flow is when we are so absorbed in an activity that we loose sense of time. Another way of describing it is being in a zone. Our concentration is completely on the topic of interest and nothing else seems to matter.
Mihaly also mentions that to achieve a flow state, a balance must be struck between the challenge of the task and the skill of the performer. If too easy or too difficult, a flow may not occur. And apathy may result.
I've observed it in children. When they are participating in an activity that captivates and challenges them, trying to get them to end the activity is like sounding an emergency siren. They are so completely interested in what they are doing. The aren't lured away by food. And they often won't finish until they feel they are complete.
As adults we tend to loose that ability to feel flow. Probably due to our attention needing to be everywhere at once. So we have trained ourselves to not give a single task 100% of our attention. There is also the multitude of digital distractions in today's society. AKA smartphones and social media.
But if we can tune into that zone, that place where we can feel complete flow, then how nice that might feel. We could potentially fill our lives with great enjoyment on a regular basis. Feel happier within ourselves, which then radiates to those around us. Joie de vivre!
But what if we don't know what gives us that feeling of flow?
Perhaps it's time to start paying attention.
First we need to tune in to ourselves. And it's not easy to do. We have all heard of meditation. It's that practice that we know we should do on a regular basis, and have attempted only to find ourselves thinking of all those unfinished tasks, dramas or deadlines. Sound familiar? But if given a chance it really can do miraculous things. I've tried many times myself. And admittedly on most occasions I haven't felt much from it. But lately I seem to be hearing those authentic thoughts within the depths of myself. Perhaps because I've started practicing more. Or maybe because I'm getting better at being able to still my mind. My inner voice that I've ignored for a long time is speaking louder and clearer. And I'm listening and trusting it.
It also helps to pay attention to those things in our everyday that spark an interest. Maybe it's when we pause while flipping through a magazine and a Greek recipe catches our attention. Perhaps we could try cooking a few more Greek inspired dishes and see how it makes us feel. Or maybe it's being filled with a calm sensation with the sight of lush garden. Perhaps exploring if we have a green thumb is something worth trying. Perhaps it's the feeling we remember as we cycled down a mountain in our early twenties. Why not try rekindling that feeling again to see if cycling is something we would like to bring into our life more often.
Personally I love to write and take photos. I can sit and write and I feel complete enjoyment as the words from my mind transpire. I look at photos and the stories they create and I come alive. Capturing an expression or special moment mesmerises me. So I bring them into my life on a regular basis.
It's very easy to dismiss the little signs and revert back to our busy schedules. To make the excuse of not having the time to entertain that glimmer of interest for a little while. But if we do, what a world that might open to us. So why not dance in that space for a little while.