By Michelle Wilson, wellness program manager
Finding a state of flow
This month we are focusing on our intellectual well-being. We can think of this in many ways. At La Clinica we define it as being about the ways we think, learn, and make sense of the world. We strengthen our intellectual well-being when we learn new things and do activities that bring out our creativity.
But what do we do when we can’t find our creativity or ability to focus? Many of us have experienced challenges during the pandemic in being able to complete activities that require us to stay mentally focused. Worrying about health issues, financial concerns, and not being able to see people we love in person can make focusing on anything for very long difficult.
Psychologists have studied how our brains respond to long-term challenges and have come up for a word that describes the feeling of not being able to focus for periods of time. The word “languishing” can be used to explain what happens when we aren’t depressed but we’re struggling to stay on task with projects we care about. We may find ourselves staring into space when we should be working, binge-watching too many television shows, or just continually putting off tasks that require us to think. We aren’t depressed, but we aren’t doing very well in keeping up with the important activities of our daily lives.
Psychologists are also helping us understand how to move out of this state. It’s called finding our “flow” in each day. Think of it this way: you are standing in front of a river that is gently moving. The water is calling you, but you aren’t sure how to get in. Instead of sitting down and staring at it, feeling unhappy with your ability to get in the river, find an easy path to the water and step in wherever you are. Create a little raft for yourself and push out into the water. It doesn’t matter where you enter the river, only that you find a way to get into the stream.
The river, of course, represents our daily activities. To create a state of flow, choose something to do that you enjoy, or take on a very small task that you know you can complete. Once you get started, you will find that your brain becomes engaged, and it will be easier to do the next project. Keep yourself focused on one small or interesting thing at a time and your brain will keep you moving forward.
To keep yourself focused each day, make a list of things you enjoy doing that involve using your mental abilities. You might enjoy puzzles or interesting conversations with friends. Think about books or magazines you enjoy and start your day by reading a few pages of something that interests you. When you find yourself in that state of languishing – the feeling that you aren’t doing much and don’t know how to get started on projects that are important to you – choose one small activity from your list and do it for a few minutes or longer. Once your brain gets interested in the task, shift to the project that you need to do that day, whether it is at work or home. Notice which activities bring a feeling of flowing on a river, with the water gently carrying you forward, and make them a part of each day.
Finding your flow can be a fun and healing way to support your intellectual well-being and give you a sense of satisfaction and happiness, no matter what is happening around you.
Tip: Watch a video on how to support your intellectual well-being, created by one of our care team members: Living a Healthy Life Video Series