Where’s YOUR Flow?

I was really inspired recently as I read about some new research coming out about how detrimental loneliness and lack of real connection is to our health, mental health and life options BUT finding a state of flow with your own self can counteract these effects.   

This new study out of Penn State found that doing something meaningful and challenging with our free time is essential to feeling less lonely and increasing positivity.  They even go so far as to repeat the old saying, “Time flies when you are having fun.”   They didn’t set out to research fun but that was how they summed it up.

The researchers discuss the necessary element of ‘flow’ or feeling really, fully engaged in an activity—physically, emotionally and mentally, so focused that the participants didn’t realize how much time had passed.  It’s very like being in a hypnotic trance.  It’s also achieved when you are fully involved in play activities.  Anyone reading my musings knows that I promote the value of play and the need for it for ALL ages is increasingly reinforced in research and practical knowledge.

Even before lockdowns, ‘social distancing’ and masks which made it harder for people to give and receive normal communications and distinguish a range of emotion, or even learn it in the first place as with young children, people were reporting more feelings of loneliness and isolation.  Despite social media ‘connections’ which I have maintained (and research continues to back this up) are false connections that are more harmful than good, teenagers especially feel more anxious and isolated and ‘less than.’   This has taken a heavy toll on our mental/health. 

It will be interesting to see how the overall health trends from the stress of these developments affects us long term.  Already, insurance and disability claims have skyrocketed, particularly among those who should be the healthiest among us—young adults, beyond anything that can be contributed to covid itself but more from the response to covid.  We are just not made to be isolated and lonely given our mirror neurons and brain that’s wired for connection, empathy and compassion. 

Fortunately, this new research shows that even if isolated for some reason, we can feel less lonely, at least temporarily, by finding this ‘flow’ state.  Whether that is playing a musical instrument (or learning it), dancing, chopping wood, hiking, painting, skiing, writing, storytelling, anything goes as long as it is meaningful and engages your mind and heart.  Indeed, the researchers found that this state of flow was MORE important to reducing feelings of loneliness than social support.  Different people find different activities engaging but things like watching tv did not help achieve a state of flow because it wasn’t challenging.

I feel most easily in a state of flow when out in nature, doing something new, interesting, challenging or a little bit scary.  For me, this has often been in the form of being out with wild dolphins and whales but mostly from bringing other people out to see them who perhaps have never done it before, don’t know much about their own or Cetacean capabilities and connections, and who are willing to challenge themselves a little.  I love raising the vibration of joy and sometimes think that’s really all I can do on this planet at this time, but maybe that’s enough. 

As we come back out of our isolation more and more, in addition to committing to finding your flow on your own, you can choose to ‘surround yourself with people who take pleasure in your joy’.   Brené Brown has been talking about this lately and says that research shows that taking pleasure in someone else’s joy is a huge predictor of deep relationships, connection and your own happiness.  Since we are neurobiologically wired for connection, its absence always creates suffering, which we see the results of in our world today.   

The last thing the world needs is less joy.  Joy can motivate us to take action and make the world a better place.  So find your flow and joy and know that’s enough.  Play is a first step.  It can be with others or alone.  The main element is to feel connection—with your own flow or with others.  What did you do that you lost yourself in when you were a kid?  Start there.  If you get stuck, reach out for help. 

I still have a few slots left on my upcoming retreat September 11-17, 2022 in Bimini, Bahamans with the wild dolphins as our inspirations and companions.  Our theme is Joy Filled Play so come and find your flow by playing with the dolphins…and me and a whole group of new play/pod mates!  You can contact me for more information or help finding your joy and flow at jteleia@gmail.com or go to my website, www.YourLifeWellLived.net


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