Harnessing the Power of Flow

If you have ever been completely immersed in a task or activity that you enjoyed, to the point that you lost track of time and focused entirely on the present moment, while performing at your full potential, you have experienced flow.  The term “flow” is used in psychology to define a state of productivity in which an individual is entirely present and capable of devoting all their energy to a specific goal. Sometimes this state of being manifests while creating art or during an athletic performance.  For others, flow can happen at work while completing a project you are intensely passionate about. Researchers have found that flow is the key to unlocking happiness and satisfaction in life, and that those that don’t regular find their flow are more likely to struggle with anxiety and other mental health issues.  According to research, there are a few basic strategies that may help you create more flow in your life. 

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Here Are a Few Basic Strategies That May Help You Create More Flow in Your Life

1. Look for a Challenge

Experiencing flow requires a few factors, one being the presence of a challenge.  The challenge may be physical, mental, or intellectual, but it should require a great deal of effort and skill to overcome.  It is also important, however, that the individual being faced with this challenge feels they can conquer it. For example, an artist commissioned to paint the largest mural of their career, or a writer attempting their first novel, may both experience flow when taking on these projects.  Find something you are passionate about, and then find a way to challenge yourself within that passion. Learning a skill is a great way to induce flow, as it is difficult to get bored with a new activity, and you will likely need to focus to properly train your body or mind. 

2. Eliminate Distractions

Modern-day technology may be getting in the way of flow experiences more than ever before.  Flow requires clarity and focus, and distractions can disrupt the development of flow as soon as you begin to hit your creativity groove.  The next time you want to experience flow, try shutting off the television and putting away your smartphone before beginning your task. One great aspect of physically induced flow is that it may be easier to literally distance yourself from distractions while you play a sport or run a race.  If the type of flow you are aiming towards involves sitting down at the computer, you may need to put a bit more effort into establishing a focused environment. In these cases, avoid checking your email or social media accounts while you work, and try inspiring your creativity with soft music or a cozy sitting area.  

3. Tap into Your Creativity

Flow is often connected with the ability to create great works of art, and even with what many would consider creative genius.  Many famous musicians, writers, and painters have described doing their best work in a trance-like state, becoming completing unaware of their surroundings and the passage of time.  This state of consciousness is flow, and it may be the key to performing at your full creative capacity. Participating in creative endeavors can help you to experience flow as well, stimulating areas of your brain that may otherwise go unused.  Creative pursuits can be very therapeutic and are often used to help people struggling with mental illness and addiction by allowing them to unconsciously work through their suppressed emotions. By experiencing flow while being creative, you can shut off negative self-talk and live entirely in the moment, where true healing can happen.  

4. Flow Together

Research has found that, for some people, the flow state may be enhanced when it is experienced collectively in a group working towards a common goal.  Professional sports teams that seem to perform as if they are acting on the cues of a single mind are said to be experiencing collective flow. Those who participate in activities that induce group flow report more enjoyment than those who flow alone.  Experiencing this heightened productivity and creativity alongside other people may be especially satisfying because it involves human connection and relationship building.

Flow and Happiness

Flow can be experienced in a variety of ways unique to each individual, but the research is clear on flow and happiness.  People who understand how to regularly create the experience of flow in their lives are happier, healthier, and more satisfied.  Mental illness and substance abuse often occur alongside loneliness, isolation, low self-esteem, and a lack of purpose. All these issues can be treated in part by finding and creating flow in your life.  If you are struggling with addiction and a co-occurring mental illness, seeking professional treatment can help you find what it is that allows you to fully experience flow, helping you to create authentic happiness in your life without the use of addictive substances.

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Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness
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