According to a study by Harvard University we spend on average almost 50% of our time wandering with the mind. This is an important problem, for several reasons. Let’s see them immediately.
A wandering mind tends to be unhappy. From the results of the study In fact, it emerged that whatever the subject the mind was caressing was, it never made the person happier. And if we consider that life expectancy in Italy is about 80 years, it means that we spend roughly 40 years of thinking instead of living in the present.
Flow, the flow to live the present moment
The experiences of “flow” (Flow to live the present moment, ed) are the ones that increase our levels of perceived happiness the most precisely because while we are in the flow, in the flow, our mind is silent, it does not speak.
Because our mind wanders (mind-wandering)
The mind-wandering (wander with the mind, ed) therefore makes us less happy than living in the present moment, even if in reality it carries some important functions that should not be underestimated. In fact, during moments of “non-presence”, the mind works by creating free associations between the information it already possesses. Not only that, during this process, the brain often emits alpha waves, which tend to be a good marker for relaxation. The mind, therefore, wanders because it is important that it does so. Let’s say that it is a kind of different use of attention, less guided, which makes us less happy but which can help us solve latent problems or find solutions to achieve our goals.
And what about the Flow?
Flow has been studied mainly by Csikszentmihalyi one of the best known psychologists in the field of positive psychology. The expert studied that moment when we are fully focused on what we are doing when time seems to disappear.
Try to think about when you are in a moment of great concentration at work or while playing sports or even while you are playing or playing a musical instrument. There are moments in which you cannot get distracted, because what you are doing is so beautiful, interesting, challenging, fun, that the mind is silent and perfectly focused on the only activity it is doing at that moment. It is that state in which great athletes enter when they are in a key moment of their career in which you see them expressing themselves to their full potential.
How do you get into Flow?
Professor Csikszentmihalyi defined eight characteristics of the flow, which also allow us (if we want) to enter this state at will. Let’s see them below:
1. Complete concentration on the present activity
2. Clarity of objectives
3. Altered perception of time
4. What you do is rewarding in itself
5. There is no effort
6. The activity is difficult, but not too difficult
7. Action doesn’t need thought
8. You feel in control
Try to think of something you like and are good at: most likely, by doing it, you will experience the state of flow many times.
Build your day around Flow
There are many situations in which you can experience it: while you are writing, playing, while going mushrooming, during a walk, singing a song, chatting with friends about important things, thinking about the big problems in life, being a carpenter, cleaning the house. Flow is hiding everywhere, because basically it also depends on how you are made, what you love and your skills. As a “rule” we could safely say that if you manage to put on at least one flow activity a day, you will probably take a step closer to happiness. This will also require some observational work on who you are, what you love, what your day’s actions are, where there is room to make changes, and how to vary your attitude about other factors. With a good balance between letting the mind wander, so that it solves our latent problems, and a dose of flow a day, then we will be able to live a satisfying and, most likely, happy existence.