Avoiding Boredom and Chasning Flow in Social Isolation

I’ll start out by saying that I am not by any means a defining authority on states of flow but I am definitely into trying things that can help me reach superhuman levels of focus and productivity.

To that end, while we are in this period of social isolation, I have decided to use some of my downtime away from watching Netflix and instead to take an online coure offered by the Flow Genome Project, who are as far as I can tell, are the current the defining authority on flow state research.

First off, what is “flow” and why is it such a term that gets bandied about everywhere from Yoga studios to halfpipes to corporate retreats.

Simply put, Flow is the ability to put your mind in a place where it can perform at its utmost best while you feel at your utmost best.

For more information on flow and its benefits, definitely check out this TED talk from the godfather of flow, Mihaly Csikszenthmihalyi.

The Godfather of Flow

Super atheletes report beating world records during states of flow. Brilliant inventors and scientists develop breakthrough theories in states of flow. Musicians play their best shows in state of flow. Why?

During states of flow, musicians, athletes, and intellectual report the ability to drown own distractions and instead focus all of their attention on the environmental and situational tasks at hand tapping into a subconcious decision making ability that guides them through the process with incredible levels of success.

Productivity and problem solving aren’t the only benefits from flow.

Flow states produce high reward triggers for your brain and result in the release of positive mood enhancing chemicals to the body.

If you are new to flow states, I highly suggest the following three books:

Assuming that you are familiar with the fundamentals of flow, you’re probably not surprised to find that finding flow during this period of social isolation is more elusive than normal.

This is largely becuase access to flow is often easier when you have three things that social isolation denies us:

  • unpredicatable environmental triggers – you aren’t able to get to your running trail, ski slope, or jujitsu class
  • community – flow is more accessible in groups. No concerts, yoga classes, or in person meetings can deny you easy access
  • your own ability to be productive – motivation can be an issue for all of us when our day to day routines are on hold

So what can be done to help substitute these triggers?If you were planning to try something new, a new hobby, sport, or class, this is a perfect time. By switiching up your normal environment, you allow yourself to introduce new and unpredictable circumstances.

First, You don’t have to do anything really death defying. Just introduce an activity that allows you the opportunity to fail. This could be something as simple as starting a small vegetable garden or as complicated as purchasing a new road bike and running shoes to begin training for a triathalon.

If neither of those seem to work for you, try breathing exercises. I’ve been using this ten minute box breathing trainer.

Second, take advantages of online learning and zoom classes. Many businesses are offering zoom classes. Sure you can take an online youtube fitness or yoga class, but joining a zoom session with a group of like minded individuals can help you get to a better mental state.

You can also try learning an instrument. School of Rock offers online video lessons. Dust off that guitar that’s been sitting in the corner of the room and start that New Year’s resolution.

Probably the most important of all of these is to take time in setting a new routine. If you used to wake up by six to get a run in before getting the to train station, then continue to do so but to motivate yourself to get up, try to do something you enjoy first thing in the morning.

Netflix and Hulu are great, but once you’ve caught up on Breaking Bad, consider some new hobbies and activities to help keep you busy and growing

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