Can Gratitude Set You on the Path to Your “Flow?”
In 1990, a scientist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who was well ahead of his time devised the concept of “flow” as it relates to personal happiness. Flow, which began as a positive neuroscience term, has reached the mainstream, and is used in everyday vernacular. You may have heard someone described as “in the flow,” or “feeling the flow” to indicate that he or she is fully immersed in an activity which makes positive use of his or her natural abilities and talent.
The term flow has come to mean the mental state where you are completely absorbed and engaged; 100% focused. It can help to think of a professional surfer; one with the ocean waves, literally flowing along in perfect synchrony with nature. Or, some other type of vastly talented individual may come to mind: an accomplished pianist; an entrepreneur who has made billions.
According to this article published in Psychology Today, Csikszentmihalyi refined his definition of flow in a positive psychology sense, as such:
“Flow” is when a person:
- is engaged in a doable task,
- is able to focus,
- has a clear goal,
- receives immediate feedback,
- moves without worrying,
- has a sense of control,
- has suspended the sense of self, and
- has temporarily lost a sense of time.
Nowadays, with ample distractions coming from our smart phones, and task-oriented to-do lists that pull us away from the here and now, “flow” may prove challenging to some. People who lack flow, either temporarily or as a chronic mental state, may have lost sight of the hobbies and talents that bring them happiness. Or, perhaps they have never had an opportunity to develop such talents, and are thereby not feeling that sense of flow that fuels their everyday life with a sense of purpose and satisfaction.
If gratitude, flow and happiness are inter-related psychological concepts, then it makes sense that one would lead to the other. And in determining how to apply gratitude as a means to improve our life on the whole, one might consider that defining what you are grateful for each day can actually bring your closer to discovering and immersing in, your own flow.
How do you flow? Do you know? Some people have found their niche, tapped into their gifts, have a strong sense of their life’s purpose and are able to lock in when it’s time to concentrate. They quickly and seemingly effortlessly accomplish things that are important to them… or they revel in the joy of being good at something.
If you are someone who has yet to embrace your own flow, you might consider that gratitude can help you on the path to self discovery. Taking a few minutes each day to explore what you’re grateful for can actually help you discover what you would like to pursue and develop as a skill or talent.
A daily gratitude journal can help us find our flow, thereby increasing an overall sense of happiness, in the following ways:
- Gratitude can help us define what things we would like to attract more of in our life.
- Gratitude for our own talents can help us discover what in our own personality we would like to develop.
- Gratitude for other people whom we admire can help us discover role models.
- Gratitude for things like art, nature, writing, or creative pursuits can set us in a direction for our own talents.
Using a beautifully put together journal is the perfect way to keep you motivated. This one is just $9.00, but you don’t feel you have to run out and buy something. A plain old notebook will work just as well. Date each page and makes notes of what you are grateful for, positive affirmations, how you feel and anything else that makes your heart sing.
A gratitude practice has been shown in scientific studies to alleviate stress by producing feelings of calm and steadying the mind. Less stress means more sleep, better health, clearer thinking, and improved mood. A healthy mind leads to a healthy body and vice versa. People who feel nourished emotionally in their hearts will tend to live longer, as the “will to live” grows stronger.
A gratitude practice can steer us away from the negative. The more pessimistic our thoughts, or the more pessimism we absorb from family and friends, the more mentally stressed we become. But when we focus on what we’re grateful for, we actually re-wire our brains to feel calmer, more capable, and more optimistic — not just while we’re journaling, but over the course of our daily lives.
A gratitude practice can help improve our relationships. Difficult relationships cause stress for many people. Close friends and confidants, however, are shown to ease stress and increase good feelings. Taking time to give thanks each day can help us adopt a more empathetic mindset toward friends and family, which will improve our relationships.
A gratitude practice can help to increase emotional IQ. People who have greater emotional control are also in better control of their own decision making and more likely to succeed in setting and attaining goals. They are calmer, more open to the ideas and opinions of others, and less likely to react out of anger, sadness, jealousy or other insecure feelings.
A gratitude practice can set us on the path to a richer and more fulfilling life. Taking time each day to celebrate the beauty that this world has to offer, and making note of what attracts your interest, will help you cultivate life-long hobbies, learn new skills, embark on new adventures, and make the most of life’s precious moments.
5 Simple but Powerful Gratitude Habits to Practice Daily
Hoping to instill a daily gratitude practice as a means of bettering yourself and bringing good things into your life? Taking a moment here and there to shift your mindset from grumpy to grateful can make a powerful impact on your world view.
Habit 1. Morning rumination: Grateful for the little things. Start your day off with a grateful mindset. One small but meaningful change you can make is to get up at least a half-hour earlier than you normally would. Instead of rushing head-on into your hectic morning, take time to savor life’s blessings. Put on a pot of coffee. Take some time to stretch. Flex your mental muscle by considering all the good things in your life. Be grateful for all of the plans that you will set into motion today. Feel gratitude for the successes that you will set up for yourself, and the positive effects of the good you do for the world.
Habit 2. Evening gratitude journaling practice: Grateful for the big things. In the evening before bed is a great time to write down your thoughts about things that are happening in your life, and what reasons you have to be grateful. Night time can be the right time to self-congratulate on a job well done. You might explore your relationships, and find something to be grateful for in each person with whom you share your life’s moments. Take your time and let your mind go to that positive place of hope, encouragement and thankfulness. Get into a writing flow, and go where the gratitude takes you. This is a perfect bedtime wind-down activity to help you sleep and prepare your mind for a fruitful and satisfying tomorrow.
Habit 3. Seeking grateful in the not-so-great. You don’t need a pen and pad to transform your mindset from negative and stressed to positive, calm and grateful. Remember that gratitude is all about perspective, and the power to be happy lives within your own mind. It starts with becoming an observer. Instead of seeking to pass judgment and classify everything as good or bad, take an objective point of view. Practice seeing the world through others’ eyes, and trying on the lens of different perspectives. The more vast and varied your life experiences, the more readily you will be able to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude.”
Habit 4. Pass the gratitude, please. One way that being grateful can have a ripple effect is by spreading appreciation wherever you go. This is one of the simplest yet most impactful actions to take in your daily life. Imagine a “day in the life of a smile” as it makes the rounds. The scene can unfold like a movie, where it starts with an appreciative thank-you for a fresh, buttered roll and hot coffee at the corner bakery. Then the smile goes on to public transportation where the exchange of human decency — “here, have my seat,” plays out to the soundtrack of a cross-town bus’s engine roaring. The smile makes its way to the revolving door of your office building, “After you!” “Thank you.” ::smile:: And so on.
Habit 5. Gratitude on the fly. This is a simple way to show gratitude without making the activity feel like a chore or an obligation. Go about your day doing gratitude on the fly. Slow down and watch the faces and body language of people in passing. Seek out reasons to appreciate them or offer kind gestures.
Become more mindful of your words and who they might be impacting at the moment. Grow in awareness of your day’s activities and how you fit into the bigger picture. Give thanks for the work you do, the lives you are able to influence in a positive way, and the people who help make your days brighter and better.