Don't believe you can be your own happiness factory? Your own flow will prove you wrong.
Remember the last time you were so immersed in an activity you love that you completely lost track of time? You tuned out everything but the task at hand. You literally lost yourself in the moment and felt amazing afterwards. You were "in the flow."
The Journey Becomes the Destination Perhaps it was playing an instrument, learning a new language, cooking up a new recipe, going for a run, playing basketball, writing a poem, kicking butt during that last workout, or skiing down a steep slope. Whatever it was, you knew you had the skills to attempt it and it was challenging enough to keep you from getting bored. You felt a rush of excitement throughout the activity and a sense of fulfillment afterwards. The joy of the journey became the destination itself.
You yourself were the source of that exciting rush of feelings. Flow is a wonderful example of how we can add in doses of happiness to our days without relying on more fleeting external rewards.
The treasure you seek is within your body.
You can literally get high on your own neurochemicals! A peek at the biochemistry behind the feeling of flow is fascinating:
Who Needs Drugs When You Have Your Brain?
Get in the flow and load up on these five naturally occurring feel-good chemicals:
Endorphin: relieves pain and induces pleasure, producing feelings that are 100x more powerful than even morphine.
Anandamides: elevates mood and reduces fear to maintain homeostasis; mimics the psychoactive effects of plant-derived cannabinoid drugs.
Dopamine: boosts your skills by increasing your attention and aiding in pattern recognition.
Norepinephrine: provides a burst of energy as it increases arousal, attention, and neural efficiency.
Serotonin: known as the good-feeling chemical that plays a role in regulating our mood, it leaves you with a post-task feeling of bliss.
How Do You Get In More Often?
To increase how often you get in the flow zone: do more things that require a certain level of skill and that challenge you. The right level? When the challenge is consistent enough with the skill so that you don't get discouraged and where the skill is exciting enough for you to not get bored. Scientists that study flow have found that our ability to we are most likely to get in the flow when the challenge is at least 4% greater than our skills
We can fill our leisure time with passive activities that are what we call “relaxing.” Of course moments of relaxation are vital for our mental and physical regeneration, but there is a certain point at which too much of these stops bringing the satisfaction we seek. It has been shown that we are much happier when we can sprinkle in activities that get us into the flow. The ideal situation is if our work gets us into the flow - than we spend most of our days doing what naturally feels fulfilling in itself!
The great thing is that we all have activities we love doing that get us in the flow. You know what yours are. Make time to do them more often!
The more we work on mastering our skills and the more we challenge ourselves to use them, the more we can feel these natural highs! What better reason to love the process of growth?
If You’re Not Growing, You’re Dying
How is it possible that some people have more than enough wealth to buy any item or experience they wish but still feel a void? We can all think of celebrities who have everything that we think we’re after, yet who are deeply unfulfilled, chasing after the next thing. We may know people that have retired but not much seems to satisfy them even as they finally get to relax most of their days. If even the ability to use our free time however we want does not provide a lasting satisfaction, where do we look?
What is the cure to digging out from that need for more external pleasures?
Passion. A sense of meaning. A state of flow in which one loses oneself.
We could all travel the world and be surrounded by every object we desire, yet without passion we are as good as dead.
As the highs from short-term pleasures continually wear off, the craving for something deeper keeps arising.
The arrow of long-term fulfillment keeps pointing within. It lies in the knowing of ourselves as something that can continually grow and expand.
We are like a flower bud that never stops blossoming. When we do not give into that instinct to blossom and to keep growing, we start dying. Why do you think we use the term “bored to death?”
As the experience of flow wonderfully reveals, you light the fire of your inner joy factory. We are the fuel and we are the fire itself, marveling at the intensity of its own heat, the brightness of its own light. That sense of awe, wonder, appreciation — that is bliss.
Because we are inextricably linked to our environment and every other human in the world, our fulfillment naturally shoots through the roof when we not only enjoy what we do but when it helps others as well.
We need to fill our lives with meaningful activities that allows us to utilize our skills in a challenging way.
We need to push our limits, go beyond our own comfort zones.
Programmed for Progress
I believe the desire for growth and full expression is programmed into our DNA as it is in any living thing. Flowers can’t help but grow and to express themselves through colors and smells.
From an evolutionary standpoint, we could say we are wired to grow.
When we learn, we master skills. When we master skills, we can express them. As our trust and confidence in ourselves and in our skills grows, we can show others how to improve theirs.
We can use our own fire to light the fires of humanity.
Because we are all part of the same essence, we intrinsically feel a desire to help others. Deep within we know that when we do so, we help ourselves. All of humanity advances as a result. It is impossible for one human being to evolve without lifting others up along the way.
As we keep growing into higher ideas of ourselves as individuals, the human race keeps blossoming into ever-higher heights. It is simply life helping life shine at its brightest.
A Masterpiece and a Work in Progress all at Once
There is a misconception that contentment can’t also co-exist with a desire to grow. I believe that we can accept and love life as it is now while being thrilled about the possibilities of what more we can create.
We can fall in love with the process of life which inevitably includes growth. Growth through the challenges, growth through the tough times, growth through preseverance.
Once we love the feeling of our own growth, we can be content with whatever arises regardless of the outcome.
The activities that fill our lives become joy in and of themselves. Digging up the dirt, planting the seed, watering it, watching it grow — that is where life happens.
The flower is blooming even as we are looking for the bloom. You are the blossom of everything you’ve worked on becoming in the past.
You are beautiful now but wait till you see what you are yet about to become! ❤SO