Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

Follow Your Flow

2020 and 2021 has and is irrefutably been a masters course in challenge and struggle. Want to meet it as an opportunity to find your way into a deeper sense of engagement and motivation? Find out more about how to follow your Flow!

Flow state, this unique state of peak performance and life engagement, is an area of great interest to everyone from elite athletes, to high performing executives, to artists and academics. As we know, being in ‘the zone” of flow state is not just about maximising performance, or efficiency, but it’s the state where you feel your best, where your full absorption in the moment leaves no space for self-criticism, as we obtain a sense of one-ness with the task in the present moment.

But there are a lot of misperceptions about flow as well, including the perception that flow is Binary (i.e. you are either IN flow, or NOT in flow). However the research of Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard Cardiologist, has been used to identify what’s now called The Flow Cycle, which has 4 stages. So it can be tremendously helpful to understand where you are in the cycle, as there are things you can do to move yourself through into flow, and help yourself find your way back in more smoothly the next time

As 2020 evolved into an incredibly challenging year of instability and uncertainty, I was hearing phrases like “at my edge”, “stretched beyond my means”, “lost my ground” and even the word “struggle” from my clients. I began to develop the framework of a group coaching course on Resilience as something to offer as a resource for this time. Through this research I interested in “flow hacking”, or identifying the gateways into the flow state and how to most efficiently facilitate a way in for myself as well as for my clients.

For someone who is currently feeling in “struggle” it can be hard to stomach the idea that you're on the verge on an optimal state of consciousness.

It would be helpful to learn then, that the first stage of Flow is called "Struggle". It's the time that you're at your edge, your brain is being stretched to the verge of what it knows and it feels like overload. Again, it is so important to know where you are in the flow cycle, because it’s essential not to give up completely at this stage, as tempting as it might be.

It is then time to move into the second stage of flow is called “Release”. It's where you let go of focusing on the problem, and allow your brain to shift elsewhere. You remove your attention from the tension of a “problem” into relaxation, restoring, ease and instead distract yourself by going for a walk, listening to music, etc. Flow lives on the cusp in between the flight/flight activated response and the relaxation response.

Once you’ve created space for the positive hormones it’s possible to return to the activity that was generating the challenge and this time slip straight into that sweet spot of Flow, where you’re now flying with that creative engagement, unrestricted by the limiting beliefs that your dear old rational brain overlays on all of your creative ideas.

This kind of unrestricted creative potential in the flow state results in a 500% increase in productivity. It results in a 700% increase in creativity. AND perhaps more important to our work as wellness coaches, is that we know that people in Flow state are happier and more intrinsically motivated.
Finally, just as we need to know how to get ourselves INTO Flow state, it’s equally important to know what to do to get ourselves OUT. The final stage of Flow is called “Recovery”. This is by far the easiest part of the Flow Cycle to overlook, given our culture’s general tendency to overlook rest and spaces of integration.

It’s essential to take this time to pause, to restore and recharge, given that Flow state is actually an incredibly taxing process on the brain and body, In doing so we are presenting the possibility of future burn out, and helping ensure that we are fully prepared to dive back into the stage of “Struggle” again when it arises.

Written by Lucine Eusani, Mphil, MA Conflict Resolution & Wellness Coach, RYT

WCA Coach Trainer & Mentor

Looking for a new high

The news seems to be constantly full of reports of cocaine abuse by people from all walks of life – not only sports stars and celebrities but the average man or woman on the street. I read it has become “the perfect parent perk-up” (Lang, Courier-Mail). Australia is now ranked as fourth in the world in cocaine abuse rates.

For many of us this is shocking. For others not so. The line to the toilet in many public places has little to do with a blocked lavatory but rather evidence of the need for a place to privately use their recreational drug of choice. Does this mean we should see it as a normal part of today’s society? What are the downsides apart from the huge financial cost, serious medical risks and potential addictive properties? But of more interest - why do people need it in the first place?

Apparently the effect is that of enhanced sense of well-being and energy. Users become talkative and focused. And then we might wonder how they feel when the high dissipates?    

What was satisfying to note in one article was the reference to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the concept of “flow” and his work on human fulfillment and happiness. Not what you would normally expect to find in a public interest column. Good on you Kylie Lang. 

In Wellness Coaching we draw on the science of positive psychology constantly to help people improve their sense of wellbeing and boost confidence that positive change is possible.The notion of “flow” is a part of our course content and the benefits of encouraging our clients to experience this state are highlighted right from Level 1.

Csikszentmihalyi, one of the founders of positive psychology, describes flow as “being one with what one is doing”. He discovered that when we are completely absorbed in an activity we feel stronger, in complete control and at the peak of our ability. Sounds pretty much like a cocaine high to me.  With the difference being that the feeling continues to promote wellbeing after the activity has ended.  And there’s the crux of it.  

Perhaps the problem is not one of busy, conventional people looking for a way to break out, but a deeper issue in that they are not experiencing the feeling of “flow” in their lives.  Perhaps they are looking for a way to feel the way they used to before they lost touch with the things that absorbed them, the hobbies they used to take part in, the creative urges that can be expressed in so many ways?  

In our search for a healthier and happier life, are we missing what is in front of us? Our very ability to engage in pursuits that use our strengths, challenge us to the right extent, produce feelings of engagement and even fun, and do not damage our septums or other body parts whilst leaving our bank accounts relatively intact.

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