Glow with the flow…

It’s Monday and usually I’ve written my blog post by now or at least done most of it on the Sunday night but as my husband goes to Vegas for a week today (with work, it’s a tough gig, I know), my mind is whirring through a whole load of logistics I’ve got 80% sorted for this week.

Added to him being away so is my Mum, who is my usual back-up support when it comes to delivering the kids to where they need to be, so my problem-solving skills are stretched to the limit with my daughter’s usual Swimming training schedule (6 days a week) and my son goes on tour this week with Opera North, I feel like I’m juggling whilst standing on one leg….which brings me to my subject on our creative journey this week.

When the head stuff is spiralling out of control, what do you then do to help you get off that over-thinking steam-train? One way of course is to practice mediation which I know many people are huge fans of and I’d love to say that it also works for me, but unfortunately it doesn’t, I’ve tried it so many times and I just cannot switch off my head enough for it to be of any benefit.

I am one of those people that can’t even get to sleep without assistance and wholly rely on my trusty kindle and a good story to finally drop off.

So, for me, the only thing that works is to get into that creative ‘flow-state’ as they like to call it, which basically means that you are so engrossed in something, so deeply focussed that it has those same meditative effects…and your brain begins to filter out all those noisy, incessant conversations that we all have with ourselves that can literally drive us crazy.

In a world where we are constantly switched on, thanks to our little (not always so smart) phones, (if they were really so smart why don’t they tell us to take a break?!), and we have a million things to do on our ‘To bloody do’ lists, it becomes really hard for our for our minds to wind down as the modern brain has not evolved with the pace of technology.

Ultimately, we still need vital moments of ‘quiet’ to rejuvenate and replenish some of those burnt-out brain cells, ready for the next bombardment of information overload.

I don’t know how it works physiologically but the flow-state to me is almost like an altered state of consciousness where you stop noticing what is going on around you as much and you’re concentrating so hard on the thing you are working on whether that be some creative writing, or crocheting or painting, that it becomes a single stream of reduced thoughts and you instinctively know what to do next without having to endlessly analyse and over-think it.

Ok, I know it’s not always that smooth-sailing, occasionally you may get frustrated, get stuck in your creative work and that is when the voice in your head may sneak back with a vengeance and a tirade of negative thoughts but if you can either push through that or maybe switch to another part of your project for now and come back to it later, then it shouldn’t fully disrupt that lovely experience of just creating something and staying in that relaxed and enjoyable flow-state.

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According to positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the flow state, is defined as an “optimal state of consciousness where we feel our best and perform our best.”

Csikszentmihalyi, who popularized the term in his 1990 book, the mental state of flow involves “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

According to Csikszentmihalyi, flow states have several key characteristics:

  • intense concentration,
  • a merging of action and awareness,
  • a loss of reflective self-consciousness,
  • a sense of personal control over the activity,
  • a distortion of the awareness of time, and finally…
  • an experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding.

(Taken from the article The Power of Flow, Psychology Today)

This is just one of the many wellbeing benefits of getting creative, and I’ll talk more in future posts about the others that I recognise but this is such an important thing to do for our own self-care, and again it’s all about the process being of huge benefit, not just the results.

So what if your creation resembles a purple egg chucked at a wall, if you’ve had an enjoyable time producing it and you FEEL better, calmer or even more energised for the rest of your day, THEN ITS WORTH IT and you’ve probably given your partner or kids a chuckle at the same time!

So how do we get to this state of being that brings this inner calm and joy, you may ask?

Well in order to do this, you have to get in the right frame of mind and space. For a start you need to eliminate distractions from your environment.

An absolute no-no for me is noise above a certain level. I think this is partly due to me being an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) but as soon as the TV goes up to a certain point, I can’t concentrate, and feel physically uneasy and agitated – my family find this totally bizarre and they’ll say to me ‘but it’s not even loud’, but it grates on me so much I just can’t think straight and have to leave the room. However, I can tolerate low level easy music or the gentle hum of a café and be able to switch off and get in the flow.

Similarly, if I’m cold at all (which is most of the time hence the bobble hats until at least April), I just can’t focus, it’s almost like I get brain freeze, so I have to warm up those brain cells and finger tips in order to be at my best.

So, what I’m saying is, to set yourself up for optimum success, know the triggers that distract you and remove them. Switch off your phone, clear your space both physically and mentally as much as possible before you get down to work. Also, have everything ready to hand to avoid having to search the house for that elusive paintbrush that you really need. Set your stall out to make the most of your precious time to just focus on the project in hand.

This week I’ll be spreading the message of the flow-state at something new and exciting (and out of my comfort zone, again!), hosting a discussion table at the Kirklees Women’s Empowerment event on ‘Creativity for Wellbeing’. There are 150 women attending so I’m looking forward to getting deeper into this subject with my local community and ‘empowerment’ is one of the core values for The Curious Creative Club, so it’s a great fit!

Right, I’ve got so engrossed in writing this post (blame that flow factor!) that I need to get out of here quickly and pick up the daughter from training!

Until next time…

Juliet, The Curious Creative x

Ps I’ve recently updated The Curious Cave page, where you can find a whole host of extra resources to inspire and support you on your creative journey, why not check it out?

PPs I’ve finally worked out how to add social buttons to this website! Yeah! (I’m so rubbish at technology so this is a little win for me!) – check out the links on the right side-bar or below if viewing this on mobile.

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