When was the last time you were so absorbed in an activity that you lost track of time? Perhaps you’ve been embracing your creative side in lockdown … or perhaps like many of us, it was so long ago you barely remember.
When coronavirus first upended our lives, we prepared for a sprint, not a marathon. We learned how to make sourdough from scratch, embraced more time with our families, and switched to working from home with gusto. Now 18 months later, navigating the uncertainty and sustained disruption of the pandemic has depleted our surge capacity. We’re running on empty.
Social psychologist Amy Cuddy has written about how living in this prolonged liminal state is taking a toll on our collective mental health. Dubbing it ‘pandemic flux syndrome,’ where we are experiencing increased sadness or anxiety along with the urge to drastically change something about our lives. Whether that’s resigning from our jobs or reexamining our life’s purpose, the destabilisation and uncertain environment from the pandemic is creating us to exist in an acute state of flux. And it’s making it very difficult to focus.
Collectively speaking, we’re experiencing a type of emotion known as Languishing. Psychologist Adam Grant recently popularised the idea that Languishing is the dominant emotion of 2021. It’s the sense that we’re existing in a holding pattern, muddling through our days and feeling ‘blah’ – not quite depressed but not quite happy either.
Given many of us are living and working in the same physical space, languishing extends into our work lives too. With constant distractions and interruptions from kids, pets, and partners, we’re unable to maintain concentration and get into a rhythm of deep work. When we lack a daily sense of accomplishment our mental health begins to suffer. Research has found the risk of major depression in languishing adults is six times more likely than flourishing (mentally healthy) adults.
So how do we move away from languishing and into flourishing? One antidote is a concept called Flow.
When you’re in the state of Flow, you:
Flow was first identified and researched by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the pioneers of the scientific study of happiness. According to Csikszentmihalyi, there are a few conditions that need to be met in order to achieve a flow state.
“There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback,” Csikszentmihalyi said in his TED Talk (watch below).
Flow has renewed relevance in today’s COVID world. More specifically, recent research by Sweeny (2020) has found Flow may be a powerful buffer against the emotional strain of stay-at-home orders.
People are their most creative, productive, and happy when they are in a state of flow. Achieving Flow state is different for everyone, for some it could be outdoor challenges such as hiking or learning a new dance, for others, it’s creative pursuits like baking or pottery. The key to finding flow is to do something you love and create a ritual to do it often.
When it comes to Flow at work, it’s important to distinguish between productivity and flow. Productivity is ticking off 10 items on your to-do list and keeping busy answering emails and tending to other people’s priorities. Flow is the state of working on a project that fulfils you and brings you closer to your career and life goals.
If you’d like your people to have access to strategies to reduce languishing and protect wellbeing at this time, found out more about our new ‘Flow’ webinar here or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org