“Happiness is not for the faint of heart”. These are words I remember from a life-altering lecture I attended this past August.
Over the summer I had the opportunity to attend the Canadian Fitness Professionals conference, a multi-day event with the biggest names and faces in the fitness and health industries. With hundreds of educational sessions, workshops, and classes to attend, it was a wonderful opportunity to be immersed in new ways of thinking, moving, and being healthy.
My favourite speaker of the day, Petra Kolber, spoke at a panel discussion titled “Mind Before Muscle” and again in her own lecture called “The Happiness Epidemic: Catch It If You Can.” As a fitness professional and positive psychology guru, Petra introduced me to a concept called FLOW. This term describes the moment in time when time disappears, when we are challenged in a way that matches our skills – when we are in what we often call “the zone”.
She explained that being in a state of FLOW is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves to contribute to being happy. Happiness, she said, is not a steady state, but something that we have to train ourselves to achieve. She recommends a minimum of two hours of FLOW a week as our basic training exercise.
Finding FLOW, or recognizing the activities that bring me peace and joy, is something I have been trying to identify ever since. Whether or not I appreciate them as FLOW-inducing exercises, there are tasks that I complete in my daily life that make me feel whole.
For me, I think I achieve a state of FLOW when I am participating in yoga class, when I am taking care of children, and when I am instructing a fitness class.
Moments when I know I am not in FLOW include watching television, Russian grammar exercises, and roller blading. These activities are mind-numbing, frustrating, or make me anxious.
I know that I am fortunate because my jobs contribute to my feeling of wellness and FLOW. I work in childcare, I write this blog, and I instruct fitness classes on campus.
Fitness instructing is my favourite source of FLOW because for a set amount of time each week I am required to show up at the gym, to move my body, and to challenge myself in front of a group of people who are looking to me for guidance and motivation.
It is impossible to be stressed about school assignments, relationships, and goal setting when I am focusing on counting beats of music, cueing new moves, coaching proper technique, and smiling like a goof. A.k.a when I am in a state of FLOW.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I am filled with so much gratitude and joy that I have jobs that I would continue to want to do even if I won the lottery and never had to work another day. When I think about goals for the future, they include saving up to complete a certification course in Yoga instructing. That makes me feel awesome.
As Petra said, “If you haven’t learned the language of gratitude you will never be on speaking terms with happiness.”
On campus, I can think of lots of places to find FLOW. The Multi-faith Centre, Hart House, and (for me) the UofT Bookstore are all locations I can spend for hours on end without really noticing time going by at all.
Where and how do you find FLOW in your life? Comment below!
More about FLOW from the man who developed the term!