How to Get in the Zone With Your Finances, at the Gym, in the Office and More

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Check out this informative and helpful post from YouBeauty:

You’ve heard the expressions “in the zone” and “go with the flow,” but have you ever stopped to consider how to make that work for you on a regular basis?

Back in the 1960s, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his colleagues were intrigued by people such as artists who seem to “lose themselves” in their art, working long hours consumed by production. But painters and sculptors aren’t the only people who experience this state. “The way I explain flow is when you feel fully immersed in an activity, with an energetic type of focus to the point where your awareness of time has suspended,” says Maryann Troiani, Ph.D., a psychologist in Barrington, Illinois and co-author of pro-flow tome “Spontaneous Optimism: Proven Strategies for Health, Prosperity and Happiness.” “It can occur when you’re reading, gardening or doing something else you truly enjoy. I even experience it when I’m playing with my nephews!”

It’s no surprise that going with the flow comes with heath and beauty benefits. “There is a multitude of medical literature and studies on how if you’re constantly lacking flow, you’re more likely to be stressed and get sick,” Troiani points out. “The benefits are more energy, health and mental stability. When the unexpected occurs, you’re more likely to handle it better.”

Chances are, if you’re lucky enough to have a passion and you indulge it, you “flow” already. Of course, while achieving flow may sound easy enough, it’s not as simple as, say, clicking the remote to watch your favorite show. That’s because there are certain criteria: “An important distinction is that the activity has to be a meaningful task and something you are guiding,” says Troiani. “But it should be accompanied by a pleasurable, positive feeling.”

The good news? You don’t need to go on a quest for the ultimate flow-inducing pastime. In fact, there are ways you can increase your enjoyment of more mundane activities we usually perform on a daily or weekly basis. Check out these unexpected ways to find flow and boost pleasure in everyday tasks.

Work It Out

You know that getting in exercise is non-negotiable, but sometimes running that mile or four requires every ounce of willpower you’ve got. Rather than counting down the minutes and seconds on the treadmill screen, mix up your exercise routine to cure workout ennui and keep you engaged.

“There are numerous studies that prove that muscle confusion [mixing up your workouts] is one of the most effective ways to see results,” says Caroline Levy Limpert, co-founder of Fitist.com, an online fitness booking service that matches people with new boutique workout classes. While Fitist is only available in Los Angeles and New York City for now, the concept translates anywhere. Check out your gym or local YMCA for classes you’ve never tried before—from tennis to ballet to Zumba—and seek out what you love.

“By mixing up your workouts, you prevent boredom and hitting a plateau in your fitness routine,” says Limpert. “Doing the same workout day in and day out is just boring. Mixing up is not only more effective, but it’s more fun.” And having a good time is what flow is all about.

Office Max(imizing)

There’s no getting around it. Unless you’re sitting on a serious trust fund, most of us have to schlep ourselves off to some form of employment. But while most people can relate to the feeling of Monday morning dread that takes hold on Sunday evenings, there are those smug Suzies who broadly smile and don’t hesitate to remark, “I love my job!” What’s their secret? Troiani points out that the trick to flow is confidence—if you’re overwhelmed by the task or feel you’re not skilled enough, you simply can’t switch to a pleasurable state. “Especially today, when lots of offices are understaffed and people are tasked with multiple jobs, it’s easy to get overwhelmed,” she says.

Getting better at breaking daunting tasks into more doable, bite-size chunks you can easily accomplish certainly helps. So can brushing up on some skills that can help you at work. “Go to the library and learn a new skill that’s relevant to your job,” suggests Troiani. “When you’re in control and feeling good, that’s when the day goes by really fast.”

And if you still can’t handle your workload, it’s up to you to make the boss aware. Ultimately, employers want their workers to be happy and productive, not frazzled stress cases.

Trump Your Finances

On the list of fun family activities, bill paying is simply never going to make the cut. But for some, managing their finances makes them feel in control and gives them a sense of accomplishment. Julie, a typically harried 30-year-old wife and mother in St. Louis, recently discovered a method of completely absorbing herself in her household finances. In fact, she actually looks forward to balancing the books.

No, seriously.

“I hate paying bills,” she says. “But what I love to do is go online and check my bank balances and all my accounts for my investments and savings. I love analyzing where all the money went, checking stocks, reading finance books to figure out what to do with my money, taking notes and writing up plans. It’s my favorite Sunday activity and I do it for hours. It’s very calming.” Who knew?

 

Get Cooking

After a long day of working, exercising and ahem—financial planning—often the last thing you want to do is slave away in the kitchen. But before speed dialing Domino’s, consider taking the time to do a little homework and figuring out how flow can actually help you enjoy whipping up meals.

Troiani says much like rotating workouts, it’s as easy as breaking up the monotony of the task. “Try a new recipe,” says Troiani. “Start slow: Go online, research ones that look great and go through the process of gathering the materials and ingredients.” Just keep the slow part top of mind. “Again, if the task is too overwhelming, you won’t enjoy it.”

So for example, if you’re naturally a little more Hamburger Helper than Julia Child, skip the daunting French soufflé and focus on preparing a simple but delicious selection of veggies you’ve never tried before or a new sauce on your usual baked chicken. You may just find yourself going with the flow and enjoying the moment.