Flow is that highly sought-after state where we both feel our best and perform our best. It might sound too good to true, but it has been studied by scientists the world over who have found that there’s a shift in our neurochemistry when we’re in flow as dopamine and endorphins flood into our system. This is a highly addictive state and has a huge positive impact on our well-being and makes performance feel effortless. Who wouldn’t want more of that?
Yet many of us are finding ourselves in flow a lot less of the time than our design would suggest is possible as we see statistics of rising burnout, mental illness and the creep in working hours.
Interestingly, in our attempts to increase our performance we have tended to hustle more, push on, drive through and keep on keeping on assuming that the more time we input, the more result we output.
People who are deliberate about building more flow in their life know this doesn’t make sense and that it forgets a key variable; energy. Athletes are a great example of this and know that recovery is as much a part of their daily lives as breathing. They know that failure to recover and recharge properly blocks their performance and prevents them from accessing the high energy state of flow. They report feeling stale and tired and see increased risk of injury and diminishing returns in their performance.
The vast majority of people stack endless periods of energy expending work ontop of each other without sufficient recovery and wonder why they can’t get into flow. As Loehr and Schwartz define it, we need to oscillate between periods of energy expenditure and recovery in order to come back able to perform better than before.
Many studies have looked at the impact of this serial energy expenditure on our well-being including that at the Finish Institute of Occupational Therapy who found sleep impairment, diabetes, depression and alcohol addiction amongst others.
Yet when we get it right, the results are impressive. Research conducted by Perlow and Porter at Boston Consulting Group found that when employees were given certain predictable and enforced workfree evenings and days they saw such increases in productivity and performance that the organisation kept it as a permanent initiative.
So if you are convinced about the importance of recovery in your life what would you say if we asked you how do you currently recover? Most people say they fall onto the couch and watch TV or do a little internet surfing or respond to messages whist drinking a glass of wine. How recovered do we feel at the end of this.
Not all recovery is equal. If we want our recovery to be impactful, we want it to create both a shift in our mental state and to reset our nervous system. The great news is that there are ways that we can do this that accelerates the process and gets you recharged quicker and with a greater capacity as a result. What is it?
Active recovery is the type of recovery that really works with our biology rather than against it. It gives our mind and bodies a helping hand to recover quicker and more impactfully and leaves us ready for conquering the next challenge. But, and here’s the clincher, it requires us to do something more than sitting on the couch.
Active recovery on top of getting your 7-8 hours of sleep (yes this really is a massively active process for your body when you realise how much is going on when we’re asleep) might be foam rolling, doing a yoga practice, spending time in nature, having a sauna, gentle exercise, meditation or having a massage amongst others all with the aim to really create a state shift.
This requires determination when the laptop or couch is calling to ruthlessly prioritise recovery every single day. Make it a non-negotiable and watch the flow follow.
Are you ready to recover like an athlete?
Is this the reason you’re not getting into flow? — Corporate Health, Workplace Wellness & Wellbeing is written by Amanda McMillan for www.wellineux.com