Social media is wide.
We scan rather than read. Scroll instead of study, choose headlines over substance. It’s surface work over the labour of digging deep.
It seems we’re becoming more conditioned to the wide; if we can’t consume it within a few minutes, our attention is lost. We seek short term instant pleasure, a hit of addictive dopamine over the long-term happiness and contentment of the additive serotonin.
Art is deep.
I don’t mean by way of concept, I mean in process. It’s about digging down past your own surface, about slowing down and switching off from all the noise that distracts our attention. It’s about going so deep that you enter a stage known as flow.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi , a psychologist who has devoted his career to researching happiness suggests that although people enjoy pleasure activities such as eating, drinking, sex or social media, this is short term and eventually wears off. He proposes that happiness comes from meaningful challenges and when we are fully absorbed in doing them we enter a highly focused mental state called flow.
Csikszentmihalyi describes the process of flow within a musician, ‘When involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new, he doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels or problems at home. He can’t feel whether he is hungry or tired, his body disappears and his identity disappears from his consciousness because he doesn’t have enough attention, as none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration, whilst at the same time to feel like he exists.’
Therefore flow is not just a state of mind – it also effects the body. In a 2010 Swedish study on classical pianists, the musicians exhibited deepened breathing, slowed heart rates and the facial muscles that enable us to smile were activated whilst in a state flow.
So what’s the ‘Find Flow in 5 seconds hack?’
There is none. There are no shortcuts. No surface level instant gratification. You can only reach flow state when you slow down, switch off from wide level activities and give yourself permission to go deep.
But there are ways to encourage it.
I call them power blocks. A period of time devoted solely to one activity, completely distraction free. This month I’m scheduling 30 power blocks into my diary – 30 x 1.5 hours. Phone notifications silenced, no multi-tasking, just one activity - sculpting.
These blocks don’t have to be art, they could be going for a walk, starting a new project, setting up a website, reading a book or a combination. It’s about reducing distractions and focusing entirely on one activity within that block and allowing yourself to go deep, seek happiness, contentment and serotonin over short term wide level activities that produce instant gratification and a hit of dopamine.
Want to join along? Open your diary and block in some time for deep work.
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