Finding flow through solo sports

January 3, 2015

I first learned about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow more than twenty years ago in university (or to be more accurate, 1993; ancient history). Lately I've found myself actively seeking that state as a means of stress release and emotional reset.

Csikszentmihalyi stated flow is an absorbed state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Once in the state of flow, a person becomes fully involved and fully focused on the here and now.I wouldn't say I'm wholly addicted to finding this state but I do find myself really looking forward to it when the opportunity appears to be looming on the horizon.

When I speak of seeking flow for myself, I'm talking about getting there through solo sports like mountain biking, cross-country skiing or snowboarding. I've been there, in the state of flow, for work-related stuff but the experience is never as deep or as powerful for me as it is when achieved through physical activity.

This has been a really stressful year with the business. It was a lousy past summer and autumn financially, and I've been stretched further and harder than ever before. The anxiety and stress have made me a grumpy dad and husband, and while I've relied deply on my faith to pull me through, it's also been these moments of achieiving flow that have helped me survive. I return from these experiences a better person (at least temporarily) and find myself able to again focus and see the world from a bigger, more positive perspective if I can get there.

It's hard to describe flow in sport unless you've experienced it yourself, but I think if you have, you'd agree with my explanation here. Being able to completely focus on the moment, whether on a long, arduous uphill ski or a 70 km/h run down a mountain can do wonders for one's attitude and outlook on life.