I started writing this over a week ago after listening to a podcast by Steven Bartlett. This one was with Johann Hari, they discussed focus, and how we are all losing it. If you’re interested the podcast is titled Diary of a CEO. They talked about the constant bombardment of notifications, emails, messages, social media, etc and the distractions they cause, which in turn leads to us being less able to focus. It has taken me over a week to write this because I, like most, am finding the terrible events taking place in Ukraine incredibly upsetting. It is hard to focus when something as awful as war is at the forefront of your mind.
The podcast got me thinking. We receive some lovely feedback from people we work with about the sense of achievement they feel from completing a painting. Teams and individuals say how they enjoyed having the time to do something for themselves, to take on a new creative challenge and to relax. Creating is good for you, it relaxes the mind and body, we already knew that. What I hadn’t thought about was that people get so engrossed in our sessions that they don’t check their phones. At the end of the event they feel refreshed, relaxed, proud of themselves. Perhaps part of that is due to the fact that they have allowed themselves to get into the zone, or as Johann Hari suggested, a state of flow. Without the pressure to check emails and answer messages, they allowed their minds to wander and to create freely.
How often do we allow ourselves time to completely switch off and focus on something fully? When was the last time you were in a flow state? The Headspace website describes a flow state or being in ‘the zone’, “as a “sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are totally absorbed by and deeply focused on something, beyond the point of distraction.”
Can you remember the last time you allowed yourself to avoid any distraction and to be utterly absorbed by something?
I try to have time away from my phone, to remind myself that I don’t always have to be doing something. The emails and messages can wait. I walk most days to give my mind a chance to escape, to slow down. The news, the weather and a general feeling of ‘meh’ has left me feeling less inspired than usual and my walks haven’t quite hit the spot. However, after a challenging boxing session yesterday I felt much clearer, less groggy. Turns out that punching a bag in a controlled way feels great. I definitely felt myself get into the zone. No phone, just me, my trainer and some gloves. At the end of the session I was reluctant to pick up my phone and re-engage with the world. In the same way that some turn to art, or painting, writing or running, the gym is my escape, my hour to myself.
What can you do for yourself this week to unwind?
I have recently started following Lessa Renee on instagram. Leesa’s most recent post is about how the information we are reading and watching at the moment might feel ‘too much’. How those who are highly sensitive and deep feeling may be feeling overwhelmed and overstimulated. Leesa’s suggestions were to journal, to create, to amplify and to play. (Here is the post.)
If you are feeling overwhelmed, give yourself permission to switch off, to disengage and to do something for you. Meditation, a walk, creating, writing, watching a film (without your phone next to you!), exercise, baking, something that fills you with a sense of calm, something that will help to calm your nervous system. Take some time for yourself, and perhaps it will bring back your focus.