How to Enhance Your Quality of Life
“Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.” ― Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
In his breakthrough book entitled, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, explains the connection between “being in the flow,” and living in full involvement in our day to day existence. He encourages developing fascination with a subject as a means of engagement, stating, “If you are interested in something, you will focus on it, and if you focus attention on anything, it is likely that you will become interested in it. Many of the things we find interesting are not so by nature, but because we took the trouble of paying attention to them.”
It is not merely an absorption with hedonistic pleasure, looking to fleeting external activities. Flow reflects a sense of curiosity and control of one’s life trajectory; such as setting goals and watching them come to fruition. Think of flow as resembling what athletes call “being in the zone,” which is timeless and sometimes paradoxically effortless, even as they are doing the work of performing in their sport or event. As a young competitive swimmer, I would spend hours in the pool, clocking lap after lap. As my body would move through the water, one stroke at a time, my mind would turn to what I would now consider alpha state meditation. I was not aware how much time had passed as I climbed out of the pool in chlorinated exhaustion, muscles like putty.
Flowing with it/going with it
When I consider moments of flow in my present-day life, what comes to mind are periods in which I am writing, without editing, as the words come through me and not from me. It might occur when connecting with kindred spirits, talking about “life, the universe and everything,” as highlighted in the cult classic Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
It can look like spontaneously riffing on a topic when speaking to a group, without plan, or responding to a client’s dilemma as if downloading guidance from an unseen source; letting theory fall by the wayside. It might be attributed to longevity of practice, or being an open channel for wisdom to come through. Of course, this is not unique to me or to the field of psychology, but is available to anyone with the willingness to tap in.
Quality of life is internally defined as well. Viktor Frankl, MD, PhD, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, was a pioneer in the field of positive psychology and championed the modality of Logotherapy which has at its core, the importance of discovering meaning in life, particularly in the face of trauma. Not just quantity, but quality. Not just the years in our lives, but the life in our years. What might reap purpose and meaning for one person, may be empty for another.
Our perception of this paradigm shifts over time and within circumstances. When in the midst of a fast-paced schedule, we may miss out on those precious moments with loved ones. While engaged in the necessary details of work and home life, we may neglect our health. When in treatment for a life challenging illness, we may focus so much on the symptoms, that we forget the simple pleasures of being able to enjoy a meal or take a walk in nature.