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The role of mindfulness meditation in reducing stress, anxiety and depression is well established, with a 2017 meta-analysis linking such practices to better control of the sympathetic nervous system (Pascoe et al., 2017). Key to the practice of mindfulness is present-state awareness, also referred to as flow (Davis & Ludwig, 2018). In our world of cognitive multitasking, flow takes practice. But those who can achieve total immersion gain heightened appreciation for essential life processes such as movement and deep thought.
Although much has been written about flow’s therapeutic effects on emotional health, the practice also enhances cognitive capacity. Anyone who engages in routine exercise has probably noticed its interconnectedness with cognition. Put simply, thinking on one’s feet can drive intellectual development. Vigorous physical activity forces an individual to focus on the moment: in other words, to engage in flow.
Practice makes perfect. The more one works at flow, the more proficient he or she is going to become at achieving it. This razor-sharp focus drives both the body and mind towards higher levels of athleticism and intellectual engagement, reinforced by the bidirectional relationship between mind and body.
Perhaps these ideas could lead to a new conceptualization of multi-tasking. Rather than asking the mind to engage in multiple cognitive tasks at once, a better idea might be to use time outdoors as an opportunity to become an active observer of one’s surroundings. Think about creating a personal diary of sights, sounds and smells during an early-morning walk, run or bicycle ride. Treat yourself to a brief period of solitude free of family and work obligations, to recharge and be better prepared for the challenges ahead.
The body works best when it is allowed to cycle: Eating and fasting, sleep and wakefulness, solitude and engagement. Long-term, flow drives self-actualization, the process of becoming our best selves, physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
Davis, O. & Ludwig, V. (2018). The differences between mindfulness, flow and hypnosis. Positive Psychology News. https://positivepsychologynews.com/news/orin-davis-and-vera-ludwig/2018011937672
Pascoe, M. C., Thompson, D. R., & Ski, C. F. (2017). Yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and stress-related physiological measures: A meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 86, 152–168. https://doi-org.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.08.008
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