Go with the Flow

Creating a sense of peace and calm in your life means more than just coping with stress as best you can; it also means actively embracing those things that bring pleasure and satisfaction. A big part of doing this is finding work and hobbies that challenge you é without overwhelming you.

Have you ever been so engrossed in an activity that you forgot to worry about your problems? “Happy people often are ina zone called “flow,” Dr. Myers says. That’s when two hours fly by in two minutes because you’re so involved in what you’re doing. In one study researchers gave volunteers a pager and had them note what they were doing and how they felt every time they were beeped. They found people usually felt happier if they were mentally engaged by work or active leisure than if they were just sitting around. Ironically, the less expensive a leisure activity is, the more absorbed and happy people often are while doing it, Dr. Myers says.

Hobbies are not only soothing (for instance, more than half of women who crochet or knit say they do these activities to relax), they can provide a big dollop of selfesteem-boosting satisfaction at a job well done. Don’t have a hobby? Not sure what to do with your spare time? To discover which activities are most satisfying to you—and to find new ones—try the following:

Track your time. For one week write down everything you do and rank it ona scale of 1 to 10 in terms of what gives vou the most pleasure. The following week try to make sure the scales tip in favor of those things that satisfy you, even if it means giving up a chore or activity you think you have to do (but really don’t),

Recall your youth. What did you love to do most when you were a child? Was it coloring? Then why not sign up for a drawing class? Helping your mom cook? Maybe you should spend more time in the kitchen, Making up plays and games? Consider joining a theater group. Riding your bike around the neighborhood? Bike riding is certainly an easy—and heart-healthy—activity to take up.

Explore your community. Too many of us live in ignorance of the many activities going on in our own backyards. So as you search for new experiences to embrace, look in your own community. Check out the course offerings at the local college or hugh school (some offer continuing education courses). Get on the mailing list for arts groups and concert halls. Scan the meetings and events notices on the bulletin board at the public library.

Schedule some fun. Just as you schedule dentist appointments, schedule some fun time. Try to plan a pleasurable activity at least once a week. And don’t forget to put vacations—large or small—on the calendar a few times a year,

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