Everyone wants to live a happy and fulfilled life.
So I went on a quest to find experiences that can boost life satisfaction.
Out of all the emotions and experiences, I found two peak experiences that stood out the most. They both can boost your life satisfaction and make you lose the perception of time.
1. The State Of Flow
The concept of flow was introduced by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity.
To enter the state of flow, you need three conditions:
- Clear goals and progress
- Clear and immediate feedback
- There must be a good balance between your perceived skills, and the perceived challenge at hand.
If your skills are better than the difficulty of the task, it leads to boredom. And if the difficulty of the task is more than your skills, it leads to anxiety.
You have experienced flow when you were so immersed in an activity that you forget the notion of time and space.
The best ways to find flow in your everyday life is while working, learning, or playing. Just make sure to clear away all the distractions that may come during the peak state.
When you’re in the flow, you’re fully focused on the present moment. You lose the notion of time, space, and consciousness. You feel in control and confident that you can succeed. The activity becomes the reward as you gain the intrinsic motivation to perform the task.
According to Steven Kotler’s talk, when you get in the flow, your prefrontal cortex shuts off. So you no longer process time or make complex decisions. As a result, you get tremendous liberation. Your risk-taking, self-confidence, creativity, and productivity goes through the roof as you feel a sense of freedom.
2. The Feeling Of Awe
Awe is a magical phenomenon when you feel a mix of emotions such as curiosity, wonder, amazement, beauty, surprise or insignificance. It’s when you experience something beyond your understanding so you simply surrender to the feeling.
The feeling of awe doesn’t necessarily make you smile. You feel its presence when you feel something greater than yourself. At that moment, you lose yourself and your silly worries about your life.
Humans evolved to feel awe to help us transcend and live for a greater purpose than just surviving. In the past, we could not understand the science behind natural phenomena so the concept of religion and god was invented.
Now, we have understood a lot more. But the side effect is that we are losing touch with awe. We stay stuck in our digital devices and the stress that comes with corporate jobs.
You can get the benefits of spirituality without following any religion by bringing back awe in your life.
According to research at UC Berkeley, awe even has anti-inflammatory effects on your body. Researchers found that feeling the beauty of nature, art, and spirituality lower the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
“Awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions — a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art — has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy,” — Dacher Keltner (Psychologist)
Elevated levels of cytokines are associated with poor health and conditions like type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and clinical depression. Awe can help you prevent such conditions.
Children are masters at experiencing awe. For them, everything is new, surprising, amazing, and beyond their understanding. But we get used to what we see and experience every day. So we travel to new locations in the hunt of the same feeling.
Awe is one of the biggest reasons we go on vacations or trips. We want to see monuments, natural environments, museums, and culture that are novel and leave us awestruck.
Besides traveling, you can also experience awe in your day-to-day life. Watching something great is not the only way to experience awe. You can also feel it when you think something and feel profound.
Take An Awe Walk
Get in nature and look around. You will find awe in every direction. Zoom in and notice the small details happening which you might not have noticed before.
- The small buds coming out of the soil.
- The tall trees which older than you.
- The birds singing the songs.
- The animals or insects working hard to find food.
- Butterflies roaming around the flowers.
- The sunshine touching your skin.
For once, forget all your worries and get lost in the moment.
There is nothing new about these sights. They happen all the time. The beauty is in the eyes of the watcher.
Watch Nature Documentary
Research conducted by the scientists at Coventry University found that watching nature documentaries may be as good as meditation or mindfulness for wellbeing.
Nature documentaries are a shortcut to explore nature or animals on our planet. We used to have a deep connection with them before we built our own habitat — cities.
Feel your body. Notice your breath, heartbeat, and other bodily sensations. Think about how hard your body is working to keep you alive.
Notice your thoughts and emotions. You are breathing. You are alive as a human. You can think. You can move your body at your own will.
Just like you can zoom in, you can also zoom out and see things from a higher perspective. Look at the sky. Notice the stillness and the shapes of the clouds. Think about your size compared to the size of the universe.
Feel Your Food
Notice the texture, color, shape, and smell of your food. Think about how the food will provide you energy and nourishment. Think how hard the farmer worked to grow the food for you. Then, somebody packed it and brought it to your nearest store. You had the convenience to get it whenever you wanted. And now, you or someone else cooked it for you before it landed on your plate.
Read or watch engaging stories.
Watch awe-inspiring photographs or paintings in a museum or on the internet.
Listen to beautiful pieces of music. Close your eyes and lose yourself in music you find inspiring or euphoric.
Flow and awe are the two ways you can experience life beyond yourself. They will help you make the switch from the complaints and boredom that comes with daily life to a life full of appreciation and excitement.
How will you experience flow and awe today?