Footballer David Beckham’s admission that he plays with Lego to calm him down has received widespread coverage in the press. He finds it ‘therapeutic’ to do complicated builds, and it helps him cope with anxiety. He says it helps calm him down.
Anyone who has watched children playing with building bricks will see the look of concentration on their faces: they won’t be distracted from their creation until it is absolutely finished. They are committed and completely absorbed in what they are doing.
There is a school of thought that proves this kind of mind-absorbing, relaxing activity is not confined to children and ex-footballers.
Happiness experts and positive psychologists say that people can feel more fulfilled when they discover an activity through which they feel ‘flow’. Positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has posted a video on Ted contributing to the body of evidence that happiness comes from “a state of heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play and work”.
So, how can you achieve flow? I think it can depend on where you were as a child, and what helped you feel free, safe and exuberant. Or it can be an activity where you are so absorbed in the monotony or repetition of it that it makes you forget all your troubles. It uses another part of the brain that isn’t engaged in worrying, thinking or planning.
Examples? Cooking. DIY. Jigsaws. Painting (walls as well as canvases). Board games. Writing. Dancing. Gardening. Flower arranging. Knitting. Stitching. Golfing. Swimming. Reading.
The common denominator? As well as being a switch-off, these activities can be satisfying as well as creative. There can be an exciting and tangible outcome as a result of being in ‘flow’. And for anxiety management, anything that takes the mind off what is troubling you has to be of benefit to how you manage anxious or stressful thoughts and feelings.
What’s your secret pleasure – which you are perhaps not indulging currently – that helps transport you to more creative and fulfilling realms…?