Lockdown fits me like a glove

Previous posts not withstanding, now that I’ve been living in this state of lockdown for more than a month, I realize that it is not so bad. In fact, when I hear how others are freaking out and protesting the current situation, my reaction is something like “really??!!”. Then I remember that, when it comes to normal humanity, I’m probably a bit of an outsider.

It helps to be an introvert, which means that alone-time is always valued much higher than time with people. Make no mistaken, I do enjoy the occasional social time with friends or family, but too much of that drains my energy and makes me feel awkward.

However, being an introvert is not enough to help one enjoy lockdown. There is this one dangerous condition called boredom that afflicts most people in lockdown, leading to cabin fever and then to all sorts of other things that we need not elaborate on.

Boredom

So what would be an effective way to counter boredom? One would need lots of things to do. Many people perform what they call “spring cleaning.” (However, if you think about it, cleaning during lockdown is the opposite of spring cleaning.)

There are other activities that one may become involved with due to the lockdown such as cooking. However, if cooking was not part of you daily routine and if it does not suddenly become a new found passion, then it can soon develop into a onerous chore. The same applies to many other chores that are suddenly imposed on one by the lockdown situation.

So what would then be an effective activity to counter boredom? The answer is flow. You need something that you are passionate about, something that involves activities that challenge you, but for which you are capable to meet these challenges. It can keep you busy for hours. While you are doing it, you enter a state of flow; you don’t even realize that time is flying by. Instead, you are completely focussed on what you are doing. And you enjoy it!

My passion is theoretical physics research. When I’m busy performing those calculations or developing those derivations, I am almost unaware of anything else going on in the world. The activity puts me in a positive frame of mind and keeps me there for the duration of the activity.

It is a good thing that I have embarked on a particular challenging project just before lockdown started. There are times that I don’t have anything interesting and challenging to work on, but now I do. My setup at home is perfectly geared to perform this work. In fact, it is even better than at work. So, I’m glad for the opportunity that lockdown provides me to do this work. I hope I can finish it before lockdown is lifted to the point where I need to go back to work.

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Flow

It is a sunny day. A group of boys are playing soccer outside. In a house next to the field where the boys are playing soccer, another boy is practicing piano. Through the window, this boy can see the other boys playing soccer. He can hear them shouting and having fun. It he wants to, he can go out and join the group of boys, but he doesn’t do that. Why not?

Perhaps he is shy and doesn’t get along with the other boys. However, there is another more obvious reason. As much fun as it may be to play soccer, this boy is having more fun playing the piano. He reaps greater enjoyment from this activity than he would with the other boys out on the field.

It is said that one can only achieve greatness in a particular field after one spent at least ten thousand hours practicing it. So the best ballet dancers, tennis players, pianists, etc. could only have achieved that level by spending exorbitant amounts of time improving their skills.

Why would anybody want to do that, like this boy playing piano instead of joining the other boys outside? There is a state of mind that one can enter that produces significant happiness. It is when one confronts a considerable challenge and at the same time have the skill to overcome it. This state of mind is called flow. The idea was introduced by a psychologist, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in 1975.

Flow provides a heightened level of concentration. It allows one to exclude external disturbances. Although the boy practicing piano can hear the shouts of the boys playing soccer, it did not bother him. He was barely aware of it. One also tends to lose track of time. Long after the boys stopped playing soccer, this boy is still practicing piano and he’s happy doing so.

Anybody could experience flow. In fact, most people probably often do. Whenever you are doing something that you are good at and what you do is challenging enough that it occupies your full attention, then chances are that you are entering a state of flow. If you are good at your work and it does not bore you, then you probably experience flow on a daily basis. Then it is also quite possible that you enjoy your work. It is quite common with artists or people involved in activities associated with being creative.