Depth, Doing, and Well-Being

Getting into something feels good.

Posted Nov 14, 2018

by Chloe Barron
Source: by Chloe Barron

A few years ago, a friend recommended the documentary Being in the World, which highlights the pleasure of being in the zone with what you do. This film features a chef, a woodworker and a musician who convey that oneness with ladle, chisel or guitar provides peak moments. There are several interviews with philosophers, including Hubert Dreyfus, author of All Things Shining, about quality “being.” It seems that I do therefore I am, might trump, “I think therefore I am."

Deep absorption in an activity gives rise to “flow”– high concentration, time falling away, satisfying moments. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this phenomenon in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Still, singular focus and time spent can be a challenge in the digital age.  A surfeit of possibilities and distractions expands exposure but can compromise meaningful connections to people or projects. Intentionally balancing deeper engagement and fleeting entertainment helps. Sherry Turkle, MIT professor and psychologist, advocates for depth in dialogue in her book Reclaiming Conversation. Positive psychologist Sonja Lyubormirsky, author of The How of Happiness says, “Find a happy person and you will find a project.”

Many people have told me that quality “being” for them involves projects like cooking, gardening or even cleaning. Doing the dishes. Sometimes it is designing, decorating or clearing clutter. Mastering the basics of a craft or instrument, knowing it inside out, can lead to innovation which is associated with pleasure. In this study/Ted Talk, improvising rather than playing by rote fired up pleasure centers in the brains of jazz musicians.  

So, what is the takeaway? If you have the time and patience to become proficient in your chosen form, that is great. But in the present moment, whether you are an everyday or an eminent creator, make a point of getting into something. Depth in doing can do you good.