I know when I’m in “the zone” and I love being there. When I’m with clients I try to throw myself into to the process of therapy and get lost in their stories, even running over our session time because I forget to look at the clock. When I write I’m usually in the zone, letting ideas and sentences take shape unconsciously. When I’m reading a book that fascinates or grips me, I’m in the zone. How often are you in “the zone”?
And why is an eating disorders therapist rhapsodizing about the zone? The answer is that when you turn to food and eat when you’re not hungry, I have a hunch that you’re trying to enter the zone. You’re looking to, as Geneen Roth says, “go unconscious.” You want to shut out the worries of the world and whisk yourself to another reality full of so much peace or passion that it makes you forget there is a real world.
“The zone,” a term used by psychology and also known as “flow,” is a state of total body/mind absorption. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmilhalyi coined the phrase “flow” and identifies its essential ingredients (“What it means to be ‘in the zone’” by Jessica Wapner, Sarasota Herald Tribune, Wellness, 5/7/19, E26):
· You must be challenging yourself.
· You must have clear goals. [My note: your goal could be to play not work.]
· You must be totally absorbed in what you’re doing.
· Your thoughts and actions must be in sync.
· Your attention is directed effortlessly toward your task so that distractions disappear.
· You feel totally in control, without self-consciousness or worries.
· Time may seem to move faster or slower.
· There is a sense of reward that is due only to experiencing the activity.
Think about: Being engaged, feeling in control, not thinking about worries or anything at all, being focused on a challenge without fear, feeling totally absorbed in the moment, not wondering about the outcome of what you’re doing because you’re so present. Tasks to get you into flow need not be special or difficult. People fall into the zone when they’re solving a crossword or picture puzzle, planting a garden, painting the kitchen, trying to capture a magnificent sunset with their cell phone, writing a love letter, working on an algebra problem, writing a blog, dancing, sailing, or making love.
Think about the times you’ve been in the zone (drugs and alcohol don’t count) and how amazing the feeling is. How can you add more zone time to your life? Few people have enough of it. And remember, more flow may equal less unwanted eating.
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