Returning to Socialising After Lockdown
Over the last year and half our country, and the broader global community have become used to living in a state of lockdown isolation. The limits of our conversations over this time have been reduced to nodding along in Zoom meetings. Previously, we enjoyed chatting with housemates before dissolving to silence before you begin discussing the colour of the walls, turning into teachers for our kids, and talking to our pets to stay sane. As a result, you might now be questioning your social skills, and whether you’ve enjoyed this social isolation or not. It’s likely you’re feeling nervous and apprehensive about the return of social interactions.
Getting into the Right Zone to Socialise
Have you ever noticed yourself feeling completely absorbed into something, so much that you barely notice anything going on around you? If so you might have been experiencing the mental state of ‘Flow’. Flow is a state in which people experience increased enjoyment, energy, and involvement towards what they are doing. For example, imagine you are running. Your attention is focused on your body, the feeling of the ground beneath your feet, your lungs pumping, the strain in your muscles. During this moment you are entirely absorbed into the act of running. Time floats away and you barely notice anything apart from the activity itself, this is an example of flow. Flow occurs differently for each person but often it is when you are doing something you enjoy and something you are quite skilled in. Why is flow important? Flow can help guide us into the right zone to socialise, and result in more involvement and enjoyment in social interactions.
Tips for Socialising
According to Csíkszentmihályi, there are a number of factors present in the experience of flow. Not all of these must be present or necessary to achieve flow. Let’s talk about how each factor of flow can be used to enhance your social experiences.
The activity is intrinsically rewarding.
It can be a good idea to set a social activity as a goal to achieve for the week. An even better idea is to choose to do something you truly enjoy, such as signing up to a cocktail class, going bowling, or taking a hike.
There are clear goals that, while challenging, are still attainable. Is part of your social activity goal to go to a new location, learn a new skill, join a new activity? Are these an achievable goal?
There is a complete focus on the activity itself. When in social situations it is important to focus on the present rather than getting lost in your thoughts. When out socialising, if you feel lost in your internal experience, try taking a moment to study those around you, listen to their conversations, and notice the activity you are engaging in.
People experience feelings of personal control over the situation and the outcome. If you are worried about the uncertainty of what catching up with friends will look like, make a plan for the start time, duration, location and activity of the catch up. Make it clear who is invited to attend.
People have feelings of serenity and a loss of self-consciousness. Not all activities engaged in need to be thrilling and exciting to enter flow. Activities that incite serenity include swimming, running, mediation, Pilates/yoga, reading or listening to music can help you enter flow.
There is immediate feedback. End the night by letting your friends know how you enjoyed the experience. This invites your friends to also share their feedback on the experience.
People know that the task is doable and there is a balance between skill level and the challenge presented. If you are trying a new activity, think to yourself about what knowledge and skills are needed. Can you learn these readily, or is there something else you could complete prior to improve? For instance, when planning a run with a friend, consider your cardio fitness, and whether starting with a long walk would suit your skill level better.
Distorted Sense of Time
People experience timelessness, or a distorted sense of time, that involves feeling so focused on the present that you lose track of time passing. When out with friends stop clock watching, stay in the moment, focus on the activity and conversation. From here time will start to pass you by without notice.