I received a text from my head softball coach on Wednesday asking me if I was available to play as a substitute for another team on Thursday night. Without even thinking about it I agreed, and there I was yesterday heading down to the ball park in the early evening. If you have been keeping up with my new softball adventure, you will remember that I have been ambivalent about the value of taking on another activity into my already full life despite the fact that I have been trying to get on a team for over a year. Well, last night I found an unexpected benefit of playing softball that is definitely nudging me towards embracing this new hobby once and for all. What I had failed to anticipate in my complicated calculations is how utterly mentally freeing playing ball and being part of a game for 90 minutes can really be. I literally did not think of anything outside of the game for that entire time. It was as if a switch had flipped in my brain. On my way there I was thinking about what to make for dinner, and that I needed to send out some emails once I got home, and then as if by magic, all those thoughts vanished once I started walking into the sports complex. I haven’t had that feeling since I played organized sports back in middle school, so it’s truly a welcome surprise. The idea of our brains being filled with the noise of living in our increasingly hyper-connected world is certainly not new, and countless articles get written on how to practice mindfulness in an era of so much distraction. To a seasoned player the idea of sports as a mindfulness tool might not be a real revelation, but to me, it’s a game changer (no pun intended). I try my hardest to strike a balance in my life that allows my brain and body time to recharge, even if it’s only for an hour a day sometimes. Worrying about upsetting this balance is precisely why I was skeptical to embrace softball in the first place, since Sunday nights are one of the few times in the week that I tend to have true downtime. I now realize that I was stressing out without having the full picture since I hadn’t even played before last Sunday. I may have weekends where I absolutely feel that in order to truly feel rested I need to just be home with my feet up, reading a good book. Nonetheless, it feels good to know that even if I become tired from the physical exertion; my brain will be getting a much needed break at the same exact time. I’m now curious to find out what other things have been hiding in plain sight waiting to be discovered as an antidote to the mental drain of living in the 21st century. Which activities trigger a state of flow for you?
In other news, over at Verily, I’m writing about how to rediscover your love of literature (one of my all-time favorite flow- inducing activities), check it out and let me know what you think!