Looking for a new high

The news seems to be constantly full of reports of cocaine abuse by people from all walks of life – not only sports stars and celebrities but the average man or woman on the street. I read it has become “the perfect parent perk-up” (Lang, Courier-Mail). Australia is now ranked as fourth in the world in cocaine abuse rates.

For many of us this is shocking. For others not so. The line to the toilet in many public places has little to do with a blocked lavatory but rather evidence of the need for a place to privately use their recreational drug of choice. Does this mean we should see it as a normal part of today’s society? What are the downsides apart from the huge financial cost, serious medical risks and potential addictive properties? But of more interest – why do people need it in the first place?

Apparently the effect is that of enhanced sense of well-being and energy. Users become talkative and focused. And then we might wonder how they feel when the high dissipates?    

What was satisfying to note in one article was the reference to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the concept of “flow” and his work on human fulfillment and happiness. Not what you would normally expect to find in a public interest column. Good on you Kylie Lang. 

In Wellness Coaching we draw on the science of positive psychology constantly to help people improve their sense of wellbeing and boost confidence that positive change is possible.The notion of “flow” is a part of our course content and the benefits of encouraging our clients to experience this state are highlighted right from Level 1.

Csikszentmihalyi, one of the founders of positive psychology, describes flow as “being one with what one is doing”. He discovered that when we are completely absorbed in an activity we feel stronger, in complete control and at the peak of our ability. Sounds pretty much like a cocaine high to me.  With the difference being that the feeling continues to promote wellbeing after the activity has ended.  And there’s the crux of it.  

Perhaps the problem is not one of busy, conventional people looking for a way to break out, but a deeper issue in that they are not experiencing the feeling of “flow” in their lives.  Perhaps they are looking for a way to feel the way they used to before they lost touch with the things that absorbed them, the hobbies they used to take part in, the creative urges that can be expressed in so many ways?  

In our search for a healthier and happier life, are we missing what is in front of us? Our very ability to engage in pursuits that use our strengths, challenge us to the right extent, produce feelings of engagement and even fun, and do not damage our septums or other body parts whilst leaving our bank accounts relatively intact.