Many years ago, when I was living in Vermont, I taught English as a Second Language. I created my own little business tutoring the many engineers and scientists who came to Burlington to work at places like IBM and UVM and needed to improve their communication skills. I was really good at it—a natural—and yet I felt unchallenged and often bored.
One summer, I was working with a German student whose English was so advanced that she didn’t really need lessons. She knew few people in the area, and her engineer husband was extremely busy. Mostly, she hired me just to have someone to talk to. We spent several weeks reading and discussing Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. As we sat on my couch and dove into this captivating novel, I found my “groove.”
Free at last of having to teach verb tenses and other grammatical structures, I lost myself in our conversations. I asked her opinion of the characters and their choices. I asked what she would have done if she’d been in their shoes. I asked what touched her most about various scenes, what feelings the story piqued in her. And, as I delighted in helping her plumb and discover her own depths, I came to see what I do best. “I’m an interviewer who brings out the best in people,” I said to myself. “This is fun.”
It’s been 18 years since that summer when I, as mind-body medicine pioneer Joan Borysenko says, found my groove. Joan likens being in your groove to being in a state of flow. “Your inner critic shuts down,” she explains. “You’re more perceptive, spacious, and mindful. You’re more compassionate and loving, and you’re just having more fun.”
We get out of our groove for a host of reasons. Joan says perfectionism, rampant busyness, poor nutrition, not knowing how to manage our emotions, and searching for happiness in the wrong places (like the mall) can take us out of that precious flow state.
So what are some ways that we can get our groove back?
Unplug. The overstimulation we experience living in a technology-driven society often takes us out of our groove. “Go on a retreat—or create one—where you don’t turn on the TV for a while or answer e-mail unless it’s critical,” says Joan, emphasizing that nature offers a great way to unplug.
Move. Exercise wakes us up and puts us in touch with our bodies, a deep source of wisdom. “When we’re too busy,” Joan explains, “exercise can suffer and our best selves can go missing. Find a form of exercise you enjoy, put it in your calendar, and make it a priority.”
Be here now. The present moment, not the past or the future, is where our groove exists, but many of us aren’t actually living there. To get back into the present, Joan suggests simple mini-meditation and breathing exercises that you can do in a short amount of time.
Nourish yourself. The connection between our food and our mood is more significant than we realize. “You can learn which foods your body metabolizes best and make sure to consume those,” Joan says.
Evaluate. Sometimes we need to take stock of our lives and ask some hard questions. Joan suggests asking yourself questions like, Is the way I’m living my life consistent with being in the groove? Am I in a toxic job or relationship? Have I let go of my boundaries and allowed people to trample on me? Answering questions like these and taking the appropriate actions is a step toward getting your groove back.
Delight. But Joan says one of the most basic groove-retrieving questions is this: What is it that gives me life? “You really need to prioritize what gives you joy and fills you up.”