April 18, 2018

In positive psychology, flow refers to the feeling of being totally in the zone. It’s when you are so deeply involved in an activity of enjoyment and creativity that you lose track of time. Our #BeintheFlow blog series explores how real and inspiring people find their flow. 

 

My name is Patrick Rynne. Formally, I’m a marine scientist and ocean engineer, but really, I just love being on and around the water. I grew up in Massachusetts and started sailing with my family as a child. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t become totally hooked until the day I was allowed to sail a small boat around the harbor by myself. Something about that independence and immersion in nature stuck with me and I never looked back. Later, I started surfing and kitesurfing and my love of the ocean evolved into a lifestyle. 

In high school, college and graduate school, I became increasingly interested in the ocean and earth’s environment in general. The sports I fell in love with in my childhood had exposed me to the sea and got my brain churning about all the mysteries surrounding it.

 

Early in my career as a researcher, I recognized that many scientists struggled to communicate their work to the general public in a creative and entertaining way. Most marine science presentations, posters or videos I saw were boring and overflowing with technical terminology. So as a side project while finishing my PhD, I started making videos aimed at making marine science more engaging and fun. I named the project Waterlust and didn’t think it would amount to much. But here we are, seven years later, and it has become my career!

Being in a state of flow is a difficult thing to define. It can be that feeling of gliding down a wave and feeling water magically support your weight. It can be the tranquility you feel before a free-dive, as the mammalian dive reflex kicks in, and your heart rate slows. It can be the sounds and smells of waves crashing onto the sand or frigid mountain water racing down a river. For me, it’s all about being completely immersed in nature and shifting your mind away from a day’s complexities and simply living in the moment. 

Nature is a much simpler place and teaches you to put all the silly stuff aside and find balance.   

I think the best way to describe being in the flow is being in balance or harmony with nature. We do a lot each day that isn’t natural — staring at screens, worrying about deadlines, getting stressed about [fill in the blank]. Nature is a much simpler place and teaches you to put all the silly stuff aside and find balance. 

I am happiest when I am living a balanced life. I joke that if I had a bajillion dollars and didn’t work, I’d be miserable. Work is important. Your contributions to the world, to your community, to what you are passionate about — they are important not just to those that benefit from them, but to your own happiness. On the flip side, if we can’t stop and smell the roses and enjoy the big blue beautiful world, what are we working so hard for in the first place? My dad once told me his biggest piece of advice was to “work hard, love hard, pray hard, and play hard.” I think he’s right and I try to live that way. 

 

My biggest piece of advice is that you can do anything. It’s so cliché, but I really do believe it. If you want something and are willing to work hard, you can get there, you just need to figure out how. That usually includes surrounding yourself with the right people, since it’s pretty much impossible to succeed without help from others. 

Besides my love of nature, my passion for environmental advocacy has very practical roots. We currently have one planet to live on. Everything we do as a species should be focused on ensuring the health and vitality of our global ecosystem. Not only does this include our fellow humans, but all of our natural resources and the plants and animals that rely on them. If the environment suffers, we will suffer.

Earth Day is a great opportunity to remind yourself that you can make a difference. Three examples include 1) Lifestyle choices, 2) Purchasing decisions and 3) Voting.

 

Changes in lifestyle choices, when integrated over a population, can have far reaching impacts. Challenge yourself to make incremental improvements that you think you can commit to. Making big changes all at once is an unrealistic strategy, so start small and build your momentum. Things like curbing your fossil fuel consumption, using fewer disposable plastic products, and eating less meat are all behavioural adjustments that make an immediate impact. 

Purchasing decisions are your direct way of telling the market what you want and don’t want. If you buy products that are environmentally irresponsible, you’re communicating to businesses that what they are doing is okay with you. If that isn’t true, you need to speak up both in communication and with your wallet. When you support companies that prioritize the environment, you’re empowering them to grow and do more. When those companies succeed, others will copy their approach and the business landscape changes. 

Lifestyle changes and purchasing power aren’t enough to change an entire population’s way of life, for that you need legislation. Voting for leaders that prioritize the environment is important to move the political dial in the right direction. Many environmentally-minded people I know don’t seem to have an appetite for politics, and I don’t blame them. It’s a frustrating, often times boring and slow moving process. But it’s also extremely important to our future. When environmental advocacy is underrepresented in political leadership, it should not be surprising that policies don’t change for the better. So do your homework on candidates, get out and vote, and get involved in the process.

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