Have you ever been so immersed in your work that all distractions and background noise vanished? The only thing that existed was the brush and your painting, your skis, and the hill, and your automobile and the road. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a well-known professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., calls this state of deep involvement "flow."
He spent decades studying people's contentment with their daily activities, discovering that individuals are most satisfied when they are completely absorbed in and focused on what they are doing. In research by Csikszentmihalyi and others, flow experiences were linked to good feelings in the near term, and people who experienced flow more frequently were happier in the long run. People differ in how much they value flow experiences and how easy it is for them to enter flow, according to researchers. No matter how happy you are by nature, knowing how flow happens (or doesn't) in your life and creating more flow experiences can be a powerful way to boost your happiness.
Positive Psychology, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, says that there are some things that all flow experiences have in common.
What exactly is flow?
You become unconcerned with the passage of time. When you aren't paying attention to the clock, hours can feel like minutes.
You're not thinking about yourself. Your knowledge of yourself is limited to the activity itself, like where your fingers are on a piano keyboard, how you chop vegetables with a knife, or how your body parts stay balanced when you're skiing or surfing.
Extraneous thoughts do not distract you. Instead, you're completely focused on the task at hand, whether it's understanding or expressing a line of reasoning at work, making beautiful layers of frosting for a cake, or getting out of a tough chess situation.
You're up and about. Flow activities are active rather than passive, and you have some choice over what you do.
You work with ease. Even if you're working harder than normal, everything "clicks" and feels practically effortless when you're in flow.
You'd like to do it all over again.
Adapting to your ability level
The good news regarding flow and pleasure is that you can expand your flow experience and reap the advantages. It requires some effort and comes more naturally to some individuals than others.
When the challenge of an activity is balanced with your competence in completing it, you enjoy a flow experience (see "High skill + high challenge = flow"). Boredom is a possible outcome when your competence is good but the challenge is low. Set the bar too high by attempting something well beyond your capabilities, and you'll find yourself out of sync once more.
When you're playing a well-matched opponent, rehearsing a piano piece just a little tougher than the last one, or driving in new terrain in a car you feel secure operating, you're more likely to be in the zone. People enjoyed chess games more if they played against someone who was slightly more skilled than them, and close games were more fulfilling than blowouts—even for the ones who lost the match, according to one of Csikszentmihalyi's flow studies.
You can't make flow happen, but you may urge it to happen more frequently, even in situations where it seems implausible.
promoting flown a groundbreaking study conducted by Csikszentmihalyi at the University of Chicago, flow-producing scenarios occurred more than three times as frequently when people were working as when they were relaxing. The researchers didn't simply keep track of exceptionally strong flow episodes; they also kept track of any time subjects outperformed their personal average in both the difficulty they were facing and the skills they were employed at the time of sampling. Managers, clerical personnel, and blue-collar workers all reported experiencing flow at work.
People spend comparatively little time "in the flow" during their spare time. In Csikszentmihalyi's study, driving was the most consistently good flow experience, while watching TV was often a time when people were not in flow.
Of course, whether you take up your paintbrush, hockey stick, or flute, flow isn't assured. You can best fan the flames of flow by doing the following:
The goal is to surprise yourself by learning new things about yourself and the activity. Choose an activity that will allow you to experience new feelings, experiences, and insights while letting your feelings and awareness flow without interfering. Observe your physical sensations and posture.
Overcoming the want to come to a halt with every blunder When you concentrate on what you want to achieve or experience rather than allowing mistakes to distract you, you are more likely to be at your best. Accepting that bodily signs of anxiety is normal and will subside once you get started Attempting to collaborate or play with others Keep your wits about you.
Flow is the result of a high level of ability combined with a high level of difficulty. When the amount of challenge matches the level of competence, "flow" can occur during any activity. Anxiety is caused by a high level of difficulty combined with a low level of expertise. Boredom is the result of low difficulty and strong skill. When the amount of challenge matches the level of competence, "flow" can occur during any activity. Anxiety is caused by a high level of difficulty combined with a low level of expertise. Boredom is the result of low difficulty and strong skill.
Photo by Elijah O'Donnell: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-woman-lying-on-bed-while-using-laptop-4066041/