“Flow” into Happiness

Think back on what you did during the week. Can you think of any fun things you did during the past week (other than work, of course)? Did you indulge in any hobbies or leisure activities where you felt a sense of serenity?

Work-life balance is very important for your mental health and wellbeing. Making time for YOU is important. It reduces the overall stress and unhappiness in your life. According to the psychologist Mahaly Csikszentmihalyi, achieving a mental state of “flow” can have many mental health benefits, including reduced stress and depression and increased happiness. A state of flow is when you are so immersed in an activity that you loose track of time. A sense of serenity is reached and one is involved, focused and concentrated on the task at hand.

 Flow generally occurs when one is doing an activity that is enjoyable to the person. Almost any activity can provide you with flow if you are providing concentrated effort to the activity. It can be anything from passive activities, like listening to music, meditation, yoga, or reading books, to hands-on activities, such as cooking, sports and art.

Much of our free time is spent watching TV. Although for many this is the preferred way to “relax” because it requires the least amount of effort, studies have shown that flow experiences were higher for reading books than watching TV. The reason for this may be because of the lack of attention and dedication required. To make the best use of our free time, we should turn off the TV and explore the world around us through activities that are both enjoyable and require concentrated effort.

How to achieve a state of flow:

  1. Many people are simply unaware of what activities they actually enjoy. Keep a journal or make a list of activities that you are interested in, outside of work. Perhaps include a new skill you would like to learn or a skill you already have.
  2. Set aside some time during your week to engage in these leisure activities.
  3. Explore new activities and develop new hobbies that are of interest to you.

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990, p. 3) 

References:

Cherry, K. (2015). What is Flow? Psychology. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/PositivePsychology/a/flow.htm

Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Rathunde, K. (1993). The measurement of flow in everyday life: Towards a theory of emergent motivation. In Jacobs, J.E.. Developmental perspectives on motivation. Nebraska symposium on motivation. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press