Have you heard? Someone has found the key to happiness, and thankfully, it’s not as hard as pronouncing his name! Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has been studying the effects of flow and how it helps us feel happier in our daily lives.
What is flow?
We all know the feeling of being so immersed in an activity that hours can fly by at the blink of an eye. Maybe you’ve been playing music or reading a good book so intensely that all other thoughts disappear. Some people call this “getting into the zone,” but Csikszentmihalyi calls it “flow.” He believes, like many others, that we are in control of our own happiness, and that flow can help us get there.
Flow and happiness have a lot in common. It happens when you make clear goals for yourself. It comes from a desire to perform an activity for its own sake, not for any external reward. It makes us feel at ease and in control when we’re completely concentrated. It is a balancing act between challenge and skill. We can feel time speeding up or slowing down. The anxious voices in our head become quiet.
Feeling focused and in control of your goals, without that nagging voice? Sounds like happiness to me.
Who can experience flow?
The good news is, anybody can experience flow. People who experience flow often usually do activities for their own sake, rather than for achieving an external goal. If you really love spending time on mastering challenging tasks, flow might be easier for you; however, if you have trouble with anxiety and self-criticism, this might interrupt your state of flow.
How can I experience flow?
If anxious thoughts are weighing you down, you can help yourself get into a state of flow by starting with something you know you’re good at. Boost your confidence in your skills.
Try to eliminate distractions as much as possible (including your smartphone)!
If you focus your energy on something for long enough, you’ll find that the voice inside your head can quiet down, and you might even feel inspired to go for a challenge.
There are opportunities to flow every day, if you know where to look!