Friday, October 22, 2010

Casual Friday: Flow

Welcome to Friday, everyone! Today I'm going to discuss flow and how it affects happiness. Flow is a concept proposed by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (don't even ask me how to pronounce that) in his 1990 book Flow:  The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

So what is flow? Even if you don't know what it is, you've probably experienced it at some point in your life. It's basically the feeling of losing yourself in an activity that you are excellent at. Some people describe it as being "in the zone." Along with social connections and an optimistic viewpoint, positive psychologists consider regular experience of flow to be one of the most important components in longterm human happiness.

Here is a basic recipe for flow (from Wikipedia):

  1. One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals. This adds direction and structure to the task.[8]
  2. One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and his or her own perceived skills. One must have confidence that he or she is capable to do the task at hand.[8]
  3. The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows him or her to adjust his or her performance to maintain the flow state.[8]

Maybe you do all of these things already, so this recipe is a bit like stating the obvious in more difficult language. In that case, just keep doing what you're doing! The thing I like about flow is that it's not dependent on other people, like social connections and other forms of happiness may be. So even if your friends aren't around, you can still be happy and productive. Just lose yourself in your favorite activities!

(On a slightly unrelated blogging note, be sure to check out 5 Minutes for Mom and Jenny on the Spot, especially all you parents out there!)

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