Finding flow for happiness

Finding flow for happiness

Flow is the technical term positive psychologists use for being "in the zone". Flow is a great way to boost your life satisfaction and wellbeing, as well as a great path to more happiness. In this morning's free eNewsletter I posted a series of articles explaining what flow is, how it relates to happiness, and how you can experience more of it. Here's a sample…

What is flow? 

The most famous advocate of the practice of flow is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who's classics "Flow – the classic work on how to achieve happiness" and "Finding Flow – The psychology of engagement with everyday life" have significantly influenced the positive psychology movement and changed many, many lives…for the better!

The Preface of "Flow" begins thus…

…This book summarizes, for a general audience, decades of research on the postive aspects of human experience – joy, creativity, the process of total involvement with life I call flow.

It then goes on, over several hundred pages, to explain this construct in far more detail but the final few words in that sentence are, essentially, what this idea of flow is all about…the process of total involvement with life!

Other definitions of and ways of understanding flow include…completely focused motivation; single minded immersion; the ultimate in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. Being in flow is being in the moment, totally focused on and energised by a particular task or challenge.

Why is this important? Read on…

By definition, flow is a positive experience! People who experience flow more often also experience more happiness and positive emotions. They also tend to be more productive, efficient and, therefore, successful. People experiencing flow enjoy what they do more and so, are more energised to perform at a higher level and, importantly, actually enjoy what they're doing at a higher level. So flow is the classic win-win where enjoyment and performace are both enhanced!

Further, researchers have identified that flow is positive correllated with optimal performance, better learning, motivation but also…creativity and innovation. So people experiencing flow don't just do better when things are going well but they also perform better when faced with difficulties because they're more able to generate a range of effective solutions. 

Questions to identify when you're in flow? 

So we hope you're starting to understand what flow is and why it's beneficial; how then, do you identify when you're in flow? Well, it's actually not that hard. Just ask yourself the following questions…

  • Was there a time today when you were really tuned in and paying attention?

  • When did you last feel amazingly energised by a particular task?

  • What are you really looking forward to and why?

  • On what do others compliment you?

  • What do you learn really easily?

  • What did you love to do when you were a child? 

And finally – what you can do to experience more flow!

One of the simplest ways to experience more flow is to answer the questions above and then to use these answers to build appropriate activities into your life more often.

A slightly different way to achieve this (although in reality it's very much the same) is to identify what positive psychologists refer to as signature strengths and then find ways to utilise these strengths in all areas of your life more often. How can you identify your strengths? Well, here are a few simple ideas…

  • basically, the answers to the aforementioned questions will help you identify your strengths

  • so too will reviewing THIS LIST and determining which of these resonate most with/for you

  • a more scientifically valid and reliable way to achieve this is to set aside 25-30 minutes and complete the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire

  • and then finally, when you've identified your strengths HERE ARE SOME IDEAS for how best to utilise them

In very simple terms, flow will come to those who firstly, know what they're best at and then secondly, actively search for ways to do more of what they're best at in as many aspects of their lives as possible. So go to it and as always, let us know how you fare : ) 

Our weekly eNewsletter also included a case study, illustrating how one of my clients used flow to improve his life and find more happiness. 

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