Flow: An Antidote to Anxiety & The Secret to Happiness?

Flow: An Antidote to Anxiety & The Secret to Happiness?

Despite the headline to this post, I don’t really believe there are any “secrets” to happiness.

Even if there were something that worked super well for me, there are likely to be different things that work for you.

Because we’re all different; so we all need different “secrets”.

That being said, there are definitely strategies that have been proven to work; and some are less well known than others. So in that sense, I guess they might be “secrets” to some …

Via Psych Central by Therese Borchard

Flow is the mental state of a person when he is completely immersed in one activity or event — a moment in which all of her energy is focused on one thing so that she is oblivious to the world around her.

It is a single-mindedness that harnesses all emotions into one action to produce a kind of rapture. Flow is a moment of nothingness — when all senses are so focused on an activity that a person isn’t able to feel anything in his environment — and that nothingness or suspension of feeling can be experienced as bliss.

Sounds good, huh?

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi first defined the positive psychology concept of “flow” after interviews with artists who would get so immersed in their work that they would forget about eating, sleeping, showering. He wanted to understand this phenomenon and see if there was something in their paintbrushes that made them so motivated and happy. In his article, “Flow Theory and Research” in The Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, he lists six factors as encompassing an experience of flow:

  1. intense and focused concentration on the present moment
  2. merging of action and awareness
  3. a loss of reflective self-consciousness
  4. a sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
  5. distortion of temporal experience (one’s subjective experience of time is altered)
  6. experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

As part of his fantastic TED talk, Csíkszentmihályi described the experience of a leading composer of music in the ‘70s:

When you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new, as this man is, he doesn’t have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels, or his problems at home. He can’t feel even that he’s hungry or tired. His body disappears, his identity disappears from his consciousness, because he doesn’t have enough attention, like none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration, and at the same time to feel that he exists. So existence is temporarily suspended. And he says that his hand seems to be moving by itself. Now, I could look at my hand for two weeks, and I wouldn’t feel any awe or wonder, because I can’t compose.

Then he summarizes the flow experience of all the people he has interviewed around the world:

Now, when we do studies — we have, with other colleagues around the world, done over 8,000 interviews of people — from Dominican monks, to blind nuns, to Himalayan climbers, to Navajo shepherds — who enjoy their work. And regardless of the culture, regardless of education or whatever, there are these seven conditions that seem to be there when a person is in flow. There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. And once the conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.

I’m especially intrigued by flow because this state serves as an antidote to depression and anxiety. Research indicates that people who experience flow on a regular basis have lower levels of depression and anxiety. The lack of flow in one’s life sustains anxiety. Conversely, anxiety impedes flow.

… keep reading the full & original article HERE