A skiier is skiing down a very steep slope.

Happiness "Flows" When Skill is Stretched

Engage in a flow activity for greater happiness.

Do you remember the last time you were so totally absorbed in what you were doing nothing could have distracted you? Nothing else seemed to matter except your skis and the slope, your epiphany and the project, or your lover's eyes and the conversation. You felt "in the zone," "everything clicked," and you were "experiencing a magic moment." What you experienced can be described using one word—"flow." Experiencing flow is a powerful way to gain greater happiness.


What is flow?

Flow is an experience that occurs during an intense activity that we love a great deal and can lose ourselves in.

We are so immersed in it that we lose track of time and we forget about the to-do list. We care less about what other people think of us, we know exactly what we want to do, and we believe "we’ve got this." The experience is so rewarding that we want to repeat it. Flow is that state of intense absorption and huge enjoyment, named by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a renowned professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University, California.


Flow leads to greater happiness.

Csikszentmihalyi discovered that happiness is not a fixed state but can be developed as we learn to achieve flow in our lives.

His decades of studies have shown that when flow experiences occur, we feel happy and satisfied in the short-term; the stronger the flow experience is, the happier and more satisfied we feel. Over time, when we experience flow more frequently, we become generally happier in the long-term.


A Flow Experience

Laura loves skiing. She is standing on the top of a mountain trail. It's a black diamond slope. She's done it before, but she has never done it well. This time, however, she wants to push her limit. She takes a deep breath, shuts off that little voice in her head, and skis down. Laura shifts her weight at the right moment and maintains her balance well. Everything seems to have gone quiet; she doesn't even feel the blustery wind, she only sees the trail she's skiing down. It’s just her and the trail. She makes each turn perfectly and conquers every mogul effortlessly. She feels in complete control, flowing down the slope like a pro. She's finally done it. All those expensive skiing lessons were worth every penny. All the pain and effort hasn’t discouraged her but has only built her resilience. Laura feels ecstatic, vindicated, and satisfied. She's just experienced flow!


Stretching the limit of the body and mind is essential to experience flow.

Not everything we love to do will give us that flow experience. Researchers have found that a flow experience arises when our body or mind is stretched to its limits to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Csikszentmihalyi pointed out that there is a balance between the challenge of an activity and the skill we have in performing it.


Feeling relaxed is not the same as experiencing flow.

Relaxing activities, such as watching TV, help us to unwind, but those activities don't provide a challenge to our body or mind. We can rest on a couch and spend an entire day flipping through a stack of colorful fashion magazines, but at the end of the day, we still won't have a flow experience.


Not all challenging activities are deemed suitable.

Video games are considered competitive and challenging games. But Csikszentmihalyi said that these kinds of flow activities can easily become addictive, which ultimately results in further unhappiness. Playing video games may be an option, but it needs to be paired with strict self-discipline.


Flow-producing activities are aplenty.

We are more likely to experience flow in physical activities, hobbies, or social interactions that involve using our skills or provide a rich sensory experience. Also, the activity must be challenging enough so that we don't get bored while doing it, but the challenge cannot be too far beyond our capacity that we get overwhelmed by anxiety.

For example, you may love skiing, but skiing on a kid’s learning slope is not going to give you a flow experience. However, when you win a tennis game against someone who is slightly more skillful than you are, you feel more satisfied than just winning.

Sports are the most popular activities for producing flow. We don't necessarily have to take on a new sport. Even during a workout we do daily, like an evening run, we can turn it up a notch to make it more challenging. Set a higher bar on the time or the distance. Practice relentlessly and push the limits without fear. When we reach the goal, there is a flow experience.


Experience flow at work!

Surprisingly, work can also produce flow. More surprisingly, flow occurs more frequently at work than in leisure!

In a landmark study carried out in 1989 by Csikszentmihalyi at the University of Chicago, flow-producing situations occurred more than three times as often while people were at work than in their leisure time.

Researchers suggest that we try to look for moments of engagement and satisfaction on the job, rather than thinking about the drudgery and obligation of the job. This can help us find moments of flow and happiness at work.

Whether it is a paid job in a company or an unpaid job at home, we all have a job. But not all of us are excited about our jobs every day. Some of us get Monday blues, while some feel less motivated by the unavoidable mundane tasks. If we can recognize moments of job satisfaction including those which were previously overlooked and find ways to repeat flow, it can be a game-changer to our happiness.

Who feels happy about taking a heavy basket of laundry walking up two flights of stairs from the basement? But if we give this mundane task a twist and turn it into a weight loss workout, we'd feel differently about it. Instead of carrying an entire load of laundry in one trip, make multiple trips and carry a lighter basket each time. When we jump on a weighing scale and see it flashing a lighter weight, that's a magic moment!

We can take an extra step to help us feel better and more positive at work. Start the day right with rose hydration. After a long night's sleep, our bodies need hydration, and our minds need awakening. Add a serving of ECOMAAT La Vie en Rose Drops to a glass of water. No stirring is required. The drops instantly dissolve in water. Sip and inhale to nourish and hydrate the body from the inside out and wake up the mind with the fresh smell of roses. Enjoy it as your very first drink of the day before coffee to feel the results.


Summary: Four Key Elements of a Flow-Producing Activity

A flow-producing activity is something:

1.  we love doing.
2.  requiring a challenge to our skills.
3.  involving considerable effort but not an overwhelming amount.
4.  we won’t get addicted to.


    Final Thoughts

    A flow experience leads to increased happiness in both the short-term and the long-term. Although flow doesn't just happen, we have to work harder than usual to reach that optimal state of intense absorption and huge enjoyment. In our first team meeting of this year, we looked back and recognized the magic moments when "everything clicked", we enjoyed them so much that we felt the extra effort in making flow happen was all worthwhile. Happiness "flows"!

    If you feel happier after trying out these tips, please share this article. Spreading happiness is a great feeling too. We continue to search for science-based information about happiness. If you want to share some news with us or tell us how we can improve, we'd love to hear from you!

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