Getting lost in activities you love is a great happiness strategy
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Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is one of the world’s leading positive psychologists. His theory of “flow” is an incredibly important one. Csikszentmihalyi talked to painters, who became completely lost in their work. So focused on their art were they that they forgot all about anything else. As he said in his book The Evolving Self: “They forgot hunger, social obligations, time, and fatigue so that they could keep moving it along.”
Csikszentmihalyi went on to see that the mental state of flow was achieved by others, and maybe you’ve been fortunate enough to experience it yourself?
Two key factors define flow: the activity you’re undertaking needs to involve a high level of skill, and it also has to present you with significant challenges.
This makes it rather different from hyperfocus – the state often demonstrated by kids playing the type of videogame which doesn’t really require much skill or present many challenges. Note: this doesn’t mean videogames are a bad thing at all. Playing something undemanding can be a great way to relax, particularly if it’s for a reasonably defined time. And of course many games really do present challenges and demand high levels of skill.
Being in a state of flow can play a big part in building your emotional wellbeing, so there’s good value in identifying the activities which enable you to achieve it.
Three of mine are: (1) Computer programming. I don’t do a lot but generally get completely lost in the work when I do. (2) Graphic design. Generally I only stop because I have some kind of deadline to stick to. (3) Making stuff with paper and glue. This is probably why making the WellBee cards is so much fun.
So, seriously, what are yours? And even more seriously, what could you do to increase the number of times you’re able to lose yourself in them in the next week?
But do please promise me that you won’t get so carried away that you forget to eat, drink or go to bed.