Happiness Strategy six: Flow
Dr Mark Atkinson
Can you think of a time in your life when you were completely immersed in the moment? Have you been so engrossed in something that you completely lost track of time? If so, you were in what the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls ‘flow’, an intense and effortless state of complete absorption with the present moment. Flow not only feels pleasurable, it also provides respite from worry, negativity, stress and chaos and is one of the keys to living a truly happy life. After a ‘flow experience’ most people report a stronger and more buoyant sense of self, plus an increasing desire to repeat the experience. This of course is extremely useful when it comes to mastering new skills and challenges. Here are two suggestions to increase flow in your life: Identify your moments in flow. Write down a list of flow experiences, for example: playing with your children, talking to your best friend, playing cards, going for a walk in the woods. Commit to doing one of these every day for at least two weeks and enjoy the results.
Engage in fun, enjoyable activities for at least 20 minutes a day.
One of the keys to accessing flow is to enjoy a particular activity for its own sake, i.e. it’s not the result that matters, but your ability to enjoy the moment with the activity. Think back over the last couple of weeks, months and years and write down a list of activities that you have really enjoyed. This can include anything from playing with your children or tending to your garden to playing cards/chess, reading a novel or cooking a meal. From this list, and using any other ideas that you might have, choose an activity that you are going to do each day.
I recommend the book Flow: The psychology of optimal experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (£14.99, Harper Perennial).
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