Flow the Psychology of Happiness

08 June, 2015

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Hungarian researcher) has worked on our understanding of happiness, creativity, human fulfilment and the concept of “flow”. “Flow” happens when heightened focus happens when a person is totally immersed in activities such as art, play and work. People said that they were often happiest when they were doing something when they were at work (“flow”). “Flow” happens when a person’s strengths and skills are most challenged.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied the lives of people and “flow” experiences for over 30 years. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi noticed that most people live their lives at two extremes-they are either stressed with their work or they are bored with activities like watching TV outside of their work.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said that “flow” experiences need not be pleasurable eg. solving a difficult problem at work. He noticed that when we do “flow” activities we don’t notice the time passing, we lose consciousness of ourselves and we have deep, effortless involvement in what we are doing and these activities often produce a feeling of gratification and researchers often call these experiences “gratifications” to distinguish them from pleasures. Gratifications affect our mood for longer and happiness levels than pleasures which seem to be more fleeting.

The yoga tradition of meditation and mindfulness have at their core the training of the mind to produce effortless absorption in what we do. They both put a lot of emphasis in being present in your life and being in the now.

“Flow” is the opposite to negative emotional states. One of the symptoms of depression (a negative emotional state) is self absorption which is turn makes a person produce more feelings of hopelessness and more sadness.