Live the Flow experience and pursue your happiness by doing so

We are all trying to create and secure conditions in which we can experience some of the most joyful moments of our lives.

What is flow experience like?

Participants in various psychological studies characterised the perfect or optimal experience as if they were taken by a flow. Here, by “flow” we mean experiencing moments when we are fully engaged in the activity we are doing at the time. Without conscious effort, we get lost in the present moment in a spontaneous way. We ignore all external distractions, forget about our problems and worries and even pay no attention to our hunger, thirst or fatigue.

Though this flow can be created through a wide range of various activities, the personal experiences described by for example chess players, rock climbers or dancers are still very similar. Singing, playing sports, creating a sculpture or scientific research can all trigger the above experience.

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What conditions can ensure the occurrence of flow experience?

Research indicates that for flow experience one needs to achieve efficiency and exercise control. This means the phenomenon in question can occur during activities motivated by factors outside the person as well, for instance at work. Imagine you undertake a task, get involved in it, then the activity can spontaneously become interesting for you as you keep getting immediate feedback from it, you realise clear, new goals or continuously develop your skills by doing it. Here the conditions are all favourable.

Flow experience can occur when the challenge provided by the activity and our abilities are in balance. A sense of control is experienced, when regardless of the challenge, we can still accomplish the task with full concentration and by dedicating all our close and undivided attention to it. Thus, we do not have surplus psychic energy left to deal with the self, and as self-awareness decreases, the activity becomes almost automatic. The sense of time alters too: suddenly time is not passing by as usual, which is an essential element of joy.

Such an activity becomes autotelic that we do for the sheer pleasure of the activity itself, that is so enjoyable and rewarding that we want to repeat it as soon as possible.

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How can we support a happier life by flow experience?

By exercising flow experience, an action originally performed for external reasons or benefits can be reckoned as a reward in itself. Instead of for defeating an opponent, dazzling an audience or meeting an obligation, we can do it just for fun. Boredom, apathy and anxiety can be replaced by the joy of creativity, discovery and improving performance. 

Frequent experiences of the flow phenomenon lead to higher levels of self-esteem, psychological well-being and life satisfaction.

Flow experience is independent of social status, gender or age, which means that given the same circumstances, presumably, we can enjoy the same experience anywhere in the world. However, the frequency of experiencing it varies individually. People who often have flow experience are characterised by flexible self-regulation. They are able to flexibly switch from one way of thinking to another or change attitudes, successfully adapting to the given situation. Sometimes exercising acceptance, distance and discipline is the right path, other times, taking balance and the environment into consideration, control, change, enthusiasm and playfulness are the ones to choose.

By being aware of the conditions enabling flow experience, we can actively broaden, shape and control our inner experiences in order to strive for happiness.

If you are interested in reading more about self-knowledge and self-development, read our new article about “coping”.


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