FLOW – One Antidote to Stress

In his book “Flow” – The Psychology of Happiness”, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi talks about the experience of flow. The characteristics of flow experiences are that people typically feel strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious and at the peak of their abilities. Emotional problems seem to disappear and there is an exhilarating feeling of transcendence.

While they are performing such activities, they may have the experience of “losing time”. When they have completed the activity, they may be surprised at how long the activity has taken and they will feel refreshed and re-energised. Most people achieve “flow” by accident in their life.

Flow can be purposely achieved; the phenomenology of enjoyment has eight major components:

  1. The experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing.
  2. We must be able to concentrate on what we are doing.
  3. The concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals.
  4. The task provides immediate feedback.
  5. We act with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.
  6. Enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions.
  7. Concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experienced is over.
  8. The sense of duration of times is altered. Hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out seem like hours.

The combination of all these elements causes a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding that people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it. This is a powerful form of mindfulness.

Barbara Claire Dickson, M. A. P. S. P. R. A.