The bliss of flow activities

Who among us would not like to have the ability to stop time? This theme appears in many movies and books – the hero claps his hands or presses a button on the magic remote control, and the entire environment stops moving. Time has stopped. You can use it in any way you can control it, instead of watching it leaking through your fingers.

For everyone who dreams of such supernatural abilities, Professor Mihály Csíkszentmihályi has good news. It is true that time cannot be stopped, but you can feel as if it stopped or even ceased to exist. We know from our own experience that clock hands, while objectively moving still at the same speed, in our subjective feeling can run like crazy or on the contrary – drag at a snail’s pace. There are, however, such moments when we get absorbed in a particular action so that the clock and the passage of time that indicates completely disappear from our consciousness. It is only after some time that we suddenly realize that it is so late, and it would seem that only a moment has passed. Csíkszentmihályi describes this state as “flow” and suggests that only flow gives us a real sense of happiness.

Find your flow
The theory of flow, formulated by the psychology professor Csíkszentmihályi, says that a state of full commitment, when we are completely absorbed in a task or activity, is a kind of pass to psychological well-being. In other words – happiness. This state he describes as flow, which we can translate literally, as “flow”, or more loftyly: “winging” or “sensation of elation”.

This is a state known to artists and athletes. Painter or poet, absorbed in creation to such an extent that he forgets to eat and sleep, a paraglider or mountaineer who experiences euphoria while realizing new challenges. Fortunately, flow can also be found in everyday, ordinary or even seemingly boring everyday activities.

Where to look?
The trick is to discover activities that give us wings and activities that engage us completely. When we experience a flow, we get carried away by the activity we perform, we devote all our thoughts to it at a given moment, and other matters go to a distant, very distant plan. We do not do the task with the reward in mind, but action is a source of happiness because it allows us to break away from the earth.

What can make us completely forget about the world around us? This is a very individual matter. There are people who need strong sensations and therefore passionately engage in various types of extreme sports, because only this allows them to “break away from the ground” – literally and figuratively. For others, playing an instrument, running or planting flowers is enough to “float away”. Psychologists have found that monoamine oxidase, or MAO for short, is responsible for this. Its level in our body is genetically determined. The less we have it, the more we want strong impressions and are willing to take risks. It is this enzyme that contributes to the breakdown of dopamine, giving energy to seek pleasure and enjoy them.

What do you think can be your flow activity? One of mine is simply going to the beach and listen to sounds of waves. Discover your flow today!