Flow to Health and Happiness

Dec 18, 2008

Fitness Handout

Have you ever found yourself in a state of complete absorption in a complex and challenging activity that stretches your skills? This wonderful state is called flow, and is described in the best-selling book Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, PhD (Basic Books 1997). Csikszentmihalyi believes that being in flow generates the peak experiences in our lives. The more flow we experience, he suggests, the happier we are.

Below, learn why flow is so important and how you can increase flow experiences in your life from Coach Meg (Margaret Moore), MBA, founder and chief executive officer of Wellcoaches® Corp. and co-founder of the McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School Coaching and Positive Psychology Initiative and annual coaching conference.

How Do You Know When You’re in Flow?

When you’re in flow, you don’t think about yourself and you aren’t distracted or fretting. You’re intently focused. You feel fully alive, awake, energized and present. You take risks. You lose your sense of time, and you notice your bodily functions (hunger, thirst) less than usual. You don’t particularly notice your emotions. You feel uplifted when the flow experience ends. Flow experiences are great, not just good or “business as usual.”

The Benefits of Flow

How does being in flow help you? Csikszentmihalyi’s extensive research has shown that boosting flow in our lives has many benefits:

  • more life engagement

  • more life satisfaction

  • better quality of life

  • more positive emotions

  • more resources

  • more self-esteem

How to Find Flow

Use the following steps to guide yourself toward more and better flow experiences:

Assess and Discover Your Flow Experiences. Stop, think, identify and list the flow experiences in your life today—both at work and in your personal life. When do you lose yourself in an activity that uses your skills beautifully and leaves you energized when it’s done? Also, what are your best skills? The higher the level of your skills, the better the quality of a potential flow experience can be. Then think about all the ways you currently use your strengths in your work life and your personal life. When do you use these strengths in ways that are so completely absorbing that you lose yourself and time?

Make Today’s Flow Experiences Better. Set your stresses and strains aside so that you fully enjoy those activities that generate flow in your life. Before starting them, take a few moments to reflect on and connect with their higher purpose. If anxiety arises because an activity is too challenging, set yourself a slightly lower challenge. You can also try to find new flow experiences. Look for new and creative ways to engage your strengths.

IDEA Fitness Journal , Volume 6, Issue 1

© 2009 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

1 Comment

  • Log In to Comment
  • User

    Yes! I like the new newsletter. I first discovered 'flow' as a boy skating, then later while running long distances and still later as the leader of various groups.
    Commented Jan 01, 2012

Trending Articles

Eight Fascinating Facts About Fascia

Fascia has been enjoying the limelight in the fitness industry as one of the hottest topics in recent conference programming, workshops and ...

Nutrition Strategies for Stress and Pain Management

Stress and pain diminish quality of life for millionsofAmericansandcostbillionsin healthcare expenses and lost wages.

Cardio and Creative Core

Group fitness participants can’t seem to get enough of creative core and cardiovascular exercises. If you need innovative ideas to cha...

Wake Up Your Glutes!

It’s a sad fact of modern life that the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the body, often becomes inhibited and “turns off.” Ironically, this inhibition can be the culprit behin...

Concurrent Training Can Jeopardize Strength Gains

A lot of people do concurrent training— cardio and strength training within the same session—because it seems to achieve multiple goals at the same time. It’s also a proven fat-burne...

Sample Class: Farmhand Fitness

Several years ago, I attended an IDEA World Fitness Convention™ session led by Michol Dalcourt, director of the Institute of Motion. D...

A Back-Pain Solution

Starting with the basics. Personal trainer Jamal Younis first met 38-year-old Jessica in August 2014. Jessica, a former competitive collegia...

Playing Hurt

When Gray Cook was a high-school athlete, his coaches would comment, “That Gray Cook sure can play hurt.” He had over 20 fractures before he was 18, what with his love of football and moto...

Excessive Thoracic Kyphosis: More Than Just Bad Posture

Excessive thoracic kyphosis (ETK) is a disproportionate forward rounding or curvature of the middle and upper back, also known as the thorac...

Functional Strength Training Combinations

Functional training essentially involves moving the body through different planes of motion while working multiple muscle groups and challenging balance. This Add It Up! strategy includes an upper-bod...

Next