In his TED talk, world-famous Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life worth living?” He emphasizes that money (and holiday presents, and external praise) cannot make us happy, and he has studied individuals who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state that he has called “flow.”
The discipline of positive psychology holds that flow—which is sometimes called “being in the zone”—is the state of mind in which you’re totally consumed in an activity, not to achieve perfection but just to enjoy it for its own sake. You feel an alert and energized focus, which brings about an experience of completely enjoying what you’re doing. It’s like the activity absorbs your attention, and you feel confident that you can succeed. You may even forget where you are and what time it is.
- Have you ever worked out just to enjoy the feeling of your body pushing its boundaries?—that’s flow.
- Have you ever drawn a picture or sung a song, just to enjoy the colors or the sound of your voice?—that’s flow.
- Have you ever played a video game that’s slightly above your level of ability, and been completely engaged in solving the problems it presents?—that’s flow.
It feels super positive—and anyone can enter this state!
Now that we’re entering the holiday season, we may have some spare time to spend in positive flow activities:
- Decorating your house or your room, and enjoying the sparkle of the lights and ornaments.
- Walking the dog, practicing yoga, or going to the gym, and enjoying the feeling of the blood flowing through your body.
- Praying or meditating, specifically about the idea of being at one with all people and things in the world. (This one may take some practice!—but it’s worth it.)
What activity has made you feel like you are “in the zone”? How would you describe that state?