What Makes Life Worth Living? State of "Flow" Explained

Oct 14, 2013 -

Where in Everyday Life Do We Feel Most Happy? 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a famous psychologist, published several findings on this concept of flow. Essentially it's a mental state whereby you are fully immersed in an activity so much so that you feel energized and enjoyment.

According to Mihaly, the nervous system can only process about 110 bits of information at one time. To give you some perspective, in order to hold a conversation with someone you need about 60 bits of information. That is precisely why it is difficult to listen to two people at once because you need approximately 120 bits of information.

What happens to those individuals in "flow" states is that they don't have enough attention to monitor how their bodies are feeling including whether or not they are hungry or tired. The body disappears from the consciousness because to really do well on the task at hand requires a lot of concentration.

A poet described being in flow in the below excerpt:
It's like opening a door that's' floating in the middle of nowhere and all you have to do is go and turn the handle and open it and let yourself sink into it. You cant particularly force yourself through it. You just have to float. If there's any gravitational pull, its from the outside world trying to keep you back from the door.

What does it feel like to be in "flow"?
1) Completely involved in what you are doing - focused and concentrated
2) Sense of ecstasy of being outside everyday reality
3) Great inner clarity - knowing what needs to be done and how well we are doing
4) Know that the activity is doable - skills are adequate
5) Sense of serenity - no worries about oneself - feeling of being part of something larger
6) Timeless- focused on present hours seems to pass like minutes
7) Intrinsic motivation - whatever produces flow becomes its own reward.

How do I enter flow?
Being in flow really results from doing what you really enjoy. The trick is to find an activity that balances being challenging and also uses your available skills. Too challenging a task relative to your skill set will lead you to feeling anxious and overwhelmed. However, to dull of a task relative to your skill set and you will feel bored and apathetic.

Apathy is where most people's state of mind lands throughout the day. Not surprisingly, watching television and sitting in the bathroom results in an apathetic mental state. It's the state where the task on hand does not require a lot of skill and is not challenging. 

The balance is between arousal and control. The state of arousal is where most people learn the most because that's where they are pushed out of their boundaries. Control is good because that's where you feel you understand things and there is a sense of skill involved, but its not extremely challenging. Put the two together and you have flow.

The question we should all be asking ourselves is how can I put more "flow" in my everyday life. The answer is to immerse yourself in the things you enjoy and constantly challenge yourself. 
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