- Flow is a concept in positive psychology that refers to a state of being completely concentrated on the task at hand.
- Artists and athletes are known for entering flow, as they often “lose” themselves in their work, whether they’re painting a masterpiece or getting in the zone during a game.
- Those who experience flow typically experience a lack of self-consciousness and an inability to gauge the time; they also find the moment incredibly rewarding.
- If you want to experience flow yourself, you should take on a task, of which you are skilled in and is equally challenging; as flow occurs when high challenge meets high skill.
- Flow offers great benefits: from a feeling of fulfillment to a decrease in stress, reduced anxiety, greater happiness, and overall improved wellbeing.
Have you ever gotten lost in an activity? Perhaps you were painting a beautiful canvas for your new room or maybe you were reading one of your favorite books—and you got so caught up in it that you forgot about everything else. You didn’t think about work or chores. You didn’t look at the clock. You didn’t even check your phone… not once. Instead, you were completely transfixed in a state of being called flow.
What is flow?
Flow is an important concept in the realm of positive psychology, one that refers to a specific state we enter when we’re intensely focused on the task at hand. Upon entering this state, we often lose track of time, even for several hours.
Artists and athletes are known to experience this state most often—musicians, writers, football players, dancers lose themselves in their work. And during this process, they experience the following:
- Intense focus in the current moment.
- Being fully present in the experience.
- A lack of self-consciousness.
- A sense of personal control over the situation.
- Inability to gauge how much time has passed.
- Thoroughly enjoying the experience.
How can I achieve flow?
Anybody can achieve this state of complete immersion. You just have to ensure the right variables are in place. More specifically, you should be highly skilled in the task at hand and equally challenged. Think about a ballerina: she enters flow when she’s performing because that’s when her talents meet their challenge. She’s extremely skilled in her field, but faces the challenge of nailing every move and wowing the crowd.
Now, you obviously don’t have to be a gifted ballerina to enter a state of flow. If you’re trying to achieve flow, first think about what you’re good at and what you enjoy. Are you a writer? Do you like to draw? Is there a sport you’re particularly good at? Once you’ve picked an activity, identify a challenge. If you’re a writer, your challenge might be to write a new chapter for your book before the night is over. If you like to draw, your challenge could be to finish a sketch for your best friend’s Christmas present. Likewise, if you’re a soccer player, your challenge could be to make 35 goals before leaving the field.
Why is flow beneficial?
If you’ve ever experienced flow, then you’ve experienced some of the great benefits yourself. When you’re immersed in your chosen activity, you’re rewarded with a feeling of fulfillment. You have a purpose. You’re also freed from worries about the past or the future, as you turn your attention to only the present moment. Additionally, when you exit flow, you feel happier than when you entered it. And you even finetune your craft during your immersion—you know what they say: practice makes perfect. So, in summary, flow gifts you with the following:
- Purpose and fulfillment
- Stress reduction
- Decreased anxiety
- Greater happiness
- Improved wellbeing
If you’ve never experienced flow, it is well worth the effort. You’ll likely never understand what it’s like to be truly immersed in the moment until you do—and you won’t get to capitalize on these benefits until you make it happen!