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Have you experienced times when we were completely absorbed in a task, lost track of time, and felt a sense of accomplishment when you finished it? This state of complete immersion in an activity is called the flow state. The concept of flow was first introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (a.k.a. The Father of Flow), a renowned psychologist who devoted his life to answering one simple question: “What constitutes a happy life?”. The flow state can manifest in different aspects of our lives, namely hobbies and work, and we need both of these types of flow to optimise our resilience and performance.


What is The Flow State?

According to Csikszentmihalyi, the flow state is a state of mind where individuals are completely absorbed in an activity, to the point where they lose track of time and space. They are fully engaged in what they are doing, and their focus is so intense that they might even forget about everything else. In this state, individuals experience a sense of control over their actions and a feeling of satisfaction that comes from achieving a goal. Csikszentmihalyi’s research has shown that the flow state is associated with positive emotions, improved performance, and increased creativity.

This might sound very similar to harmonious passion or even the relationship between stress and productivity which we have discussed in previous blogs. You would be right in thinking so, as many of these positive psychology concepts go hand-in-hand: they provide senses of meaning, purpose, and belonging. Some might even argue that harmonious passion is the gateway to the flow state!

“The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile”

– Csikszentmihalyi, 1990


Two Types of Flow: Work Flow and Hobby Flow

The sense of accomplishment that comes from being in the flow state is a powerful motivator that drives us to work even harder and achieve even more. There are two main types of flow state that we should keep in our lives: work flow and hobby flow. We need both of these types of flow to gain fulfillment and bolster our resilience. The positive psychology and resilience we get from these flow states allow us to remain satisfied and confident in ourselves, which feeds directly into our work productivity. The diagram below illustrates these relationships.

flow state relationship with resilience and work performance

When engaging in hobbies or activities that we are passionate about, we often experience a unique type of flow state. This form of flow arises from activities that we enjoy purely for the sake of enjoyment and personal fulfillment. This makes up a huge part of our overall lifestyle too, where we can fulfil important positive psychology needs such as feelings of accomplishment, mastery of a skill, and even a sense of belonging. Whether it’s playing a musical instrument, painting, gardening, or sports, the flow state in this context is characterized by a deep sense of enjoyment, intrinsic motivation, and a focus on the process rather than the outcome.

Similar to harmonious passion, the flow state arises in our work environment when we are engaged in tasks that align with our interests and skills. It occurs when we are faced with challenges that are within our capabilities, allowing us to concentrate fully on the task at hand. During the flow state at work, we may experience a deep sense of focus, clear goals, a feeling of control over our work, and a lack of self-consciousness.


How Can We Access Our Flow State?

Accessing the flow state is not always easy, but there are a few things we can do to increase our chances of experiencing it.

  • Doing activities or hobbies that we enjoy and are challenging enough to keep us engaged.
  • Set clear goals for ourselves and focus on the process rather than the outcome.
  • Remove distractions, such as turning off our phones or closing our email, can also help us stay focused.
  • Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques can help us become more aware of our thoughts and emotions, which can make it easier to enter a state of flow.
  • Avoid things like alcohol and tobacco that can negatively affect brain function and emotions.

The flow state is a powerful state of mind that can significantly boost our quality of life, resilience, and performance. If you want to learn more about how you or your colleagues can build healthy habits and improve positive psychology to access the flow state, get in contact with our friendly team today!

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