Why does flow increase your wellbeing?

Have you ever wondered why at certain times you can get as much work done in a couple of hours and you normally would in a day? Maybe you’ve become so absorbed in a task you’ve lost all track of time, not noticed what’s going on around you or that you’re hungry and need the bathroom?

 

This is what happens when you find your ‘flow’, a phenomenon first identified and researched by Positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who describes it as “a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience is so enjoyable that people will continue to do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it” (1990).

In flow, or ‘in the zone’, you can work at peak performance, totally connected to the task at hand and unperturbed by any external factors or distractions.

Csikszentmihalyi says there are eight characteristics of flow:

  • Complete concentration on the task
  • Clarity of goals and reward in mind and immediate feedback
  • Transformation of time (speeding up/slowing down)
  • The experience is intrinsically rewarding
  • Effortlessness and ease
  • There is a balance between challenge and skills
  • Actions and awareness are merged, losing self-conscious rumination
  • There is a feeling of control over the task.

Experiencing flow can not only boost creativity and productivity, it can also have significant impacts on a person’s overall wellbeing, making them generally more happy and better able to handle any self-doubt. Improved focus and increased confidence also help to reduce anxiety and stress and are associated with improved emotional regulation.

It all sounds rather positive, doesn’t it? Well, even better, you’ll be pleased to hear you don’t have to wait around until flow decides it’s time to make its arrival. There’s plenty you can do yourself to help you find your flow more often, and the more you practice the more you’ll discover about what works for you and what doesn’t.

Here are some of our top tips for finding your flow:

  1. Have clear goals – be precise about what you want to achieve and when.
  2. Enough challenge – the task needs to be challenging enough not to be boring, but not so challenging you get overwhelmed.
  3. Believe in yourself – have the confidence that you can tackle this task yourself, you just need to get stuck into it.
  4. Make it easy to focus – remove anything you know will distract you, turn your phone off and create a calm, comfortable environment in which to work.
  5. Ritual – consider creating an ‘entering flow’ ritual to get your brain in the zone. This could involve fetching a drink, neatening your desk, putting on some ‘focus’ music and taking a few deep breaths.

And lastly, enjoy! Flow is intrinsically rewarding so make the most of each experience and take your learnings with you so you can enjoy flow and its benefits more and more often.

 

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