“Flow in happiness”

“Flow in happiness”

For two hours members of the Book Club are focused and absorbed in the presentation and discussion of the specific book. Most members state that this activity is one of the most enjoyable experiences they have besides reading a book by themselves. The ensuing discussions are animated, excited as the minds are absorbed in listening, interpreting, and gaining knowledge. Members feel that the two hours just ‘flow’ and that it is a great experience! It is a joyful intellectual pursuit for many who love reading, writing, philosophy, science and books.

This optimal experience of flow can be attained by any activity, whether it is physical activity, such as, yoga, exercising, swimming, diving, rock climbing, walking, jogging, cricket, dancing, singing, and the likes. For others the flow experience could be through their senses, such as, seeing and creating good visuals that give a great aesthetic experience; or listening and creating terrific sounds of music for different moods and varying occasions; or experiencing the joys of cooking or tasting different foods and drinks.

An eminent psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in his revolutionary book “Flow: The classic work on how to achieve happiness”, explains how this state can be achieved by each one as we all have the potential to do so in all areas of life- work, love and relationships. This is an optimal experience that leads to joy, happiness, and creativity. This ultimately enhances your quality of life and gives meaning and significance to your existence. This state of flow is experienced by almost all people at some point of time in their lives. It could be during any sort of activity that totally engrosses the mind with rapt attention leaving you feeling happy and contented. My young niece then popped in and said ‘what if someone thoroughly enjoys smoking, alcohol or drugs, will it still be called flow’? According to Mihaly, the flow activity in the long run should lead to enhancement and evolution of the person and not to entropy or destruction of the self, which makes the case clearer.

During career guidance sessions the one most important question we necessarily ask students is ‘what are those activities that you love doing which make your lose track of your time’? ‘What is that one thing that you can do for the rest of your life without getting bored’?  Many students come with wrong ideas of acquiring degrees in engineering, medicine, law and chartered accountancy without knowing exactly what they love doing. They might realise that what they actually love is creative writing, cooking, designing or being a motivational speaker and that is nowhere connected with the degrees they were planning for.

Many people may love their daily routines and are happy with it. Take for example a home-maker: she gets up early, makes innovative lunch boxes for her husband and children, settles down with her stitching work and embroidery, again gets to cooking tea time snacks and dinner for her family and ends the day by reading a book of her choice. She takes her breaks in between and meets up with her friends and relatives for whom also she frisks up some food /delicacy and takes it for them. She loves her routine, feels no sense of boredom and enjoys being a home-maker. I have watched my parents year after year and they have maintained the same routine of waking up early, doing their respective daily chores and sleeping on time without complaining of any boredom! I also realise that they do their work with full attention and to the point of perfection! It speaks of fantastic self discipline.

The attainment of such a state of mind requires many personality qualities: it requires clear goals of achievement, development of the necessary skills needed for the attainment of goals, high levels of self discipline and commitment in pursuing the goals, total control of their psychic energies by paying full attention and concentration, and a sense of satisfaction and enjoyment of their experience in their work. It also requires the ability to find opportunities in challenging and adverse conditions of life and give meaning to it.

The iconic police officer Kiran Bedi, was known to have the capacity to take up the challenges of unwanted postings/transfers to difficult places in her career, and convert them into opportunities for good work and achievement. Great political personalities who have spent their prime years in prisons have produced some terrific creations of art like books and poems in spite of living in inhuman conditions. In contrast we may witness many who would get stressed under adverse situations and fall prey to mental or physical illness as they find themselves deficient in coping with harsh realities thus becoming victims.

Some families provide this experience of joy and happiness to their children by structuring their activities in tune with their talents and setting challenging goals thus helping their kids in developing healthy traits. Some parents don’t foster such ideas. We realise that experiences of flow do not require great amount of wealth, education, intelligence, or any such material conditions for it can be experienced in any condition. What it requires is a mind and the development of a personality that has the ability to transform the boring and meaningless existence to one of creativity and ecstasy.

Happiness is the peak of mental health and hence represents the brightest shade – white.

Published in The Hitavada on 29 May 2016.


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