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Creative “Flow” is a Real Thing

Techniques/ Tips

Creative “Flow” is a Real Thing

Have you ever gotten so consumed in an activity – whether it be writing, photography, or an intellectually stimulating discussion with friends – that you completely lost yourself in the moment? Time seemed to evaporate and before you could blink, it was 4:00 a.m. as you stepped out of the matrix and snapped back into the reality that you had to wake up for work in three hours.

This phenomenon of total emersion in a creative activity is what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has dubbed “flow” – the antidote to the mundane. Csikszentmihalyi explained during a 2004 TED talk that when you are involved in a creative activity, “You forget yourself. You feel part of something larger.”

So, “flow” sounds great right? The question you’re probably asking is: “Where can I find me some?”

Psychology Today reports that studies utilizing the Experiencing Sampling Method, or ESM, found that flow “generally occurs when a person is doing his or her favorite activity,” the key word being activity, as “very rarely do people report flow in passive leisure activities, such as watching television.”

In his book, The Flow Experience and Human Psychology, Csikszentmihalyi wrote that flow is “obtain[ed] when all the contents of consciousness are in harmony with each other and with the goals that define the person’s self,” stating, “these are the subjective conditions we call pleasure, happiness, satisfaction, and enjoyment.”

A recent study from the University of Otago in New Zealand analyzed daily creative practices compared with the emotional well being of 658 university students. The research concluded that “spending time on creative goals during a day is associated with higher positive affect on that day.” And, in contrast to the popular belief that one must be mad in order to be a creative genius, “research suggests that creativity stems from a place of positivity for most people.”

This then raises the question, what comes first, happiness or flow? According to Csikszentmihalyi, “the happiness that follows flow is of our own making, and it leads to increasing complexity and growth in consciousness.”

Whatever your preferred creative activity may be – sculpting, auxiliary exercise, or if you’re one of the lucky ones who can find flow at work – engage in your art daily and others will marvel at your energy and joie de vivre. Need some inspiration? Duggal offers free flow daily on Instagram.