Flow: What It Is and How to Find It

Healthy Mind

Flow: What It Is and How to Find It

Why do some of us stick to, and enjoy, a sport or exercise pro­gram—or, for that matter, any type of activity—while others drop out? Personality, type of activity, environment, health, and many other factors play a role. So may the intense, pleasurable state some people experience during challenging activi­ties.

This feeling of being totally focused, absorbed, and in control has been described and given various names over the centuries in different cultures. It can happen when you are running, painting, playing chess, making music, gardening, baking, or even working. Today it is often called “flow.”

Flow has received much attention since the term was coined in the early 1970s by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, now a professor of psychology and management at Clare­mont Graduate University. (Watch a TED talk by Dr. Csikszentmihalyi on flow, which he describes as “the secret to happiness”.) Csikszentmih­alyi came up with his concept while studying how artists create art and how deeply involved they are in their work. Since then, sports psychologists have studied flow in athletic endeavors. After flow is described to them, about 85 percent of people say they have experienced it, according to Csikszentmihalyi.

The name “flow” can be misleading. Flow is active. The task must involve some difficulty, stretching your physical or mental abilities. Spacing out in front of the TV is not flow. Achieving flow takes effort and concentration, although it feels effortless and relaxed.

Components of flow

  • A balance between your skills and the endeavor. That is, the task must be chal­lenging (to prevent boredom), but not too challenging (to avoid excessive anxiety or frustration).
  • Being mindful and attentive, not zoned out on automatic pilot.
  • Feeling at one with your action. Row­ers, for instance, may say that the oar feels like an extension of their arm. Basketball players may feel that the arc of the ball toward the hoop is an extension of their mind.
  • A sense of control and confidence. You know you have the skills, but there still is a challenge.
  • Having clear goals and knowing what to do to meet them. You don’t simply throw yourself into the great unknown. You use skills you understand.
  • Having clear feedback—for instance, from your body (seen in a mirror perhaps), a clock, teammates, or a trainer.
  • Heightened but relaxed concentration on the task.
  • An altered sense of time. In flow, ath­letes (or painters, dancers, or gardeners) say that time seems to slow down or speed up greatly.
  • A sense of euphoria and joy.

Bottom line: No one can experience flow in all endeavors and, indeed, striving for flow can be coun­terproductive. Instead, you achieve flow by focusing on your activity. Experiment with activities and challenge levels to find what works for you. While flow can’t be taught, you can learn to recognize it—and once you do, flow and the desire to achieve it may help motivate you and may increase the pleasures and rewards of your activities.


Follow Us


Hi! I'm Natalie and welcome to my blog.

I've been working as a weight loss specialist for over 15 years, and in that time, I've learned one thing: a healthy weight loss is the only plan that is sustainable long term. I am a big advocate of the Ketogenic diet and fasting. Both working together have great health benefits, and help with weight loss.

I have compiled in this blog articles that can help change your body completely and get to the other side of the tunnel, easily and fast.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you find something to help you along the way.



Do Wealthy People Give Less to Charity?

Do Wealthy People Give Less to Charity?

Wealthy people give more dollars to char­ity because they have more to give. But studies show that middle-class and poorer people give away higher proportions of their money. In fact, the National Center for Charita­ble Statistics finds that households earn­ing less...

read more
Do Mental Exercises Burn Calories?

Do Mental Exercises Burn Calories?

Our brain is a capacious, highly-sophisticated organ, that controls our every move, sensation, and bodily function. It's a marvel really, to think of how many neurons are ceaselessly at work to get us through the day. The brain is like a puppeteer; it manipulates our...

read more
Self-Talk Your Way to Success

Self-Talk Your Way to Success

Every so often (actually quite often), we come across studies that don’t deliver lifesaving news but nevertheless provide insights that may motivate people to change some behaviors or thought patterns in positive ways. Here’s one: Telling yourself you can do better...

read more

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This