Flow activities are the ones that make you the happiest. Think of activities like making art or cooking.
But instead, you spend more of your free time on passive activities, like watching tv or Facebooking.
Why are you not doing what you know makes you happy?
There are uncountable definitions of happiness. Generally, there are two prominent modern definitions.
- Hedonic Theory. It focuses on pleasure vs. displeasure, arguing that in order to maintain positive well-being, or overall happiness, individuals should work to experience more gratification than pain.
- Eudaimonic Theory. Our happiness is dependent on our ability to live in accordance with our authentic self as we strive for perfection and the Aristotelian idea of human flourishing.
Flow Activities vs Passive Activities
So why are you not doing what you know makes you happy?
Because ‘Flow’ activities require clear rules, challenge, a high investment of energy. Even if they have been shown to promote long-term happiness better than low investment, passive activities.
This suggests a paradox.
The Paradox of happiness
In two studies, researchers L. Parker Schiffer and Tomi-Ann Roberts at the Claremont Graduate University and Colorado College, conducted a survey of about 300 people. They found out that people don’t know how to overcome the activation energy or transition costs required to pursue true enjoyment.
Techniques that could help reduce the initial effort required to get into a flow activity
1. Try to ease the physical transition into flow activities.
In the case of exercising, a useful practice could be to place workout clothes out the night before. You can also pick a gym that is close by.
2. Controlled consciousness.
In Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience Csikszentmihalyi defines controlled consciousness as the ability to govern the direction of our attention – may provide help in surmounting the intimidation that appears to come with engagement in flow activities.
But gaining dominion over consciousness is no easy task.
Methods like meditation and mindfulness have been empirically shown to aid the practice of controlled consciousness. Perhaps mindfulness interventions could enable people to attend to the enjoyable features of flow activities, and disregard or discount the physical and psychological transitions involved in initiating these activities.
One mindfulness intervention that might help involves harnessing psychological momentum via ‘SMART’ goal tasks (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-related).