Take a moment to think about the last time you got into the “flow” of something. Often described as being completely energized by and immersed in a pleasurable activity, flow is one of the primary benefits of dedicating yourself to hobbies that establish the framework of a full, rich life.
Why Flow Helps You
Positive psychologist and researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi captured the world’s attention in 2004 with a TED Talk about the power of flow, considering it “the secret to happiness” because it creates “a heightened focus and immersion in activities such as art, play, and work.”
There are numerous benefits to experiencing flow. For example, Csikszentmihalyi’s studies determined that, contrary to popular belief, “the best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times…the best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
Jeanne Nakamura, also a positive psychologist and an associate professor at Claremont Graduate University’s Quality of Life Research Center, has partnered with Csikszentmihalyi on numerous projects to continue to explore the flow concept, concluding that “a good life is one that is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.” Ultimately, this leaves us “feeling ecstatic, motivated, and fulfilled.”
Hobbies Spark the Flow of…Well, Flow!
According to Headspace, to achieve the benefits of flow, you first need to:
- Choose an activity, job, or task that is in some way meaningful to you.
- Choose a task that requires only moderate effort: not too hard or too easy.
- Choose a task you’re already good at doing.
- Have a mindset that’s “focused on the journey, not the destination. You could be an athlete focusing on the game instead of the medal, or a mountain climber focusing on the climb instead of the top view.”
Some people achieve a sense of flow through work, especially if they complete their to-do list without distractions. A hobby, on the other hand, whether something tried and true or the inkling of a new passion, provides an even more valuable outlet for you to extend into a flow state and eliminate the clutter of negative thoughts and emotions.
For example, do you remember all the unusual pastimes people engaged in during the pandemic quarantine? Sourdough bread was all the rage, as were other forms of baking. Cooking ranked high, too (with perfecting a French omelet a popular goal), as well as handcrafts such as crocheting and knitting, along with video blogs on unusual topics, reading, gardening, writing, and meditation. These hobbies provided a critical channel of release, not only because we couldn’t engage in our usual activities, but also because we desperately needed a distraction from the conflict of emotions, the upheaval in the world, and the lack of in-person contact.
The Boxhill Institute in Melbourne, Australia, points to five benefits of having a hobby (or two!) that feeds your passion and puts you in a state of positive flow:
- You dedicate more time to yourself and personal needs.
- An intentional focus on something else provides a routine opportunity to declutter your mind. Plus, some studies suggest that hobbies that involve working with your hands help alleviate anxiety, improve sleep, and reduce stress.
- Adapting exercise as a hobby enhances the physical-mental-emotional connection.
- Hobbies also expand your world by compelling you to learn new techniques, engage more in your community, and even meet different people.
- Intentional interests outside of work might actually help your career.
Some individuals have even reduced chronic pain through low-impact hobbies, because when the brain is in flow state, it releases natural “feel good” chemicals, such as dopamine and serotonin—which in turn ease anxiety, depression, and the perception of pain.
Finding Hobbies You Enjoy
Perhaps you used to hide away in a creative workshop before too many responsibilities made free time more challenging to schedule. Or maybe you’re at a place in your life when you’re ready to try new things. Fortunately, there are many ways to discover a hobby or rekindle a previous one. Write down these questions:
- What have you always wanted to do?
- What activities made you happy as a child?
- If you were to go on an adventure, what would it involve?
- When you have free time to yourself, what do you most enjoy?
- If you could take a class in anything, what would it be?
You’ll notice these questions are deliberately open-ended—this is so you can spend some time answering them without any direction and see what your instinct tells you to do. This means you’re, yes, in the flow of the exercise and will come up with something perfect for you!
Find Focus at Cottonwood Tucson
With an intention of helping you balance all aspects of your whole self, Cottonwood Tucson in southern Arizona provides progressive solutions for healing emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. To learn how you or a loved one might benefit from this approach, talk to a member of our staff today.