Brain Byte: Get Your Brain FLOW On!

 

Psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi wanted to know why so many people were so unhappy.  For twenty five years he interviewed hundreds of people all over the world, from all walks of life – artists, athletes, chess masters, janitors, and more.  He asked them to recall their happiest moments and to describe what brought those moments about.

Csikszentmihalyi found that the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.  The experiences may not have been fully pleasant at the time for example the swimmer’s muscles may have ached during his most memorable race, his lungs may have felt like exploding, and he may have been dizzy with fatigue-yet these could have been the best moments of his life.

This research lead to the writing of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi calls this sort of peak experience the flow state.  He determined that flow occurs when we are absorbed in an activity that is neither too easy for us nor too difficult. If it’s to easy, we become bored.  If it’s too hard, we become anxious.

According to The Einstein Factor by Win Wenger and Richard Poe, Flow builds brainpower.  Scientists have found that pleasure is a key ingredient in building brainpower.  We learn far more from mental exercises when we enjoy them.  Likewise, Csikszentmihalyi found that our minds grow in complexity the longer we remain in flow.

Generally we move in and out of flow without even knowing it.  It can happen when you fall into a rhythm while practicing your tennis strokes against a wall.  It can happen when you walk down the street and find yourself so absorbed by the beautiful, crisp sunlight on the buildings that you forget all your troubles.  It comes when you are playing with your kids or enjoying a special moment with the love of your life.

 

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