This morning I woke up early to spend some time in my garden. We’ve had blisteringly hot weather over the last week, and I find that I have to water twice a day to keep my flowers and vegetables from looking as droopy and wilted as I feel in 100+ degree temperatures. The garden is the place where I frequently find myself getting lost in the simplicity of watering, pulling weeds, digging or pruning. The harder I work, the more satisfied I become. Time passes without me being aware of it, and before I know it, hours have gone by. I find my attention focused in, laser sharp, on the aphids I discovered on the back of a maple leaf or the new fiddlehead that has emerged from the ferns I planted. In the garden, I reliably feel a deep sense of exhilaration, enjoyment, and connection to nature – in short, I’m happy!
Psychologist Mikhaly Csikszentmihalyi has a name for this state of full engagement – flow. In his book, Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience, Csikszentmihalyi proposes that happiness is found when we become fully involved in the details of our lives and invest our attention and energy toward accomplishing goals of our own choice. In flow, even hard work and boring routines can become enjoyable because they help us organize our lives and focus our thoughts.
When have you experienced flow? Can you recreate that experience?