Psychologists have many thoughts on happiness, and the habits and activities of those who portray it more strongly than others. Most universities offer an entire course on the subject, The Science of Happiness. One commonly used term by psychologists when discussing a habit of happiness is flow.
Flow or getting ‘in the zone’ is when an activity takes you out of your own head and pulls your attention to the present moment. This usually can be brought out when playing sports, participating in creative arts, having conversations with friends, and engagement in your work. “You know you are in flow when you are so engaged in the moment that you don’t even notice the time going by,” explains Dr. Chris Aiken, instructor in Clinical Psychiatry at Wake Forest and Director of Mood Treatment Center.
The bottom line is that being actively involved in reaching a goal, or participating in an activity that is challenging but suited to a personal skill brings about a joyful state that increases overall happiness.
A leading expert in the concept of flow is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Positive psychologist pioneering the work for understanding happiness. His TED talk on the subject titled, “Flow, the secret to happiness” discusses what exactly it is that makes us happy. Csikszentmihalyi’s theory is that people are at their happiest when in a state of flow. He claims that when in a state of flow, temporal concerns such as time, food, ego-self, etc. are ignored.
He has characterized nine components of achieving flow including immediate and unambiguous feedback, concentration on the task, paradox of control, challenge-skill balance, merging of action and awareness, transformation of time, autotelic experience, and loss of self-consciousness.
So, to be a happy human, find work or an activity meaningful to you. An activity that gets you ‘in the zone’ or brings about a state of flow. Pleasure and satisfaction come from a state of productivity, where an activity brings you out of your own head and lets you enjoy the moment at hand.