Flow Theory is an integral part of Positive Psychology. It refers to a zone where you lose track of time, experience yourself on “auto-pilot,” etc. We’ve all been there, and we can recreate it!
When you’re “in the zone,” or “feeling the groove,” or just “flowing,” you are in a state of balance between traits like skill and challenge. When these traits are balanced, you feel like you’re on autopilot, though fully present with what you are doing. You may even feel a sense of timelessness where you start doing something and are enjoying it so much that when you look up, hours have passed; yet it only seems like minutes. We can harness this. Learn more about this flow zone.
Mihály Csíkszentmihályi is a renown psychologist at the University of Chicago and is responsible for a way of approaching psychology involving “Flow Theory” which uses tenants of Positive Psychology as its foundation.
If you’ve ever been “In the Zone” while playing a sport, for example, or “In the Groove” while playing an instrument, or “In the Flow” while dancing or practicing Tai Chi, then you have experienced the almost timeless experience of Flow Theory. As its name suggests, it refers to a balance of qualities that leads us to feel at our very best, in a natural state of enjoyment, with seemingly minimal effort, even if great focus and ‘effort’ is required.
Flow and balanced traits
Thinking Mind and Feeling Mind
What we see here is the relationship of 2 variables, in this case, the Thinking mind and Feeling mind. Too much thinking with not enough emotion leads to anxiety/stress, whereas too much emotion with not enough thinking leads to emotional burnout. But in a happy medium, we experience the flow-state of Wise Mind.
The 2 variables can be replaced with a variety of traits that when balanced lead to different flow-like experiences.
It’s really about enjoyment
Regardless of the balanced traits, most people report that they are absolutely enjoying themselves when in the flow/zone/groove state. When you apply Flow Theory to whatever part of your life that brought you to this website, you can see the value in the simple approach of finding what areas/traits are needing some balance.
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Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s has worked in the helping profession since he started college in 1990. After completing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Texas, Austin in 1994, he attended the highly-regarded University of Minnesota to earn his Master’s degree in 1997. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is recognized as a Board Approved Supervisor by the State of Texas Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors. Jonathan has completed Level-2 of the Gottman Method of Couples Counseling, and in 1998 received training by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation in Advanced Critical Incident Stress Management & Debriefing. To learn more about Jonathan’s practice, click here: Jonathan F. Anderson, LPC-s.