How to Be Happy: Finding Your Flow with Positive Psychology
Ever wondered how to be happy? We dug deep to find our happiest moments, and found that is was often how we find our true flow.
Have you ever thought about how to be happy? Not just smiling, getting through the day, but deeply, richly happy with the blessings of this life? A few weeks ago my partner and I saw a most wonderful film entitled night called Hector and the Search for Happiness. This British film is utterly joyful, charming, and sweet, the looks at how we can bring happiness into our everyday life: not by chasing it, but by being present in each and every moment.
The film was part of a fun date night, but more importantly, a few days later it prompted a long talk about how to be happier, and we discussed the happiest moments from our life. It was a lovely, free flowing conversation that crossed decades, places, and people and brought back rushes of beautiful memories and insight about what makes us truly, deeply happy. Turns out my happy place is dancing! I’ve never much considered myself a dancer, but there it was– in multiple, most-happiest-moments, the place I felt the more happy, free and just awesomely, positively MYSELF, was dancing.
The common thread between our moments was that within each was the idea that we had captured the ‘flow.’ If you’re not familiar with this idea, it basically means those moments where you become so engrossed in an activity that time and space seem to disappear. When you’re in flow, you become your truest self without even thinking about it.
For some flow happens when we’re dancing, for others it’s while teaching, making salad, surfing, playing with their kids, running, or playing baseball; it can be anything! Sounds hippy-dippy, but it’s a real thing in positive psychology. Here’s what Wikipedia says about finding your flow:
“In positive psychology, flow, also known as zone, is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”
And there’s so much more out there, like this cool post about how you can use lessons of surfing to improve your whole life because apparently your brain LOVES being in flow. These articles all state that flow can improve your productivity and your action of choice, but mostly I just like it because it makes me happier. And shouldn’t that be our most important goal?
When was the last time you felt so entirely present that nothing else mattered? The last time you felt totally in tune with yourself? Write them down for yourself, keep as a memento, and share in the comments if you like. We’d love to share your happiness with you. I challenge you to think of your three (or more!) happiest moments, and I just bet most of them are at points when you found your flow.
When I posted this idea about how to be happy on my Facebook page, I got dozens of great responses about moments of true happiness from my friends. As one friend said, “Picking just three is hard! There is so much beauty in life’s small moments!” This here is some powerful inspiration for your own pursuit of happiness.
Andrea (that’s me):
1. Feeling free and wild and so IN LOVE with life with Michael Franti at Wanderlust 2013.
2. Swimming in Kalalau (Kauai) and being astonished with the true AWEsomeness of the ocean, valley, mountains and lightness of life.
3. Dancing for the first time with my new boyfriend, now my long-term partner, on a fun double date at a small little club in Honolulu.
Scott (that’s my love):
1. Enjoying a solo lunch on the Appalachian trail in a most spectacular vista.
2. Dancing on a horses head (not a real one!) at Burning Man.
3. Turtle hatching event on a beach in Florida.
1. Feeling truly lucky when a butterfly alighted upon my toe for 30 minutes amid the chaos of a world record breaking river float in Texas.
2. Making omelets with eggs and veggies harvested from my backyard over mimosas with a lover
3. Every sunrise and sunset, especially watching the sunset on the Na Pali Coast and sunrises at Sasquatch music festival after staying up all night with new and true friends.
1. A solo bike-riding journey to a waterfall outside of Luang Prabang, Laos. Gorgeous, rural, lush, mountainous, scenery, and the kindest of locals that shared coconut water with me & farmers who would waive and smile.
2. One time when I was playing tennis at [college], and I was playing lights out! Was attacking & executing all my shots and played like a boss!
3. A game of Catch Phrase with [my boyfriend’s] family, sitting in a big circle, in a warm cabin in New Mexico, Christmas 2011. Lots of funny misunderstandings & laughing to the point of tears and severe stomach pain.
4. Standing just a couple of feet away from Kilauea’s flowing lava [Editor’s note: this is totally not safe and not legal!], with three spontaneous friends, at sunrise, after hiking overnight with headlamps, 2012. Then going straight to swim naked in the waves at Kehena Beach afterwards with dolphins close by.
5. I’ve gotta second that Michael Franti concert at Wanderlust 2013! That was insane! Hours of dancing and jumping sunshine bliss with friends right next to the ocean!
1. Fourth of July 2008 or 09, in NYC (a time when most people leave the city). Alone with [my husband] in a penthouse event space, watching fireworks. We were the only people on the floor of the building. It was amazingly serene.
2. Arriving in St. John 24 hours after we decided to head there (our plans to head to Amsterdam were squashed, so we re-packed and re-routed). I feel centered when I travel, especially when it’s spontaneous.
3. Any quiet moment during late pregnancy when [my daughter] would be moving around. I felt so aware of the transient nature of life during those moments.
4. The first time I walked through Times Square as an NYC resident. I still hated the crowds, the lights, the incessant traffic and noise, but I had a moment where I looked up and smiled at all the lights, in awe that I had met one of the largest goals in my life.
1. Sitting down to Christmas Eve dinner the day I met my dad and his mother, the three of us looking at one another with big stupid grins
2. Walking out into the sunshine and knowing I was free and no longer stuck
3. A $2 yoga class led by an old hippy in Kailua adult school
Where do you find your flow? What makes you lose yourself in the moment and feel truly happy? Share with us in the comments!