A few days ago, I came back to Stockholm after having spent a week with my family in Brussels. To tell the truth, I was sad to leave and felt the characteristic ‘sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach’ as the plane took off. Yes, I know that I’ll see my family again soon and I’m truly happy to be living by myself in Sweden. Nonetheless, knowing this doesn’t make goodbyes any easier. The ‘sinking feeling’ will probably always come back to me when it’s time to say bye to my family and the people that I love.
As soon as I arrived, I went climbing. I hadn’t climbed in almost a month and, as I did, I forgot about all of my prior thoughts and emotions. It’s amazing how a simple activity such as climbing can almost immediately allow you to forget about worries, time and sometimes even about your sense of self. Usually, how well I climb doesn’t even matter. Of course, it’s always nice to send problems that I’ve worked hard on. But, just being there, with a clear challenge in front of me, in an environment that I really like, makes me happy – in a peaceful kind of way.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
These thoughts made me think of a book called “Flow”. I can’t write a thorough review of it because I read it too long ago, but, I believe the author was right when he argued that incorporating “flow” activities in your life is a key component to happiness. I think, if I remember correctly, that he defined flow as the process of ‘losing yourself’ while engaged in an activity. He mentioned a few conditions that are usually present during flow experiences:
- Engagement in a challenging activity.
- Concentration on the activity.
- Clear and well defined goal(s) that can be reached within our control,
- winning the lottery is therefore not a good example.
- Immediate feedback,
- with climbing, you fall or you don’t; alternatively, the movements feel good or they don’t.
- Effortless involvement in the activity,
- I never feel like I’m working out while climbing. Of course, some of it is hard but I definitely want to be there and the activity as a whole feels almost relaxing.
- Sense of control over actions,
- the better you get at climbing, the more you can control what you’re doing (obviously) – and that feels good.
- Concern for self disappears (= “losing yourself” in what you are doing).
- Alteration of time,
- I can easily spend 7 or 8 hours in the climbing gym and feel like I’ve spent 2.
I thought it was interesting to realise to what extent climbing is a flow activity for me. I’ve also felt a similar flow while playing guitar, reading, practicing yoga or when solving challenging physics problems. The book “Flow” in itself was a bit too long and repetitive for my taste. However, I still liked reading it and it might be interesting for people that are looking to find flow in their daily life.