Cabin fever reliever: Getting into the flow of activities

Posted: Sunday, February 04, 2001

It's February and unless we get some good snow soon we could experience a difficult bout with cabin fever. Some people seem to be better at filling leisure time than others.

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has devoted his career exploring how people spend their time. He has focused most of his research on a phenomenon he calls flow.

Flow is the state where a person is completely engaged, completely focused on an activity. If you can remember a time where you felt completely immersed in what you were doing and lost track of time, then you've experienced flow. According to Csikszentmihalyi, 15 percent of our population never experiences flow.

In his book, "Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement in Everyday Life," Csikszentmihalyi says, "Flow tends to occur when a person's skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable. Because of the total demand on psychic energy, a person in flow is completely focused. There is no space in consciousness for distracting thoughts, irrelevant feelings. The sense of time is distorted: hours seem to pass by in minutes."

Csikszentmihalyi divides free-time activities into two distinctively different categories -- passive and active. Passive leisure includes watching TV and reading unchallenging books. Active leisure includes engaging in a sport, an art form or hobby.

"It's not that relaxing is bad. Everyone needs time to unwind, to read trashy novels, to sit on the couch staring in space or watching a TV program," said Csikszent-mihalyi.

"As with other ingredients of life, what matters is the dosage. Passive leisure becomes a problem when a person uses it as the principal -- or the only -- strategy to fill up free time. As these patterns turn into habits, they begin to have definite effects on the quality of life as a whole."

Even someone engaged in an activity such as cooking can experience flow. In an interview with Csikszentmihalyi in "The Journal of Gastronomy," he said a good antidote to feeling stressed from work would be to develop skills to become a good cook. Cooking is one way to experience creativity and control in everyday life. Cooking is an easily accessible activity, and a person can share their experience with family or friends.

If you catch yourself experiencing cabin fever, consider engaging in an activity that will create the feeling of flow. Try a new challenge that will make you feel stronger, more creative and more satisfied with yourself.

Linda Athons is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension office on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs.

It's February and unless we get some good snow soon we could experience a difficult bout with cabin fever. Some people seem to be better at filling leisure time than others.

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has devoted his career exploring how people spend their time. He has focused most of his research on a phenomenon he calls flow.

Flow is the state where a person is completely engaged, completely focused on an activity. If you can remember a time where you felt completely immersed in what you were doing and lost track of time, then you've experienced flow. According to Csikszentmihalyi, 15 percent of our population never experiences flow.

In his book, "Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement in Everyday Life," Csikszentmihalyi says, "Flow tends to occur when a person's skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable. Because of the total demand on psychic energy, a person in flow is completely focused. There is no space in consciousness for distracting thoughts, irrelevant feelings. The sense of time is distorted: hours seem to pass by in minutes."

Csikszentmihalyi divides free-time activities into two distinctively different categories -- passive and active. Passive leisure includes watching TV and reading unchallenging books. Active leisure includes engaging in a sport, an art form or hobby.

"It's not that relaxing is bad. Everyone needs time to unwind, to read trashy novels, to sit on the couch staring in space or watching a TV program," said Csikszent-mihalyi.

"As with other ingredients of life, what matters is the dosage. Passive leisure becomes a problem when a person uses it as the principal -- or the only -- strategy to fill up free time. As these patterns turn into habits, they begin to have definite effects on the quality of life as a whole."

Even someone engaged in an activity such as cooking can experience flow. In an interview with Csikszentmihalyi in "The Journal of Gastronomy," he said a good antidote to feeling stressed from work would be to develop skills to become a good cook. Cooking is one way to experience creativity and control in everyday life. Cooking is an easily accessible activity, and a person can share their experience with family or friends.

If you catch yourself experiencing cabin fever, consider engaging in an activity that will create the feeling of flow. Try a new challenge that will make you feel stronger, more creative and more satisfied with yourself.

Linda Athons is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension office on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs.

It's February and unless we get some good snow soon we could experience a difficult bout with cabin fever. Some people seem to be better at filling leisure time than others.

Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has devoted his career exploring how people spend their time. He has focused most of his research on a phenomenon he calls flow.

Flow is the state where a person is completely engaged, completely focused on an activity. If you can remember a time where you felt completely immersed in what you were doing and lost track of time, then you've experienced flow. According to Csikszentmihalyi, 15 percent of our population never experiences flow.

In his book, "Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement in Everyday Life," Csikszentmihalyi says, "Flow tends to occur when a person's skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable. Because of the total demand on psychic energy, a person in flow is completely focused. There is no space in consciousness for distracting thoughts, irrelevant feelings. The sense of time is distorted: hours seem to pass by in minutes."

Csikszentmihalyi divides free-time activities into two distinctively different categories -- passive and active. Passive leisure includes watching TV and reading unchallenging books. Active leisure includes engaging in a sport, an art form or hobby.

"It's not that relaxing is bad. Everyone needs time to unwind, to read trashy novels, to sit on the couch staring in space or watching a TV program," said Csikszent-mihalyi.

"As with other ingredients of life, what matters is the dosage. Passive leisure becomes a problem when a person uses it as the principal -- or the only -- strategy to fill up free time. As these patterns turn into habits, they begin to have definite effects on the quality of life as a whole."

Even someone engaged in an activity such as cooking can experience flow. In an interview with Csikszentmihalyi in "The Journal of Gastronomy," he said a good antidote to feeling stressed from work would be to develop skills to become a good cook. Cooking is one way to experience creativity and control in everyday life. Cooking is an easily accessible activity, and a person can share their experience with family or friends.

If you catch yourself experiencing cabin fever, consider engaging in an activity that will create the feeling of flow. Try a new challenge that will make you feel stronger, more creative and more satisfied with yourself.

Linda Athons is an agent at the Alaska Cooperative Extension office on Kalifornsky Beach Road in Soldotna. She is a home economist and involved in the 4-H/Youth Development programs.



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