Flow, or the state of optimal performance, is usually associated with extreme athletic accomplishment, such as Michael Jordan dunking a basketball, Dean Karnazes running 100 miles, or Laird Hamilton catching the perfect wave. While flow is a state that is often found through athletics, it is one that we can all experience – and benefit from. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who coined the term and has done the most extensive research on the subject, the requirements of flow are three things: clear goals, immediate feedback, and a sense that the challenge we face matches our abilities.
Csikszentmihalyi, who also authored the book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Performance, defines the characteristics of flow as follows: a merging of action and awareness; intense focus and concentration; a feeling of personal strength; a loss of self-consciousness; time dilation; and an experience that is intrinsically rewarding (rewarding in and of itself). In studying several thousands of people, Csikszentmihalyi found that higher levels of flow correspond with numerous benefits. Here are just three:
Improved Health. People who report higher levels of flow also report greater longevity and a lower risk of disease of any kind. Moreover, they report less days spent in the hospital, less work days lost due to poor health, and visit the doctor fewer times in the course of their lifetime. Flow has also been associated with an increased immune response, and people with higher levels of flow are also less likely to become obese, and much more likely to engage in regular physical activity – and enjoy it much more than those with lower levels of flow.
Enhanced Mood. It has been well documented that lower levels of serotonin and dopamine are associated with higher levels of depression, yet the physiological response to flow has also now been well established. Experiencing flow boosts one’s dopamine and serotonin levels, and when experienced on a consistent basis, leads to higher overall levels of both of these neurochemicals. The result is that people who report higher levels of flow also report higher levels of subjective well-being, optimism, and fulfillment in life.
A Greater Sense of Control. One of the core components of flow is an increased sense of personal control – a feeling that often translates to a better overall feeling of control in one’s life. Especially because a requirement of flow is a sense of challenge, experiencing it on a regular basis develops and builds confidence, self-efficacy, and a sense that one can handle life’s challenges.
Through understanding what flow is, how to facilitate it, and the many benefits it offers, clinicians can provide their clients with an experience that not only dramatically improves their lives – often moving them from surviving to thriving – but also helps them overcome a variety of conditions.
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Course:
In the Zone: Finding Flow Through Positive Psychology is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that offers a how-to guide on incorporating flow into everyday life. According to the CDC, four out of ten people have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Further, the APA reports that most people suffer from moderate to high levels of stress, and according to SAMSHA, adult prescription medication abuse (primarily to counteract attention deficit disorders) is one of the most concerning health problems today. And while clinicians now have a host of resources to mitigate distress and reduce symptomatology, the question remains: how do clinicians move clients beyond baseline levels of functioning to a state of fulfillment imbued with a satisfying life purpose? The answer may lie in a universal condition with unexpected benefits…
This course will explore the concept of flow, also known as optimal performance, which is a condition we are all capable of, yet seldom cultivate. When in flow we experience a profound and dramatic shift in the way we experience ourselves, our capabilities, and the world around us. Our focus sharpens, our strengths are heightened, we feel an intense sense of euphoria and connection to the world around us, and we often realize capabilities we didn’t know were possible. For clients, flow doesn’t just help them become more capable, it dramatically improves their lives – teaching them not just to expect more from themselves, but how to cultivate the very conditions that make expecting more possible. This course, packed with exercises, tips, and tools, will demonstrate just how flow can be incorporated into your everyday life, and used to help your clients move from simply surviving to a life that harnesses and builds upon their own unique potential to thrive. Course 21-11 | 2016 | 30 pages | 15 posttest questions
- CE Credit: 2 Hours
- Target Audience: Psychologists | Counselors | Social Workers | Occupational Therapists (OTs) | Marriage & Family Therapists (MFTs)
- Learning Level: Intermediate
- Course Type: Online
This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. After enrolling, click on My Account and scroll down to My Active Courses. From here you’ll see links to download/print the course materials and take the CE test (you can print the test to mark your answers on it while reading the course document). Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion.
This course is sponsored by Professional Development Resources, a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).