Social theorist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the architect of the notion of “flow – that creative moment of joy when a person is completely absorbed in an activity for it’s own sake, that nothing else seems to matter. This state is characterised by a feeling of great absorption, engagement, fulfillment, and skill during which temporal concerns (time, food, ego-self, etc.) are typically ignored.”
He believes “When we are involved in creativity, we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life.”
We often refer to this concept of flow as being “in the zone” and we see it a lot in practice at The Goodlife Centre. Our learners fail to note the passing of time and have to be gently reminded to pack up as we are turning off the lights to lock up, such is their total immersion in the creative task at hand. It’s a blissfully meditative state and we are loath to disturb it until totally necessary.
Creative activities can all help lower stress, relax muscles, reduce indigestion and inflammation, and increase self-esteem and productivity. This could be because creativity helps us focus our attention, in the same way that meditating does.
This idea of flow has been shown to be especially beneficial for people with depression or anxiety, and neurological studies show that engaging in purposeful and meaningful activities such as creative pursuits can work like a natural antidepressant by improving mood. Indeed occupational therapy is the definition of recovery through activity.
For a while we forget about our physical being and negative thoughts disappear – there is simply no room for them whilst the creative activity is the sole focus of the brain. The gentle and repetitive motion involved in a beautifully manual task like sawing, drilling and sewing can help regulate breathing, heart rate, manage strong emotions and calm a nervous system.
It is therapy.
Also published on Medium.