Think back to a time where you were completely immersed in an activity, so much so that nothing else in the world mattered or even existed in your mind. It could have been playing a sport, writing, or maybe even playing video games, whatever is was you were so focused that all your problems and worries melted away. Not only were you fully absorbed in the activity, but your performance was also at its peak, your actions seemed effortless and ended with an optimal result.
You were so concentrated that you didn't even realize you hadn't eaten for 10 hours, but it didn't bother you one bit!
Time flew by, but you didn't even notice it. You were in a meditative state where your thoughts were clear because your immense focus burned away every molecule of brain fog.
Your ego vanished, your inhibitions relinquished, and any uneasiness evaporated.
What you experienced is the mental state known as Flow State, aka you were "in the zone" or simply in "flow". Buddhists refer to this state as mindfulness, a term you may also hear in your yoga class.
Defined literally by Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow 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 (1). By the way, Mihaly coined the term "flow".
Sounds familiar? It certainly does for me and I absolutely love being in such an elevated state, Dr. Csikszentmihaly says humans are at their absolute happiest while in flow, and I agree!
Csikszentmihaly's Flow State Diagram
Unfortunately, for too long of a time, flow often eluded me and admittingly was challenging to achieve.
That was until I put more crafting back in my life!
When I began crafting again, I noticed this zen-like feeling and couldn't believe how much one activity could positively affect my mood. Being a bit of a nerd I wanted to know the science behind it and truly understand what I was feeling and why I was feeling it. After a bit of research, I figured out that when I was crafting, I would be in a flow state.
OK, so I would enter a flow state, but why would I enter it via crafting and not watching TV, eating a great meal, or even having a great workout? To answer that, let's look at the conditions that Csikszentmihalyi says must be met to achieve a flow state and then the answers as to why crafting meets those conditions.
1) One must be involved in an activity with a clear set of goals and progress. This adds direction and structure to the task.
When crafting, your goal is an awesome end product that you can show off to your friends and family. You want to be proud of it!
2) The task at hand must have clear and immediate feedback. This helps the person negotiate any changing demands and allows them to adjust their performance to maintain the flow state.
During the act of crafting, you immediately see how each stroke, placement, or action turns out to know if you are on the right path. If you make a mistake, you can adjust the rest of your project to simply make it work, adding a bit of challenge to your task!
3) One must have a good balance between the perceived challenges of the task at hand and their own perceived skills. One must have confidence in one's ability to complete the task at hand.
Through examples, instructions, and practice, confidence is built to create an awesome final product. Techniques can be difficult, but even the act of learning them can put you into flow!
A major aspect of getting into flow is the challenge of the activity. For example, people who free solo climb up a rock face with no rope or protective equipment. They are able to do it because of the flow they achieve while doing it and a major aspect of that is because of how difficult the task.
While I am in no way comparing the risks and difficulty of free solo climbing to crafting, the flow state you achieve while doing them is more similar than you may think.
Without even knowing about flow, when Marianna and I started Adults & Crafts, one of the main goals was to create projects that were challenging. We didn't want coloring books (no offense) or "kiddie" projects, but rather to challenge our customers a bit and learn a new and sometimes somewhat difficult skill. Precision, finesse, and even problem solving are often required with our craft kits.
While crafting can help some people enter a flow state, it certainly will do it for everyone. If a person is simply not interested in craft, lacks the motivation to craft, or perhaps isn't very good at crafting, then a flow state will be hard to enter. Although I will say that I am a horrible crafter, but I am still able to enter into flow during a focused crafting session.
"Once I got into the groove of burning this design into the tree slice, I went completely zen. I became one with the wood. It was awesome."
Translated: She was in a flow state! We have received many comments like this from our Adults & Crafts Crate subscribers. In fact, one of the reasons we even started the business was because of how good and mindful Marianna would feel while crafting. It did wonders for her overall wellbeing.
What about you? Do you craft? Do you get into a flow when you craft? Do you get into a flow doing something else? Let us know in the comments!