How can I experience flow during leisure time?

Ronald Siegel
Little of people's leisure time is spent in flow—the experience of being fully involved in an activity, marked by a sense of concentration and control and a lack of self-consciousness or awareness of time or discomfort. In one study, driving was the most uniformly positive flow experience, while watching TV was far more likely to be non-flow time. Watching TV may be relaxing (and sometimes you may truly need some downtime), but it isn't particularly satisfying. If you suspect you spend too much time watching TV, look for leisure activities that involve using your skills (carpentry, sports, artwork, music) and see how you feel afterward. Try a mix of physical activities, social interactions, and hobbies that require skill or provide a richer sensory experience.

To identify flow activities, spend several days alternating leisure activities that involve skill and those that don't. Try Scrabble or chess one day, TV or an easy word puzzle the next; discussion of politics or literature versus relaxed conversation; or reading a biography versus browsing People magazine. Keep notes on how you feel after the activity and the next day. If you find that the more challenging activities are more absorbing and leave you happier and more satisfied, keep that in mind the next time you have a choice of how to spend your leisure time. Go with the flow!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.