I am not that into psychology, but when I came across a research about Flow and Positive Psychology, I kept reading. The core of the story is that people are happiest when they are in a state where they are completely absorbed in the activity they are doing. Hey, this sounds like kitesurfing!?
Earlier I already wrote a blog about 10 signs that you are addicted to kitesurfing, would I find the deeper underlying cause in this study? Where does the feeling of ecstasy during kitesurfing come from?
Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Did you know that the statement “Go with the flow” owes its original origins to the American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi? Mister M, which typifies somewhat easier, is one of the founders of Positive Psychology.
Mister M noticed that people are happiest when they and a state where they are completely absorbed in the activity they are doing. For his happiness research he interviewed several people and often a metaphor was mentioned that had to do something with ‘flowing water’ (flow).
The mental state in which you are completely absorbed in what you are doing is called ‘flow’. Flow brings a feeling of happiness, satisfaction and relaxation. All other thoughts and feelings temporarily disappear into the background. There is a flow if at least some of the characteristics below are present.
The characteristics of a flow:
– There is a clear goal;
– Extreme concentration and orientated on the goal;
– Loss of self-awareness: you completely engage in the activity and forget yourself;
– Loss of time, time flies by;
– Direct feedback: success and failure are immediately clear, so that you immediately can adjust your own actions;
– The activity is rewarding, for example it is very nice;
– Sense of personal control over the situation or activity;
– Feeling of challenge, where it is feasible: the activity is challenging but not too difficult to implement successfully.
Kitesurfing and flow
Flow arises during an activity that suits your skills, asks the extreme of you but is not too difficult. The focus needed for this gives you the opportunity to become one with what you are doing and forget for example the time. People who are in a flow often forget that they are hungry or thirsty, have sustained an injury, etc. Because the activity in itself is so rewarding. Very recognizable for kitesurfers!
Neuropsychologists can see the flow clearly in your brain. The brain stimulates an increase of norepinephrine, dopamine, endorphins, anandamide and serotonin. These together give the feeling of extreme focus and happiness. Exactly that rush that makes people addicted to their sport or hobby.
Kitesurfing is a sport that demands a lot from you, think of focus, concentration, coordination and endurance. You play with the elements of nature and they can turn around in a second (storm, etc). In addition, kitesurfing is challenging because there is always something new that you can learn, from riding your first meters to the first jumps and tricks.
Are you so into your kitesession that you completely forget everything around you and suddenly everything works out? Then there is a big chance that you are in a flow. And we want to experience that flow more often, which is why we go to the beach regardless the cold/rain, while others prefer to stay indoors.
Thé reason that kite surfing is so addictive!
Not just highlights
Of course not every kitesurfing session leads to a ‘flow’. For a flow something extra is needed and it is impossible to force it. Many sessions are nice but not ‘special’ and sometimes even disappointing, think of little or gusty wind, too busy on the spot, too much current, broken material … we all recognize it.
You can not force a flow, it is a state that arises spontaneously when everything seems to work out. Your physical condition is good, you have the right vibe, you nail a trick that you have been training for months suddenly, etc. A magical moment in which everything succeeds and you can’t anything wrong.