To Be Your Happiest, Get In The "Flow"
You've got some downtime at the end of a long week, and you have a couple options: you could break out your trusty guitar and play for a few hours, or crash on the couch and catch up on your favorite TV show. After a week like yours, we'll bet you'll go with the second option. Research shows that you're more likely to go with the easier activity, even if you know that the more challenging one will make you happier.
Put Down The Remote
Playing guitar is an example of an activity that puts people in a state of "flow"; other activities include things like painting, cooking, playing sports, and writing (whoa, are we in a state of flow right now?). Flow is characterized by a feeling of strong concentration, intense focus, and a lack of concern for almost everything else around you, including physical needs (even eating). According to Big Think, "flow" activities "require more work on our part but are characterized by full immersion and focus." The concept of flow was popularized by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who researched this type of enjoyable immersion by speaking to artists, athletes, and other people who often "lose themselves" in their work.
A 2016 paper published in The Journal of Positive Psychology took this concept a step further. It shows that even though these flow activities make us happier, we're still apt to spend our time on passive activities, such as browsing Facebook. In two studies, 300 people were surveyed about different types of activities. The paper explained flow activities as requiring "clear rules, challenge," and "a high investment of energy." Unsurprisingly, the participants didn't feel that passive activities, such as watching TV, would bring them us much happiness as flow activities. But watching Netflix is much easier than learning how to read music, even if playing an instrument is more rewarding in the long run.
Preparation Is Key
So, how can we combat our human inclination to take the easy road? As Big Think states, you should find techniques that help "reduce the initial effort required to get into a flow activity like going to the gym." For example, you can pack your workout clothes, and choose a gym near your office. If you want to start blogging, create an outline in advance, so you're ready to write when you sit down. It's all about getting started... you can do this. Ready, set, go!