Cultivating Flow and Happiness in Children

Cultivating Flow and Happiness in Children

Tatiana Camila Valencia (Marymount Manhattan College, USA) and Stephanie Johan Valencia (Parsons School of Design, USA)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-2940-9.ch001

Abstract

This chapter emphasizes the interrelatedness of three important concepts: flow, creativity, and happiness. In positive psychology, “flow” is identified as a state of consciousness that involves an energized focus as one presently engages in an enjoyed activity. This chapter will help readers understand how to cultivate flow and creativity in their everyday lives and explain why doing so can lead to an enhancement in wellbeing and personal development. The important role of parenting in a child's life will also be addressed as children absorb a vast amount of information from their parents who innately are their first mirroring role models. The authors will also provide insight into personal and societal barriers that may hinder creative expression and the sustainment of happiness.
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Introduction

Happiness has been a prevalent topic for years. It is seen all around the world in various realms: marketing, health, success, relationships, governmental policymaking, etc. In psychology, happiness has been referred to as “subjective well-being” which describes individuals’ various opinions on the definition of happiness and what brings them happiness. What is certain, however, is that happiness is strongly sought after. Happiness is frequently conceived of as a stamp to enhance the quality of life as described in Gruber and Mauss, and Tamir (2011), “Happiness facilitates the pursuit of important goals, contributes to vital social bonds, and broadens our scope of attention to enable processing of new ideas and stimuli in the environment” (pp.229). While happiness may appear to be an elusive topic, research shows that its effects are complex and worth pursuing. Research from 255 studies on happiness reveals that happier people make better use of their time at work, have higher paying jobs and superior roles, have more friends and social support, are better leaders, are more likely to have a fulfilling marriage, are healthier, live longer and are more resilient than unhappy people (Diener and King and Lyubomirsky, 2005). This chapter will aim to address how children can delve into the richness of life through two facilitators of happiness: flow and creativity.

Creativity is often viewed as the use of the imagination to create something original, but creativity also requires the willingness to try, fail, see life in a different way or experience challenge (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). It is also about translating creative endeavors into one’s personal life by planning and most importantly, believing one is capable of experiencing novelty. Similarly, flow isn’t just merely a state of pleasurable feelings and spontaneous moments of contentment. Flow’s greater purpose is to build perseverance and discipline; both qualities that challenge many aspects of the human condition that otherwise would remain dormant. Also explored in this chapter, are the benefits parents produce by joining in on their child’s creative adventures, as well as perceiving their own contentment as equally important to that of their child.

Flow is recognized as an experience of full investment in the present moment while engaging in an activity that brings both enjoyment and energized concentration. Structured disciplines that offer consistent challenges and engagement are areas in which people are most receptive to experiencing flow: rock climbing, dancing, painting, sports, reading and martial arts, for example. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, describes that the experience of flow as the state of mind in which an individual feels fully alive, competent and creative is often the result of combining optimal experience with a challenge and skill balance. Unlike feeling pleasurable moments, in flow, skills are always held accountable to the growing challenge. Pleasurable moments also known as “peak experiences” are bursts of enjoyment that are often fleeting and as seen in Delle Fave (2009) free of the “…cognitive, motivational and emotional components” that coexist in flow (p.1). The process and purpose driven nature of a flow activity is a key component of this experience since it allows the individual to internally grow with his/her external world, which in turn can lead to psychological and societal growth (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990).

Previously, flow has been linked to self-determination (Deci & Ryan, 2000) and as shown in Snyder and Lopez (2009) “commitment and achievement during high school years (pp.199)”. Csikszentmihalyi and Nakumara (2009) also present studies showing that students who experienced more flow and less anxiety had participated in school-related activities and persisted in their respective talents (Csikszentimihalyi et al., 1993). Flow has also been associated with a greater perceived competence and relatedness to others (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Moreover, Csikszentmihalyi & Nakumara (2009) noted that flow leads to diminished delinquency in students who experienced high adversity in the household and/or in school settings. The subjective nature of these concepts- flow, happiness and creativity and the way they positively influence prevalent issues of modern society, makes this relationship an interesting one to examine.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Flow: A state of consciousness where a person is completely immersed in the present moment while doing something that he/she loves; this state merges optimal experience with a challenge-skill balance and provides multiple benefits to well-being and personal development.

System: A group of elements or parts that are organized and interrelated in a pattern of structures that design a specific set of behaviors, often classified as its “function” or “purpose.”

Optimal Experience: An experience that stimulates complex, psychological processes such as motivation and positive emotions.

Feedback Loop: Is a closed chain pattern of cause and effect reaction connections from a stock, activated by decisions, rules, physical laws, or actions.

Systems Theory: Is an interdisciplinary study of systems that takes a holistic approach to analysis that focuses on the elements within a system, how they interrelate, how they work over time and within the context of larger systems (e.g., natural or man-made).

Creativity: The exploration of generating original ideas and perspectives, which can be implemented into daily living; a willingness to think outside of the box; the ability to create.

Resilience: The capacity to rapidly recover from a state of difficulty and stress.

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS): Is a series of international assessments of 4th and 8th grade student mathematics and science knowledge. TIMSS Advanced assesses students in the final year of secondary school in advanced mathematics and physics.

General Self-Efficacy: A personal judgment on how much one believes that he/she can accomplish something.

Eudemonia: A term originated by the Ancient Greeks as a condition of living well; prosperity.

Hedonic Treadmill: The observed tendency that people return to their average happiness set-point relatively soon after an event takes place, regardless of whether it is a negative or positive situation.

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA): Every three years, it tests 15-year-old students from all over the world in reading, mathematics and science. The tests are meant to assess how well the students master key subjects. The impact of these international standardized assessments in the field of educational policy has been significant, in terms of the creation of developing new practices, reform in assessment policy, and external influence over national educational policy.

Intrinsic Motivation: A motivation that arises from internal rewards; engaging in a behavior that is naturally pleasurable or satisfying to do.

Mindfulness: The quality of being present in the moment; observing and accepting one’s thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations; a calming and therapeutic technique.

Happiness: Refers to a subjective experience that can be heightened and sustained through practices that merge pleasure, challenge and purpose (as seen in flow and creativity); a popular term across a variety of realms for its positive influence (seen in culture, government, health, and success).

Autotelic Personality: Characteristics in personality that enable one to engage in flow activities for the mere enjoyment of the experience; personality traits such as perseverance, curiosity, and low self-absorption.

Perceived Stress: A self-formed awareness on how much stress one is experiencing at any given moment in time; Thoughts and feelings inform perception.

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