Csikszentmihalyi on drugs and their effect

Csikszentmihalyi on drugs and their effect

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This is an excerpt from pp. 169-170 of a book named Flow: the psychology of optimal experience, written by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi . It has become very difficult to understand the meaning of this
* Un-less con-sumed in highly skilled rit-ual con-texts, as is prac-ticed in many tra-di-tional so-ci-eties, what drugs in fact do is re-duce our per-cep-tion of both what can be ac-com-plished and what we as in-di-vid-u-als are able to ac-com-plish, un-til the two are in bal-ance. This is a pleas-ant state of af-fairs, but it is only a mis-lead-ing sim-u-la-tion of that en-joy-ment that comes from in-creas-ing op-por-tu-ni-ties for ac-tions and the abil-i-ties to act.*Please help me to understand the meaning of this paragraph. I asked the question on english language forums to understand its meaning but it does not seem to work as it is more of a psychology related question.

Do note that he says in the very next paragraph

Some people will disagree strongly with this description of how drugs affect the mind. After all, for the past quarter-century we have been told with increasing confidence that drugs are "consciousness- expanding," and that using them enhances creativity. But the evidence suggests that while chemicals do alter the content and the organization of consciousness, they do not expand or increase the self's control over its function. Yet to accomplish anything creative, one must achieve just such control. Therefore, while psychotropic drugs do provide a wider variety of mental experiences than one would encounter under normal sensory conditions, they do so without adding to our ability to order them effectively.

In other words, he is aware that what he is proposing is controversial. To summarize what I gather as his main point, in my own words: drugs don't work for improving flow or creativity.

As for evidence, he's not citing any in there. The book has a list of references at the end, and some inline citations, but not for this "fact". And if you ask me, he is completely glossing over ADHD or the use of the same class of drugs to improve "flow" in just about everyone. And to paraphrase a famous mathematician and well-known user of amphetamines… mathematics was set back for a month when he took a break from the drug. Of course there are good reasons not to take such drugs (side effects) but claiming they don't work is silly, if you ask me. (Note that this book of Csikszentmihalyi was first published in 1990, so while ADHD might not have been as widely known back then as it is today, it definitely was known in professional circles, ADD was introduced in the DSM-III in 1980.)

Of course it may come down to an argument what really is flow, creativity etc. As the flip side, psychiatrists hardly ever talk about flow in Csikszentmihalyi's terminology, preferring "attention" obviously.

Freely translated, the author says that…

"Doing drugs is fine when performed under the guidance of experts in traditional, ritual contexts. Drugs reduce our perception of what is possible, and they reduce the perception of what we ourselves can achieve. Drugs do this until the two are in balance. This is pleasant. But, it is misleading and far greater joy can be achieved when one would stimulate the chances to achieve goals, and to enhance our possibilities to do great stuff."

Honestly, I think this is a big mouthful of gibberish. But there you go.

Health Consequences of Drug Misuse Mental Health Effects

Chronic use of some drugs can lead to both short- and long-term changes in the brain, which can lead to mental health issues including paranoia, depression, anxiety, aggression, hallucinations, and other problems.

Many people who are addicted to drugs are also diagnosed with other mental disorders and vice versa. Compared with the general population, people addicted to drugs are roughly twice as likely to suffer from mood and anxiety disorders, with the reverse also true. In 2015, an estimated 43.4 million (17.9 percent) adults ages 18 and older experienced some form of mental illness (other than a developmental or substance use disorder). Of these, 8.1 million had both a substance use disorder and another mental illness. 1 Although substance use disorders commonly occur with other mental illnesses, it’s often unclear whether one helped cause the other or if common underlying risk factors contribute to both disorders.

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Counterarguments, Caveats, and Future Directions

While discussions presented thus far highlight the psychological costs of affluence, several counterarguments warrant consideration in weighing the overall magnitude of the problems suggested. The first of these concerns the authenticity of disturbance reported by affluent youth. Although a few samples of high-SES teenagers have shown elevated levels of depression, anxiety, and substance use, it is possible that these problems reflect normative complaints in the culture of upper-class suburbia rather than serious psychopathology. In other words, for some if not many youth, reports of adolescent angst might reflect conformity to what is expected (or even approved of) in the subculture of affluence (Luthar & Becker, 2002). In the years ahead, longitudinal research will be critical in illuminating this issue, identifying the degree to which high self-reported distress among suburban teens does in fact presage subsequent deterioration in critical domains, by affecting their school grades, for example, or leading to diagnosable mental illness.

A second issue concerns the geographic generalizability of problems among affluent youth. Extant evidence of modest inverse links between family wealth and positive adolescent outcomes (i.e., subjective happiness and closeness to parents) has derived from cross-national samples (Csikszentmihalyi & Schneider, 2000 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1999). On the other hand, the studies showing elevations in negative outcomes—greater psychopathology as compared with normative samples—were conducted in Northeastern suburbs (e.g., Luthar & Becker, 2002 Luthar & D𠆚vanzo, 1999). It is plausible that regions of the country vary in the degree to which affluence implies highly stressful, competitive lifestyles and, thus, increased vulnerability to symptoms. In a similar vein, it is not clear whether the problems suggested represent a largely suburban phenomenon or might generalize to high-SES children in large cities.

The third issue constitutes a critical caveat to the substantive take-home messages that might be gleaned from this paper: that it is not the surfeit of riches in itself but rather an overemphasis on status and wealth that is likely to compromise well-being. All things considered, it is better to be rich than to be poor cross-national data clearly show that money enhances subjective well-being when it implies the difference between being able versus unable to meet basic life needs (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2002). It is only when individuals become disproportionately invested in extrinsic rewards, concomitantly neglecting intrinsic rewards such as closeness in relationships, that there are likely to be ill effects on their mental health outcomes (Kasser, 2002 Tooby & Cosmides, 1996 Triandis, 1994).

In the years ahead, it is vital that developmental scientists critically examine the conditions under which parents’ affluence spells high risk for children. To be sure, epidemiological evidence will be required to ascertain the degree to which child psychopathology rates are truly elevated among the wealthy. Even as we await such evidence, however, it would be wise to recognize that (a) no child is immune to stressors from the environment, (b) extreme environments of all kinds are likely to have their own sets of problems, and (c) there is almost no developmental research on the ecological context of affluence. In the decade since Graham’s (1992) admonishment that developmental research until then had involved mostly middle-class children, there has been, appropriately, growing attention to youth in poverty. It is critical that we now begin to consider the other extreme that has remained ignored thus far, making a concerted effort to illuminate the challenges particularly salient for children of affluence, along with the severity and continuity of problems they might develop.

As researchers begin to clarify these issues, it would also be prudent for applied professionals�ucators, pediatricians, and other clinicians—to remain vigilant to the mental health vulnerabilities of high-SES youth. Research on child psychopathology has shown that, in general, most parents tend to be aware when their children are emotionally troubled but, at the same time, tend not to seek help for these problems (Puura et al., 1998). Affluent parents are less likely than most to seek professional help, partly to protect the veneer of perfection they feel compelled to maintain (Wolfe & Fodor, 1996) and partly for fear that this may constitute a significant impediment for the child’s academic and professional future (Pollak & Schaffer, 1985). By the same token, if school personnel are concerned about children’s adjustment, they are cautious in exhorting professional care for fear of parental displeasure (or even litigation). Paradoxically, therefore, children of the wealthy can be deprived of the school-based mental health services that are routinely accessed by those from more modest backgrounds (Pollak & Schaffer, 1985).

In considering the need for any external interventions, some might protest that the scant policy resources available for children’s mental health should be reserved only for the truly needy—those in poverty𠅋ut this position would be questionable from an ethical and pragmatic perspective. Classism is unconscionable whomever the target a child who is suicidal or dependant on drugs deserves help regardless of how much money his or her parents earn. From a practical standpoint, furthermore, it is useful to consider that the external resources needed to foster children’s mental health will be exponentially lower for the rich than the poor. In most low-income communities, the creation of quality mental health services would necessitate considerable financial support. In communities where such services are already in place, an expedient first step, as Doherty (2000) has argued, would simply be to raise adults’ awareness of the psychological costs of overscheduled, competitive lifestyles. Such awareness promotion can be effectively accomplished through books comprehensible to the lay public (for excellent examples, see Kasser, 2002 Myers, 2000a Rosenfeld & Wise, 2000), interviews with journalists (e.g., Belluck, 2000 Julien, 2002 Smith, 2002 Wen, 2002), and workshops with parent, school, and community groups (see Kantrowitz, 2000, p. 49). Although obviously not panaceas for extant ills, such efforts could begin to sensitize caregivers to potentially insidious stressors in the context of affluence, stressors that they (like we, in developmental science) may have been only faintly aware of in prior years.

115 The Pursuit of Happiness

Although the study of stress and how it affects us physically and psychologically is fascinating, it is—admittedly—somewhat of a grim topic. Psychology is also interested in the study of a more upbeat and encouraging approach to human affairs—the quest for happiness.


America’s founders declared that its citizens have an unalienable right to pursue happiness. But what is happiness? When asked to define the term, people emphasize different aspects of this elusive state. Indeed, happiness is somewhat ambiguous and can be defined from different perspectives (Martin, 2012). Some people, especially those who are highly committed to their religious faith, view happiness in ways that emphasize virtuosity, reverence, and enlightened spirituality. Others see happiness as primarily contentment—the inner peace and joy that come from deep satisfaction with one’s surroundings, relationships with others, accomplishments, and oneself. Still others view happiness mainly as pleasurable engagement with their personal environment—having a career and hobbies that are engaging, meaningful, rewarding, and exciting. These differences, of course, are merely differences in emphasis. Most people would probably agree that each of these views, in some respects, captures the essence of happiness.

Elements of Happiness

Some psychologists have suggested that happiness consists of three distinct elements: the pleasant life, the good life, and the meaningful life, as shown in Figure SH.24 (Seligman, 2002 Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). The pleasant life is realized through the attainment of day-to-day pleasures that add fun, joy, and excitement to our lives. For example, evening walks along the beach and a fulfilling sex life can enhance our daily pleasure and contribute to the pleasant life. The good life is achieved through identifying our unique skills and abilities and engaging these talents to enrich our lives those who achieve the good life often find themselves absorbed in their work or their recreational pursuits. The meaningful life involves a deep sense of fulfillment that comes from using our talents in the service of the greater good: in ways that benefit the lives of others or that make the world a better place. In general, the happiest people tend to be those who pursue the full life—they orient their pursuits toward all three elements (Seligman et al., 2005).

Figure SH.24 Happiness is an enduring state of well-being involving satisfaction in the pleasant, good, and meaningful aspects of life.

For practical purposes, a precise definition of happiness might incorporate each of these elements: an enduring state of mind consisting of joy, contentment, and other positive emotions, plus the sense that one’s life has meaning and value (Lyubomirsky, 2001). The definition implies that happiness is a long-term state—what is often characterized as subjective well-being—rather than merely a transient positive mood we all experience from time to time. It is this enduring happiness that has captured the interests of psychologists and other social scientists.

The study of happiness has grown dramatically in the last three decades (Diener, 2013). One of the most basic questions that happiness investigators routinely examine is this: How happy are people in general? The average person in the world tends to be relatively happy and tends to indicate experiencing more positive feelings than negative feelings (Diener, Ng, Harter, & Arora, 2010). When asked to evaluate their current lives on a scale ranging from 0 to 10 (with 0 representing “worst possible life” and 10 representing “best possible life”), people in more than 150 countries surveyed from 2010–2012 reported an average score of 5.2. People who live in North America, Australia, and New Zealand reported the highest average score at 7.1, whereas those living Sub-Saharan Africa reported the lowest average score at 4.6 (Helliwell, Layard, & Sachs, 2013). Worldwide, the five happiest countries are Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Sweden the United States is ranked 17th happiest (Figure SH.25) (Helliwell et al., 2013).

Figure SH.25 (a) Surveys of residents in over 150 countries indicate that Denmark has the happiest citizens in the world. (b) Americans ranked the United States as the 17th happiest country in which to live. (credit a: modification of work by “JamesZ_Flickr”/Flickr credit b: modification of work by Ryan Swindell)

Several years ago, a Gallup survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults found that 52% reported that they were “very happy.” In addition, more than 8 in 10 indicated that they were “very satisfied” with their lives (Carroll, 2007). However, a recent poll found that only 42% of American adults report being “very happy.” The groups that show the greatest declines in happiness are people of colour, those who have not completed a college education, and those who politically identify as Democrats or independents (McCarthy, 2020). These results suggest that challenging economic conditions may be related to declines in happiness. Of course, this interpretation implies that happiness is closely tied to one’s finances. But, is it? What factors influence happiness?

Factors Connected to Happiness

What really makes people happy? What factors contribute to sustained joy and contentment? Is it money, attractiveness, material possessions, a rewarding occupation, a satisfying relationship? Extensive research over the years has examined this question. One finding is that age is related to happiness: Life satisfaction usually increases the older people get, but there do not appear to be gender differences in happiness (Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999). Although it is important to point out that much of this work has been correlational, many of the key findings (some of which may surprise you) are summarized below.

Family and other social relationships appear to be key factors correlated with happiness. Studies show that married people report being happier than those who are single, divorced, or widowed (Diener et al., 1999). Happy individuals also report that their marriages are fulfilling (Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005). In fact, some have suggested that satisfaction with marriage and family life is the strongest predictor of happiness (Myers, 2000). Happy people tend to have more friends, more high-quality social relationships, and stronger social support networks than less happy people (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). Happy people also have a high frequency of contact with friends (Pinquart & Sörensen, 2000).

Can money buy happiness? In general, extensive research suggests that the answer is yes, but with several caveats. While a nation’s per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is associated with happiness levels (Helliwell et al., 2013), changes in GDP (which is a less certain index of household income) bear little relationship to changes in happiness (Diener, Tay, & Oishi, 2013). On the whole, residents of affluent countries tend to be happier than residents of poor countries within countries, wealthy individuals are happier than poor individuals, but the association is much weaker (Diener & Biswas-Diener, 2002). To the extent that it leads to increases in purchasing power, increases in income are associated with increases in happiness (Diener, Oishi, & Ryan, 2013). However, income within societies appears to correlate with happiness only up to a point. In a study of over 450,000 U.S. residents surveyed by the Gallup Organization, Kahneman and Deaton (2010) found that well-being rises with annual income, but only up to $75,000. The average increase in reported well-being for people with incomes greater than $75,000 was null. As implausible as these findings might seem—after all, higher incomes would enable people to indulge in Hawaiian vacations, prime seats as sporting events, expensive automobiles, and expansive new homes—higher incomes may impair people’s ability to savour and enjoy the small pleasures of life (Kahneman, 2011). Indeed, researchers in one study found that participants exposed to a subliminal reminder of wealth spent less time savouring a chocolate candy bar and exhibited less enjoyment of this experience than did participants who were not reminded of wealth (Quoidbach, Dunn, Petrides, & Mikolajczak, 2010).

What about education and employment? Happy people, compared to those who are less happy, are more likely to graduate from college and secure more meaningful and engaging jobs. Once they obtain a job, they are also more likely to succeed (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005). While education shows a positive (but weak) correlation with happiness, intelligence is not appreciably related to happiness (Diener et al., 1999).

Does religiosity correlate with happiness? In general, the answer is yes (Hackney & Sanders, 2003). However, the relationship between religiosity and happiness depends on societal circumstances. Nations and states with more difficult living conditions (e.g., widespread hunger and low life expectancy) tend to be more highly religious than societies with more favourable living conditions. Among those who live in nations with difficult living conditions, religiosity is associated with greater well-being in nations with more favourable living conditions, religious and nonreligious individuals report similar levels of well-being (Diener, Tay, & Myers, 2011).

Clearly the living conditions of one’s nation can influence factors related to happiness. What about the influence of one’s culture? To the extent that people possess characteristics that are highly valued by their culture, they tend to be happier (Diener, 2012). For example, self-esteem is a stronger predictor of life satisfaction in individualistic cultures than in collectivistic cultures (Diener, Diener, & Diener, 1995), and extraverted people tend to be happier in extraverted cultures than in introverted cultures (Fulmer et al., 2010).

So we’ve identified many factors that exhibit some correlation to happiness. What factors don’t show a correlation? Researchers have studied both parenthood and physical attractiveness as potential contributors to happiness, but no link has been identified. Although people tend to believe that parenthood is central to a meaningful and fulfilling life, aggregate findings from a range of countries indicate that people who do not have children are generally happier than those who do (Hansen, 2012). And although one’s perceived level of attractiveness seems to predict happiness, a person’s objective physical attractiveness is only weakly correlated with their happiness (Diener, Wolsic, & Fujita, 1995).

Life Events and Happiness

An important point should be considered regarding happiness. People are often poor at affective forecasting: predicting the intensity and duration of their future emotions (Wilson & Gilbert, 2003). In one study, nearly all newlywed spouses predicted their marital satisfaction would remain stable or improve over the following four years despite this high level of initial optimism, their marital satisfaction actually declined during this period (Lavner, Karner, & Bradbury, 2013). In addition, we are often incorrect when estimating how our long-term happiness would change for the better or worse in response to certain life events. For example, it is easy for many of us to imagine how euphoric we would feel if we won the lottery, were asked on a date by an attractive celebrity, or were offered our dream job. It is also easy to understand how long-suffering fans of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, which had not won a World Series championship since 1908, thought they would feel permanently elated when their team finally won another World Series in 2016. Likewise, it is easy to predict that we would feel permanently miserable if we suffered a disabling accident or if a romantic relationship ended.

However, something similar to sensory adaptation often occurs when people experience emotional reactions to life events. In much the same way our senses adapt to changes in stimulation (e.g., our eyes adapting to bright light after walking out of the darkness of a movie theatre into the bright afternoon sun), we eventually adapt to changing emotional circumstances in our lives (Brickman & Campbell, 1971 Helson, 1964). When an event that provokes positive or negative emotions occurs, at first we tend to experience its emotional impact at full intensity. We feel a burst of pleasure following such things as a marriage proposal, birth of a child, acceptance to law school, an inheritance, and the like as you might imagine, lottery winners experience a surge of happiness after hitting the jackpot (Lutter, 2007). Likewise, we experience a surge of misery following the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a layoff from work. In the long run, however, we eventually adjust to the emotional new normal the emotional impact of the event tends to erode, and we eventually revert to our original baseline happiness levels. Thus, what was at first a thrilling lottery windfall or World Series championship eventually loses its lustre and becomes the status quo (Figure SH.26). Indeed, dramatic life events have much less long-lasting impact on happiness than might be expected (Brickman, Coats, & Janoff-Bulman, 1978).

Figure SH.26 (a) Long-suffering Chicago Cub fans felt elated in 2016 when their team won a World Series championship, a feat that had not been accomplished by that franchise in over a century. (b) In ways that are similar, those who play the lottery rightfully think that choosing the correct numbers and winning millions would lead to a surge in happiness. However, the initial burst of elation following such elusive events would most likely erode with time. (credit a: modification of work by Phil Roeder credit b: modification of work by Robert S. Donovan)

Recently, some have raised questions concerning the extent to which important life events can permanently alter people’s happiness set points (Diener, Lucas, & Scollon, 2006). Evidence from a number of investigations suggests that, in some circumstances, happiness levels do not revert to their original positions. For example, although people generally tend to adapt to marriage so that it no longer makes them happier or unhappier than before, they often do not fully adapt to unemployment or severe disabilities (Diener, 2012). Figure SH.27, which is based on longitudinal data from a sample of over 3,000 German respondents, shows life satisfaction scores several years before, during, and after various life events, and it illustrates how people adapt (or fail to adapt) to these events. German respondents did not get lasting emotional boosts from marriage instead, they reported brief increases in happiness, followed by quick adaptation. In contrast, widows and those who had been laid off experienced sizeable decreases in happiness that appeared to result in long-term changes in life satisfaction (Diener et al., 2006). Further, longitudinal data from the same sample showed that happiness levels changed significantly over time for nearly a quarter of respondents, with 9% showing major changes (Fujita & Diener, 2005). Thus, long-term happiness levels can and do change for some people.

Figure SH.27 This graphs shows life satisfaction scores several years before and after three significant life events (0 represents the year the event happened) (Diener et al., 2006).

Some recent findings about happiness provide an optimistic picture, suggesting that real changes in happiness are possible. For example, thoughtfully developed well-being interventions designed to augment people’s baseline levels of happiness may increase happiness in ways that are permanent and long-lasting, not just temporary. These changes in happiness may be targeted at individual, organizational, and societal levels (Diener et al., 2006). Researchers in one study found that a series of happiness interventions involving such exercises as writing down three good things that occurred each day led to increases in happiness that lasted over six months (Seligman et al., 2005).

Measuring happiness and well-being at the societal level over time may assist policy makers in determining if people are generally happy or miserable, as well as when and why they might feel the way they do. Studies show that average national happiness scores (over time and across countries) relate strongly to six key variables: per capita gross domestic product (GDP, which reflects a nation’s economic standard of living), social support, freedom to make important life choices, healthy life expectancy, freedom from perceived corruption in government and business, and generosity (Helliwell et al., 2013). Investigating why people are happy or unhappy might help policymakers develop programs that increase happiness and well-being within a society (Diener et al., 2006). Resolutions about contemporary political and social issues that are frequent topics of debate—such as poverty, taxation, affordable health care and housing, clean air and water, and income inequality—might be best considered with people’s happiness in mind.

Positive Psychology

In 1998, Seligman (the same person who conducted the learned helplessness experiments mentioned earlier), who was then president of the American Psychological Association, urged psychologists to focus more on understanding how to build human strength and psychological well-being. In deliberately setting out to create a new direction and new orientation for psychology, Seligman helped establish a growing movement and field of research called positive psychology (Compton, 2005). In a very general sense, positive psychology can be thought of as the science of happiness it is an area of study that seeks to identify and promote those qualities that lead to greater fulfillment in our lives. This field looks at people’s strengths and what helps individuals to lead happy, contented lives, and it moves away from focusing on people’s pathology, faults, and problems. According to Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000), positive psychology,

at the subjective level is about valued subjective experiences: well-being, contentment, and satisfaction (in the past) hope and optimism (for the future) and… happiness (in the present). At the individual level, it is about positive individual traits: the capacity for love and vocation, courage, interpersonal skill, aesthetic sensibility, perseverance, forgiveness, originality, future mindedness, spirituality, high talent, and wisdom. (p. 5)

Some of the topics studied by positive psychologists include altruism and empathy, creativity, forgiveness and compassion, the importance of positive emotions, enhancement of immune system functioning, savoUring the fleeting moments of life, and strengthening virtues as a way to increase authentic happiness (Compton, 2005). Recent efforts in the field of positive psychology have focused on extending its principles toward peace and well-being at the level of the global community. In a war-torn world in which conflict, hatred, and distrust are common, such an extended “positive peace psychology” could have important implications for understanding how to overcome oppression and work toward global peace (Cohrs, Christie, White, & Das, 2013).

The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds

On the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center conducts rigorous scientific research on healthy aspects of the mind, such as kindness, forgiveness, compassion, and mindfulness. Established in 2008 and led by renowned neuroscientist Dr. Richard J. Davidson, the Center examines a wide range of ideas, including such things as a kindness curriculum in schools, neural correlates of prosocial behaviour, psychological effects of Tai Chi training, digital games to foster prosocial behaviour in children, and the effectiveness of yoga and breathing exercises in reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to its website, the Center was founded after Dr. Davidson was challenged by His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, “to apply the rigours of science to study positive qualities of mind” (Center for Investigating Health Minds, 2013). The Center continues to conduct scientific research with the aim of developing mental health training approaches that help people to live happier, healthier lives.

Positive Affect and Optimism

Taking a cue from positive psychology, extensive research over the last 10-15 years has examined the importance of positive psychological attributes in physical well-being. Qualities that help promote psychological well-being (e.g., having meaning and purpose in life, a sense of autonomy, positive emotions, and satisfaction with life) are linked with a range of favourable health outcomes (especially improved cardiovascular health) mainly through their relationships with biological functions and health behaviours (such as diet, physical activity, and sleep quality) (Boehm & Kubzansky, 2012). The quality that has received attention is positive affect , which refers to pleasurable engagement with the environment, such as happiness, joy, enthusiasm, alertness, and excitement (Watson, Clark, & Tellegen, 1988). The characteristics of positive affect, as with negative affect (discussed earlier), can be brief, long-lasting, or trait-like (Pressman & Cohen, 2005). Independent of age, gender, and income, positive affect is associated with greater social connectedness, emotional and practical support, adaptive coping efforts, and lower depression it is also associated with longevity and favourable physiological functioning (Steptoe, O’Donnell, Marmot, & Wardle, 2008).

Positive affect also serves as a protective factor against heart disease. In a 10-year study of Nova Scotians, the rate of heart disease was 22% lower for each one-point increase on the measure of positive affect, from 1 (no positive affect expressed) to 5 (extreme positive affect) (Davidson, Mostofsky, & Whang, 2010). In terms of our health, the expression, “don’t worry, be happy” is helpful advice indeed. There has also been much work suggesting that optimism —the general tendency to look on the bright side of things—is also a significant predictor of positive health outcomes.

Although positive affect and optimism are related in some ways, they are not the same (Pressman & Cohen, 2005). Whereas positive affect is mostly concerned with positive feeling states, optimism has been regarded as a generalized tendency to expect that good things will happen (Chang, 2001). It has also been conceptualized as a tendency to view life’s stressors and difficulties as temporary and external to oneself (Peterson & Steen, 2002). Numerous studies over the years have consistently shown that optimism is linked to longevity, healthier behaviours, fewer post-surgical complications, better immune functioning among men with prostate cancer, and better treatment adherence (Rasmussen & Wallio, 2008). Further, optimistic people report fewer physical symptoms, less pain, better physical functioning, and are less likely to be rehospitalized following heart surgery (Rasmussen, Scheier, & Greenhouse, 2009).

Another factor that seems to be important in fostering a deep sense of well-being is the ability to derive flow from the things we do in life. Flow is described as a particular experience that is so engaging and engrossing that it becomes worth doing for its own sake (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997). It is usually related to creative endeavours and leisure activities, but it can also be experienced by workers who like their jobs or students who love studying (Csikszentmihalyi, 1999). Many of us instantly recognize the notion of flow. In fact, the term derived from respondents’ spontaneous use of the term when asked to describe how it felt when what they were doing was going well. When people experience flow, they become involved in an activity to the point where they feel they lose themselves in the activity. They effortlessly maintain their concentration and focus, they feel as though they have complete control of their actions, and time seems to pass more quickly than usual (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997). Flow is considered a pleasurable experience, and it typically occurs when people are engaged in challenging activities that require skills and knowledge they know they possess. For example, people would be more likely report flow experiences in relation to their work or hobbies than in relation to eating. When asked the question, “Do you ever get involved in something so deeply that nothing else seems to matter, and you lose track of time?” about 20% of Americans and Europeans report having these flow-like experiences regularly (Csikszentmihalyi, 1997).

Although wealth and material possessions are nice to have, the notion of flow suggests that neither are prerequisites for a happy and fulfilling life. Finding an activity that you are truly enthusiastic about, something so absorbing that doing it is reward itself (whether it be playing tennis, studying Arabic, writing children’s novels, or cooking lavish meals) is perhaps the real key. According to Csikszentmihalyi (1999), creating conditions that make flow experiences possible should be a top social and political priority. How might this goal be achieved? How might flow be promoted in school systems? In the workplace? What potential benefits might be accrued from such efforts?

In an ideal world, scientific research endeavours should inform us on how to bring about a better world for all people. The field of positive psychology promises to be instrumental in helping us understand what truly builds hope, optimism, happiness, healthy relationships, flow, and genuine personal fulfillment.

Csikszentmihalyi on drugs and their effect - Psychology

I grew up in Europe, and World War II caught me when I was between seven and 10 years old. And I realized how few of the grown-ups that I knew were able to withstand the tragedies that the war visited on them — how few of them could even resemble a normal, contented, satisfied, happy life once their job, their home, their security was destroyed by the war. So I became interested in understanding what contributed to a life that was worth living. And I tried, as a child, as a teenager, to read philosophy and to get involved in art and religion and many other ways that I could see as a possible answer to that question. And finally I ended up encountering psychology by chance.

I was at a ski resort in Switzerland without any money to actually enjoy myself, because the snow had melted and I didn't have money to go to a movie. But I found that on the — I read in the newspapers that there was to be a presentation by someone in a place that I'd seen in the center of Zurich, and it was about flying saucers [that] he was going to talk. And I thought, well, since I can't go to the movies, at least I will go for free to listen to flying saucers. And the man who talked at that evening lecture was very interesting. Instead of talking about little green men, he talked about how the psyche of the Europeans had been traumatized by the war, and now they're projecting flying saucers into the sky. He talked about how the mandalas of ancient Hindu religion were kind of projected into the sky as an attempt to regain some sense of order after the chaos of war. And this seemed very interesting to me. And I started reading his books after that lecture. And that was Carl Jung, whose name or work I had no idea about.

Then I came to this country to study psychology and I started trying to understand the roots of happiness. This is a typical result that many people have presented, and there are many variations on it. But this, for instance, shows that about 30 percent of the people surveyed in the United States since 1956 say that their life is very happy. And that hasn't changed at all. Whereas the personal income, on a scale that has been held constant to accommodate for inflation, has more than doubled, almost tripled, in that period. But you find essentially the same results, namely, that after a certain basic point — which corresponds more or less to just a few 1,000 dollars above the minimum poverty level — increases in material well-being don't seem to affect how happy people are. In fact, you can find that the lack of basic resources, material resources, contributes to unhappiness, but the increase in material resources does not increase happiness.

So my research has been focused more on — after finding out these things that actually corresponded to my own experience, I tried to understand: where — in everyday life, in our normal experience — do we feel really happy? And to start those studies about 40 years ago, I began to look at creative people — first artists and scientists, and so forth — trying to understand what made them feel that it was worth essentially spending their life doing things for which many of them didn't expect either fame or fortune, but which made their life meaningful and worth doing.

This was one of the leading composers of American music back in the ྂs. And the interview was 40 pages long. But this little excerpt is a very good summary of what he was saying during the interview. And it describes how he feels when composing is going well. And he says by describing it as an ecstatic state.

Now, "ecstasy" in Greek meant simply to stand to the side of something. And then it became essentially an analogy for a mental state where you feel that you are not doing your ordinary everyday routines. So ecstasy is essentially a stepping into an alternative reality. And it's interesting, if you think about it, how, when we think about the civilizations that we look up to as having been pinnacles of human achievement — whether it's China, Greece, the Hindu civilization, or the Mayas, or Egyptians — what we know about them is really about their ecstasies, not about their everyday life. We know the temples they built, where people could come to experience a different reality. We know about the circuses, the arenas, the theaters. These are the remains of civilizations and they are the places that people went to experience life in a more concentrated, more ordered form.

Now, this man doesn't need to go to a place like this, which is also — this place, this arena, which is built like a Greek amphitheatre, is a place for ecstasy also. We are participating in a reality that is different from that of the everyday life that we're used to. But this man doesn't need to go there. He needs just a piece of paper where he can put down little marks, and as he does that, he can imagine sounds that had not existed before in that particular combination. So once he gets to that point of beginning to create, like Jennifer did in her improvisation, a new reality — that is, a moment of ecstasy — he enters that different reality. Now he says also that this is so intense an experience that it feels almost as if he didn't exist. And that sounds like a kind of a romantic exaggeration. But actually, our nervous system is incapable of processing more than about 110 bits of information per second. And in order to hear me and understand what I'm saying, you need to process about 60 bits per second. That's why you can't hear more than two people. You can't understand more than two people talking to you.

Well, when you are really involved in this completely engaging process of creating something new, as this man is, he doesn't have enough attention left over to monitor how his body feels, or his problems at home. He can't feel even that he's hungry or tired. His body disappears, his identity disappears from his consciousness, because he doesn't have enough attention, like none of us do, to really do well something that requires a lot of concentration, and at the same time to feel that he exists. So existence is temporarily suspended. And he says that his hand seems to be moving by itself. Now, I could look at my hand for two weeks, and I wouldn't feel any awe or wonder, because I can't compose. (Laughter)

So what it's telling you here is that obviously this automatic, spontaneous process that he's describing can only happen to someone who is very well trained and who has developed technique. And it has become a kind of a truism in the study of creativity that you can't be creating anything with less than 10 years of technical-knowledge immersion in a particular field. Whether it's mathematics or music, it takes that long to be able to begin to change something in a way that it's better than what was there before. Now, when that happens, he says the music just flows out. And because all of these people I started interviewing — this was an interview which is over 30 years old — so many of the people described this as a spontaneous flow that I called this type of experience the "flow experience." And it happens in different realms.

For instance, a poet describes it in this form. This is by a student of mine who interviewed some of the leading writers and poets in the United States. And it describes the same effortless, spontaneous feeling that you get when you enter into this ecstatic state. This poet describes it as opening a door that floats in the sky — a very similar description to what Albert Einstein gave as to how he imagined the forces of relativity, when he was struggling with trying to understand how it worked. But it happens in other activities. For instance, this is another student of mine, Susan Jackson from Australia, who did work with some of the leading athletes in the world. And you see here in this description of an Olympic skater, the same essential description of the phenomenology of the inner state of the person. You don't think it goes automatically, if you merge yourself with the music, and so forth.

It happens also, actually, in the most recent book I wrote, called "Good Business," where I interviewed some of the CEOs who had been nominated by their peers as being both very successful and very ethical, very socially responsible. You see that these people define success as something that helps others and at the same time makes you feel happy as you are working at it. And like all of these successful and responsible CEOs say, you can't have just one of these things be successful if you want a meaningful and successful job. Anita Roddick is another one of these CEOs we interviewed. She is the founder of Body Shop, the natural cosmetics king. It's kind of a passion that comes from doing the best and having flow while you're working.

This is an interesting little quote from Masaru Ibuka, who was at that time starting out Sony without any money, without a product — they didn't have a product, they didn't have anything, but they had an idea. And the idea he had was to establish a place of work where engineers can feel the joy of technological innovation, be aware of their mission to society and work to their heart's content. I couldn't improve on this as a good example of how flow enters the workplace.

Now, when we do studies — we have, with other colleagues around the world, done over 8,000 interviews of people — from Dominican monks, to blind nuns, to Himalayan climbers, to Navajo shepherds — who enjoy their work. And regardless of the culture, regardless of education or whatever, there are these seven conditions that seem to be there when a person is in flow. There's this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other you get immediate feedback. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though difficult, and sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. And once the conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.

In our studies, we represent the everyday life of people in this simple scheme. And we can measure this very precisely, actually, because we give people electronic pagers that go off 10 times a day, and whenever they go off you say what you're doing, how you feel, where you are, what you're thinking about. And two things that we measure is the amount of challenge people experience at that moment and the amount of skill that they feel they have at that moment. So for each person we can establish an average, which is the center of the diagram. That would be your mean level of challenge and skill, which will be different from that of anybody else. But you have a kind of a set point there, which would be in the middle.

If we know what that set point is, we can predict fairly accurately when you will be in flow, and it will be when your challenges are higher than average and skills are higher than average. And you may be doing things very differently from other people, but for everyone that flow channel, that area there, will be when you are doing what you really like to do — play the piano, be with your best friend, perhaps work, if work is what provides flow for you. And then the other areas become less and less positive.

Arousal is still good because you are over-challenged there. Your skills are not quite as high as they should be, but you can move into flow fairly easily by just developing a little more skill. So, arousal is the area where most people learn from, because that's where they're pushed beyond their comfort zone and to enter that — going back to flow — then they develop higher skills. Control is also a good place to be, because there you feel comfortable, but not very excited. It's not very challenging any more. And if you want to enter flow from control, you have to increase the challenges. So those two are ideal and complementary areas from which flow is easy to go into.

The other combinations of challenge and skill become progressively less optimal. Relaxation is fine — you still feel OK. Boredom begins to be very aversive and apathy becomes very negative: you don't feel that you're doing anything, you don't use your skills, there's no challenge. Unfortunately, a lot of people's experience is in apathy. The largest single contributor to that experience is watching television the next one is being in the bathroom, sitting. Even though sometimes watching television about seven to eight percent of the time is in flow, but that's when you choose a program you really want to watch and you get feedback from it.

So the question we are trying to address — and I'm way over time — is how to put more and more of everyday life in that flow channel. And that is the kind of challenge that we're trying to understand. And some of you obviously know how to do that spontaneously without any advice, but unfortunately a lot of people don't. And that's what our mandate is, in a way, to do.


  • While happiness itself is sought for its own sake, every other goal—health, beauty, money, or power—is valued only because we expect that it will make us happy.
  • Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy.
  • "For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued it must ensue…as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course greater than oneself.” - Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
  • The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

Chapter 2: The Anatomy of Consciousness

  • This ability to persevere despite obstacles and setbacks is the quality people most admire in others, and justly so it is probably the most important trait not only for succeeding in life, but for enjoying it as well.

Attention as Psychic Energy

  • The mark of a person who is in control of consciousness is the ability to focus attention at will, to be oblivious to distractions, to concentrate for as long as it takes to achieve a goal, and not longer. And the person who can do this usually enjoys the normal course of everyday life.

Complexity and the Growth of the Self

  • The self becomes complex as a result of experiencing flow. Paradoxically, it is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were. When we choose a goal and invest ourselves in it to the limits of our concentration, whatever we do will be enjoyable. And once we have tasted this joy, we will redouble our efforts to taste it again. This is the way the self grows.

Chapter 3: Enjoyment and the Quality of Life

  • There are two main strategies we can adopt to improve the quality of life. The first is to try making external conditions match our goals. The second is to change how we experience external conditions to make them fit our goals better.

The Elements of Enjoyment

  • As our studies have suggested, the phenomenology of enjoyment has eight major components.
  • When people reflect on how it feels when their experience is most positive, they mention at least one, and often all, of the following.
  • First, the experience usually occurs when we confront tasks we have a chance of completing.
  • Second, we must be able to concentrate on what we are doing.
  • Third and fourth, the concentration is usually possible because the task undertaken has clear goals and provides immediate feedback.
  • Fifth, one acts with a deep but effortless involvement that removes from awareness the worries and frustrations of everyday life.
  • Sixth, enjoyable experiences allow people to exercise a sense of control over their actions.
  • Seventh, concern for the self disappears, yet paradoxically the sense of self emerges stronger after the flow experience is over.
  • Finally, the sense of the duration of time is altered hours pass by in minutes, and minutes can stretch out to seem like hours.

A Challenging Activity That Requires Skills

  • It is important to clarify at the outset that an “activity” need not be active in the physical sense, and the skill necessary to engage in it need not be a physical skill. For instance, one of the most frequently mentioned enjoyable activities the world over is reading.
  • Competition is enjoyable only when it is a means to perfect one’s skills when it becomes an end in itself, it ceases to be fun.
  • In all the activities people in our study reported engaging in, enjoyment comes at a very specific point: whenever the opportunities for action perceived by the individual are equal to his or her capabilities.

Clear Goals and Feedback

  • The reason it is possible to achieve such complete involvement in a flow experience is that goals are usually clear, and feedback immediate.
  • Unless a person learns to set goals and to recognize and gauge feedback in such activities, she will not enjoy them.
  • The feedback can be anything, as long as it contains the message: I have succeeded in my goal.

Concentration on the Task at Hand

  • One of the most frequently mentioned dimensions of the flow experience is that, while it lasts, one is able to forget all the unpleasant aspects of life.

Chapter 4: The Conditions of Flow

The Effects of the Family on the Autotelic Personality

  • There is ample evidence to suggest that how parents interact with a child will have a lasting effect on the kind of person that child grows up to be.
  • The family context promoting optimal experience could be described as having five characteristics.
  • The first one is clarity: the teenagers feel that they know what their parents expect from them—goals and feedback in the family interaction are unambiguous.
  • The second is centering, or the children’s perception that their parents are interested in what they are doing in the present, in their concrete feelings and experiences, rather than being preoccupied with whether they will be getting into a good college or obtaining a well-paying job.
  • Next is the issue of choice: children feel that they have a variety of possibilities from which to choose, including that of breaking parental rules—as long as they are prepared to face the consequences.
  • The fourth differentiating characteristic is commitment, or the trust that allows the child to feel comfortable enough to set aside the shield of his defenses, and become unselfconsciously involved in whatever he is interested in.
  • And finally there is challenge, or the parents’ dedication to provide increasingly complex opportunities for action to their children.
  • The presence of these five conditions made possible what was called the “autotelic family context,” because they provide an ideal training for enjoying life.

Chapter 5: The Body in Flow

Higher, Faster, Stronger

  • Even the simplest physical act becomes enjoyable when it is transformed so as to produce flow. The essential steps in this process are:
  • (a) to set an overall goal, and as many subgoals as are realistically feasible
  • (b) to find ways of measuring progress in terms of the goals chosen
  • (c) to keep concentrating on what one is doing, and to keep making finer and finer distinctions in the challenges involved in the activity
  • (d) to develop the skills necessary to interact with the opportunities available and
  • (e) to keep raising the stakes if the activity becomes boring.
  • What we found was that when people were pursuing leisure activities that were expensive in terms of the outside resources required—activities that demanded expensive equipment, or electricity, or other forms of energy measured in BTUs, such as power boating, driving, or watching television—they were significantly less happy than when involved in inexpensive leisure. People were happiest when they were just talking to one another, when they gardened, knitted, or were involved in a hobby.

Sex as Flow

  • It is especially difficult to keep enjoying sex with the same partner over a period of years. It is probably true that humans, like the majority of mammalian species, are not monogamous by nature.
  • How to keep love fresh? The answer is the same as it is for any other activity. To be enjoyable, a relationship must become more complex. To become more complex, the partners must discover new potentialities in themselves and in each other. To discover these, they must invest attention in each other—so that they can learn what thoughts and feelings, what dreams reside in their partner’s mind. This in itself is a never-ending process, a lifetime’s task. After one begins to really know another person, then many joint adventures become possible: traveling together, reading the same books, raising children, making and realizing plans all become more enjoyable and more meaningful. The specific details are unimportant.

Chapter 6: The Flow of Thought

  • To enjoy a mental activity, one must meet the same conditions that make physical activities enjoyable. There must be skill in a symbolic domain there have to be rules, a goal, and a way of obtaining feedback. One must be able to concentrate and interact with the opportunities at a level commensurate with one’s skills.
  • For instance, one of the simplest ways to use the mind is daydreaming: playing out some sequence of events as mental images. But even this apparently easy way to order thought is beyond the range of many people.
  • There are several levels at which history as a flow activity can be practiced. The most personal involves simply keeping a journal. The next is to write a family chronicle, going as far into the past as possible.
  • The study of history, science, philosophy, or any other topic can be the means to flow.

Chapter 7: Work as Flow

Autotelic Jobs

  • The more a job inherently resembles a game—with variety, appropriate and flexible challenges, clear goals, and immediate feedback—the more enjoyable it will be regardless of the worker’s level of development.
  • To improve the quality of life through work, two complementary strategies are necessary.
  • On the one hand jobs should be redesigned so that they resemble as closely as possible flow activities—as do hunting, cottage weaving, and surgery.
  • But it will also be necessary to help people develop autotelic personalities by training them to recognize opportunities for action, to hone their skills, to set reachable goals.
  • Neither one of these strategies is likely to make work much more enjoyable by itself in combination, they should contribute enormously to optimal experience.

Chapter 8: Enjoying Solitude and Other People

  • Studies on flow have demonstrated repeatedly that more than anything else, the quality of life depends on two factors: how we experience work, and our relations with other people.

The Conflict Between Being Alone and Being With Others

  • How is it possible to reconcile the fact that people cause both the best and the worst times?
  • This apparent contradiction is actually not that difficult to resolve. Like anything else that really matters, relationships make us extremely happy when they go well, and very depressed when they don’t work out.

The Pain of Loneliness

  • To fill free time with activities that require concentration, that increase skills, that lead to a development of the self, is not the same as killing time by watching television or taking recreational drugs. Although both strategies might be seen as different ways of coping with the same threat of chaos, as defenses against ontological anxiety, the former leads to growth, while the latter merely serves to keep the mind from unraveling. A person who rarely gets bored, who does not constantly need a favorable external environment to enjoy the moment, has passed the test for having achieved a creative life.

Taming Solitude

  • One does not actually have to be a god, but it is true that to enjoy being alone a person must build his own mental routines, so that he can achieve flow without the supports of civilized life—without other people, without jobs, TV, theaters, restaurants, or libraries to help channel his attention.
  • It is this constant concentration on a workable goal that makes sailing so enjoyable. But when the doldrums set in, they might have to go to heroic lengths to find any challenge at all.
  • Yet how one copes with solitude makes all the difference. If being alone is seen as a chance to accomplish goals that cannot be reached in the company of others, then instead of feeling lonely, a person will enjoy solitude and might be able to learn new skills in the process. On the other hand, if solitude is seen as a condition to be avoided at all costs instead of as a challenge, the person will panic and resort to distractions that cannot lead to higher levels of complexity.

Flow and the Family

  • Many successful men and women would second Lee Iacocca’s statement: “I’ve had a wonderful and successful career. But next to my family, it really hasn’t mattered at all.”
  • The problem remains with the period of puberty, roughly the five years between twelve and seventeen: What meaningful challenges can be found for young people that age? The situation is much easier when the parents themselves are involved in understandable and complex activities at home. If the parents enjoy playing music, cooking, reading, gardening, carpentry, or fixing engines in the garage, then it is more likely that their children will find similar activities challenging, and invest enough attention in them to begin enjoy doing something that will help them grow. If parents just talked more about their ideals and dreams—even if these had been frustrated—the children might develop the ambition needed to break through the complacency of their present selves. If nothing else, discussing one’s job or the thoughts and events of the day, and treating children as young adults, as friends, help to socialize them into thoughtful adults.

Chapter 9: Creating Chaos

The Power of Dissipative Structures

  • The peak in the development of coping skills is reached when a young man or woman has achieved a strong enough sense of self, based on personally selected goals, that no external disappointment can entirely undermine who he or she is. For some people the strength derives from a goal that involves identification with the family, with the country, or with a religion or an ideology. For others, it depends on mastery of a harmonious system of symbols, such as art, music, or physics.
  • Those who know how to transform a hopeless situation into a new flow activity that can be controlled will be able to enjoy themselves, and emerge stronger from the ordeal. There are three main steps that seem to be involved in such transformations:
  • 1. Unselfconscious self-assurance.
  • These people believe their destiny is in their hands. They don’t doubt their own resources would be sufficient to allow them to determine their own fate.
  • They also recognize they are part of an environment and must do their best within that system.
  • Basically, to arrive at this level of self-assurance one must trust oneself, one’s environment, and one’s place in it.
  • 2. Focusing attention on the world.
  • Avoid focusing on your own ego, and instead be aware of alternative possibilities, open to the surrounding world.
  • 3. The discovery of new solutions.
  • Focus on the entire situation, including oneself, and discover whether alternative goals might be more appropriate, and whether other solutions exist.

The Autotelic Self: A Summary

  • The difference between someone who enjoys life and someone who is overwhelmed by it is a product of a combination of such external factors and the way a person has come to interpret them—that is, whether he sees challenges as threats or as opportunities for action.
  • The “autotelic self” is one that easily translates potential threats into enjoyable challenges, and therefore maintains its inner harmony. A person who is never bored, seldom anxious, involved with what goes on, and in flow most of the time may be said to have an autotelic self. The term literally means "a self that has self-contained goals," and it reflects the idea that such an individual has relatively few goals that do not originate from within the self.
  • The autotelic self transforms potentially entropic experience into flow. Therefore the rules for developing such a self are simple, and they derive directly from the flow model. Briefly, they can be summarized as follows:
  • 1. Setting goals.
  • One must have clear goals to strive for. A person with an autotelic self learns to make choices without much fuss and the minimum of panic.
  • They also learn to define the goals, challenges, and a system of action in a specific direction to reach a larger goal.
  • 2. Becoming immersed in the activity.
  • The person grows deeply involved in whatever they are doing, balancing expectations and demands with one’s capacity to act, ensuring neither stagnation, nor gross disappointment.
  • 3. Paying attention to what is happening.
  • Concentration leads to involvement, which can only be maintained by constant inputs of attention. Athletes are aware that in a race even a momentary lapse can spell complete defeat.
  • The same pitfalls threaten anyone who participates in a complex system: to stay in it, he must keep investing psychic energy.
  • 4. Learning to enjoy immediate experience.
  • The outcome of having an autotelic self—of learning to set goals, to develop skills, to be sensitive to feedback, to know how to concentrate and get involved—is that one can enjoy life even when objective circumstances are brutish and nasty. Being in control of the mind means that literally anything that happens can be a source of joy.
  • To achieve this control, however, requires determination and discipline. Optimal experience is not the result of a hedonistic, lotus-eating approach to life. A relaxed, laissez-faire attitude is not a sufficient defense against chaos.
  • But to change all existence into a flow experience, it is not sufficient to learn merely how to control moment-by-moment states of consciousness. It is also necessary to have an overall context of goals for the events of everyday life to make sense.

Chapter 10: The Making of Meaning

  • As long as enjoyment follows piecemeal from activities not linked to one another in a meaningful way, one is still vulnerable to the vagaries of chaos. Even the most successful career, the most rewarding family relationship eventually runs dry. Sooner or later involvement in work must be reduced. Spouses die, children grow up and move away. To approach optimal experience as closely as is humanly possible, a last step in the control of consciousness is necessary.
  • What this involves is turning all life into a unified flow experience.
  • It is true that life has no meaning, if by that we mean a supreme goal built into the fabric of nature and human experience, a goal that is valid for every individual. But it does not follow that life cannot be given meaning.
  • From the point of view of an individual, it does not matter what the ultimate goal is—provided it is compelling enough to order a lifetime’s worth of psychic energy.
  • As long as it provides clear objectives, clear rules for action, and a way to concentrate and become involved, any goal can serve to give meaning to a person’s life.

What Meaning Means

  • In this sense the answer to the old riddle “What is the meaning of life?” turns out to be astonishingly simple. The meaning of life is meaning: whatever it is, wherever it comes from, a unified purpose is what gives meaning to life.
  • The second sense of the word meaning refers to the expression of intentionality. And this sense also is appropriate to the issue of how to create meaning by transforming all life into a flow activity. It is not enough to find a purpose that unifies one’s goals one must also carry through and meet its challenges. The purpose must result in strivings intent has to be translated into action. We may call this resolution in the pursuit of one’s goals. What counts is not so much whether a person actually achieves what she has set out to do rather, it matters whether effort has been expended to reach the goal, instead of being diffused or wasted.
  • The third and final way in which life acquires meaning is the result of the previous two steps. When an important goal is pursued with resolution, and all one’s varied activities fit together into a unified flow experience, the result is that harmony is brought to consciousness. Someone who knows his desires and works with purpose to achieve them is a person whose feelings, thoughts, and actions are congruent with one another, and is therefore a person who has achieved inner harmony.
  • Purpose, resolution, and harmony unify life and give it meaning by transforming it into a seamless flow experience. Whoever achieves this state will never really lack anything else. A person whose consciousness is so ordered need not fear unexpected events, or even death. Every living moment will make sense, and most of it will be enjoyable. This certainly sounds desirable. So how does one attain it?

Forging Resolve

  • Inner conflict is the result of competing claims on attention. Too many desires, too many incompatible goals struggle to marshal psychic energy toward their own ends. It follows that the only way to reduce conflict is by sorting out the essential claims from those that are not, and by arbitrating priorities among those that remain. There are basically two ways to accomplish this: what the ancients called the vita activa, a life of action, and the vita contemplativa, or the path of reflection.
  • Immersed in the vita activa, a person achieves flow through total involvement in concrete external challenges.
  • Successful executives, experienced professionals, and talented craftspeople learn to trust their judgment and competence so that they again begin to act with the unselfconscious spontaneity of children. If the arena for action is challenging enough, a person may experience flow continuously in his or her calling, thus leaving as little room as possible for noticing the entropy of normal life. In this way harmony is restored to consciousness indirectly—not by facing up to contradictions and trying to resolve conflicting goals and desires, but by pursuing chosen goals with such intensity that all potential competition is preempted.
  • This is where the presumed advantage of a contemplative life comes in. Detached reflection upon experience, a realistic weighing of options and their consequences, have long been held to be the best approach to a good life.
  • Activity and reflection should ideally complement and support each other. Action by itself is blind, reflection impotent. Before investing great amounts of energy in a goal, it pays to raise the fundamental questions: Is this something I really want to do? Is it something I enjoy doing? Am I likely to enjoy it in the foreseeable future? Is the price that I—and others—will have to pay worth it? Will I be able to live with myself if I accomplish it?

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Positive Psychology: An Introduction (Summary + PDF)

Martin Seligman. Image Property of Wikimedia Commons.

One of the foundational articles in the field of positive psychology is “Positive Psychology. An Introduction,” written by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. (2000)

“Psychology is much larger than curing mental illness or curing diseases. I think it’s about bringing out the best in people it’s about positive institutions it’s about strength of character.”

In this special issue, these pioneering scholars question the focus of the psychology discipline, characterized by pathology and a problem-focus. In doing so, they point to gaps in our knowledge about the potential for psychology to aid creativity, hope, and flourishing.

This groundbreaking article charted a course for the positive psychology discipline and is still widely cited today. In this blog post, we summarize its key points, outline the themes of the papers appearing in the broader special issue, and present some open questions for the positive psychology field.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and the concept of “flowing”

The idea behind Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s theory is that people are much happier when they enter a state of “flow”. This happens when you do something that completely captures your attention. A lot of people would call this “being in the zone,” in other words: full absorption in something and complete happiness while you’re doing it.

Here’s how Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi described the state of flow: “being completely involved in an acitivty for its own sake. The ego falls away. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”

What it is, then, is a state where you focus all your attention on the task or activity at hand. You also have a deep motivation to go along with that attention. Basically, you want to be there doing what you’re doing. The outcome of all this is harmony, balance, and most importantly, happiness. The state of flow also goes by another name: “optimal experience”.

What are the effects of drug abuse?

Drug misuse, abuse, and addiction can all lead to both short-term and long-term health effects.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders fourth edition (DMS-4) defines drug abuse as “a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.”

The effects of drug abuse depend on the type of drug, any other substances that a person is using, and their health history.

In this article, we discuss the impact of drug abuse and explain how to treat drug addiction.

Share on Pinterest Group therapy may help a person who is in recovery for drug abuse.

Drugs are chemical compounds that affect the mind and body. The exact effects vary among individuals and also depend on the drug, dosage, and delivery method.

Using any drug, even in moderation or according to a medical prescription, can have short-term effects.

For instance, consuming one or two servings of alcohol can lead to mild intoxication. A person may feel relaxed, uninhibited, or sleepy.

Nicotine from cigarettes and other tobacco products raises blood pressure and increases alertness.

Using a prescription opioid as a doctor has instructed helps relieve moderate-to-severe pain, but opioids can also cause drowsiness, shallow breathing, and constipation.

Abusing a drug, or misusing a prescription medication, can produce other short-term effects, such as:

  • changes in appetite
  • sleeplessness or insomnia
  • increased heart rate
  • slurred speech
  • changes in cognitive ability
  • a temporary sense of euphoria
  • loss of coordination

Drug abuse can affect aspects of a person’s life beyond their physical health. People with substance use disorder, for example, may experience:

  • an inability to cease using a drug
  • relationship problems
  • poor work or academic performance
  • difficulty maintaining personal hygiene
  • noticeable changes in appearance, such as extreme weight loss
  • increased impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors
  • loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities

Drug abuse, especially over an extended period, can have numerous long-term health effects.

Chronic drug use can alter a person’s brain structure and function, resulting in long-term psychological effects, such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • panic disorders
  • increased aggression
  • paranoia
  • hallucinations

Long-term drug use can also affect a person’s memory, learning, and concentration.

The long-term physical effects of drug use vary depending on the type of drug and the duration of use. However, experts have linked chronic drug use with the following health conditions:

Cardiovascular disease

Stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamines, can damage the heart and blood vessels.

The long-term use of these drugs can lead to coronary artery disease, arrhythmia, and heart attack.

Respiratory problems

Drugs that people smoke or inhale can damage the respiratory system and lead to chronic respiratory infections and diseases.

Opioids slow a person’s breathing by binding to specific receptors in the central nervous system that regulate respiration. By depressing a person’s respiration, these drugs can lead to slow breathing or heavy snoring.

A person may stop breathing entirely if they take a large dose of an opioid or take it alongside other drugs, such as sleep aids or alcohol.

Kidney damage

The kidneys filter excess minerals and waste products from the blood. Heroin, ketamine, and synthetic cannabinoids can cause kidney damage or kidney failure.

Liver disease

Chronic drug and alcohol use can damage the liver cells, leading to inflammation, scarring, and even liver failure.


Taking too much of a drug or taking multiple drugs together can result in an overdose.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdose caused 67,367 deaths in the United States in 2018. Opioids contributed to nearly 70% of these deaths.

Watch the video: ΟΑΣΙΣ-ΝΑΡΚΩΤΙΚΑ ΚΑΙ ΑΠΕΞΑΡΤΗΣΗ (August 2022).