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Positive Psychology Essay

From the day we commence formal education, how we work, how we pursue leisure and the balance between the two is a fluctuating division. Work can be fulfilling and promote greater happiness, however, in most cases, work is used to provide basic economic stability. Likewise leisure, the time we have separate to work, is generally used to pursue our interests in a meaningful way. Effectively, these are the two components of our waking lives. How we pursue them and more importantly, how we structure them has a large impact on happiness levels. However, what transcends this division is flow. In the words of Mihayli Csikszentmihalyi, flow denotes the holistic sensation when we act with total involvementIt is the state in which action follows upon action according to an internal logic which seems to need no conscious intervention on our part. Flow in itself does not denote happiness, rather it is the control it gives us over our subconscious that lets us direct our efforts toward clear goals with immediate feedback. Flow affects every facet of our lives involving an activity, one of the primary branches being creativity. Creativity is one of the few activities that cannot occur properly without flow. Writers block, stage fright and a lack of inspiration are commonly used terms linked with an inability to enter the flow of creativity. The misconception of creativity occurring spontaneously from nothing is just that, creative people require structure, immediate feedback and validation, similar to the work place. Work means many things to many people, but its importance is the same nonetheless. In terms of wellbeing, this is naturally an important area to experience happiness due to its pivotal effect on an individuals life. On top of this, flow is experienced more during work than during leisure (Bryce & Hayworth 2002). Flow results by virtue of a combination of factors, the most important of these being the matching of skill and challenge level. Essentially, provided a high skill level is met by a high challenge, flow results (Compton, 2005). However, while high skill and high challenge is frequently cited as causing flow, other studies by Clarke and Hayworth (1994) and Hayworth and Evans (1995) show that it can be achieved at other balances, but enjoyment is generally higher in high skill and challenge, the reason being engagement in an activity of high challenge and high skill level allows an individual to improve their skill (Eisenberger et al. 2005). In regard to happiness, this is naturally the type of flow one should attempt to achieve. In addition to improving the wellbeing of the person in question, flow has other far reaching effects within the workplace. Higher levels of positivity in the workplace have led to being linked to employees undertaking extra roles in their positions (Eisenberger, Armeli, Rexwinkel, Lynch, & Rhoades, 2001; George & Brief, 1992). This phenomenon is known as organisational spontaneity. Both George and Brief and Eisenberger et al. found that a positive mood primes employees to see more favourable characteristics of their fellow employees, leading to greater co-operation. On top of this, they suggest that a positive mood should heighten creativity and result in creative suggestions. Consistent with these views, Eisenberger et al. (2005) undertook further studies to show these results once again. Flow it seems not only heightens happiness in one individual. It has a ripple effect within the workplace that not only improves the work ethic of the employee, but raises happiness, which leads to greater work relationships and more scope for imagination.

2 However, the concept of work and the work place governs more than just a nine-to-five day in an office. To quote Bryce and Hayworth (2002) It is considered that flow can be obtained in almost any activity, with the goals of activities serving as mere tokens that justify the activity by giving it direction and determining rules of action. It is entirely reasonable to assume by this that flow can be achieved in the upbringing of children, a form of work that is a full-time job for housespouses. This is especially pertinent to the female flow experience as evidence has suggested that their greatest source of flow was inter-personal relationships, particularly those with children (Bryce & Hayworth 2002). This is compounded by previous evidence for the importance of socialisation and relationships for women as a predictor of wellbeing (Deem, 1986; Green et al., 1990; Shaw, 1994). This raises the possibility of it resulting from gender demands and as a result, there being ways of pursuing flow for women as opposed to men. In terms of flow, mothers stated that the times they most experienced flow was when tending to their children, which resulted in them feeling like better mothers and as a result, happier (Compton 2005). However, there are nonetheless challenges to parenthood. There is a lack of work stability, ie. the duties of a parent are always changing. It might be easier to experience flow when raising a young child as while duties are more stressful, they are easier to understand. These reactions eventually give way to the teenage years, a common time of conflict, resulting in difficulty to achieve flow, and as previously stated, the highest level of enjoyment experience via flow is from work. For a house spouse, this is their work being disrupted, they have no other work outlet, and given that the lines between work and leisure are blurred in this regard, it makes achieving flow difficult. However, as previously stated, the highest level of happiness associated with flow is that of high skill and high challenge that allows an individual to hone their skills. By the teenage years, parents are constantly improving their skill set and being able to surmount these difficulties will result in only higher happiness and overall wellbeing. The importance of creativity cannot be understated. In the words of Compton (2005) Creativity is responsible for virtually all the advances that humans have made over time immemorial. As opposed to be being a different way of increasing wellbeing, flow underpins creativity. In Sinnamons (2012) study, 95% of elite musicians experienced flow always or frequently with 87% for amateur students. Given the already established importance of flow and the affect it has on wellbeing, it is incredible that an individual would experience such a consistent level of flow, especially given the length of time elite musicians devote to practise every day and subsequently, the consistent increase in wellbeing. On top of this, most creative fields can be continuously pursued as one grows older and in fact allows one to improve due to crystallised intelligence (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). This keeps the symbolic domains of creativity to remain open throughout ones entire lifespan (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). However, many of the great benefits to happiness also carry hardships, making creativity a double edged sword in some regards. Much of this is due to the fact that flow is so intrinsically linked with creativity, so entering this state and sustaining it can be difficult. This is largely as a result of creativity being pursued in ones leisure time as most individuals do not pursue their creative interests in a professional sense. This may result in restricted access to creative domains (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996), causing frustration and lowering wellbeing. Finally, creative individuals are generally more open and sensitive (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996) and while this facilitates greater expression, it also results in anxieties and slights not felt by others (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996).

3 Yet, the process of losing oneself in a creative interest and the continually pursuing it throughout ones life has stronger effects than even flow. Creative individuals rarely pursue lucrative careers for extrinsic rewards (although these are nonetheless are an incentive), rather acquiring the base material needs to allow for further time and space for intrinsic rewards (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996). This is perhaps the most valuable element that creative pursuits instil in an individual. Flow is still not a perfect science. In the workplace, it has a strong effect on those with a high need for achievement, yet care nonetheless has to be taken to not cause anxiety in these individuals with activities too challenging for their skill level and likewise to not bore them with activities that are too low in challenge level in relation to their skill level (Eisenberg et al. 2005). However, there is still further research to be done with regard to low achievement employees who have low mood and positivity levels, regardless of skill or challenge level. This could perhaps be aided by extrinsic motivation or task enrichment to enhance motivation which would subsequently allow for flow (Eisenberg et al. 2005). The prevailing difficulty for parenthood, especially for house spouses, is the division between ones work and leisure. An interesting avenue to pursue in this regard would be if the level of happiness was higher while a parent was working with their children, or if it was higher during leisure as this, like individuals who pursue their creative interests in a professional sense, is one of the few areas where the division between work and leisure is difficult to establish. Creativity is, and will always be, the most important avenue of human progression. It allows for every type of expression in the human psyche. The single-minded devotion by these individuals to their mode of expression shows the aid to wellbeing it provides. However, creativity is nonetheless capable of only so much. Kurt Cobain, Vincent Van Gogh and Sylvia Plath are three of the greatest artists in their fields, yet all died via suicide. Yet, despite this, Sylvia Plath once said God, it was good to let go, let the tight mask fall off, and the bewildered, chaotic fragments pour out. It was the purge, the catharsis. As mentally ill as Sylvia Plath was, it is clear from this that her art provided her with some manner of relief from the pain she must have lived with. Flow, creativity and their effect can in no way be underestimated.