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Discover your Flow

1/3/2013
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               A few days ago, I saw a documentary called “Happy.”  The film explored the nature of human happiness –what causes it, how we can be happier, and what being a happy person can mean for your life. I was especially struck by the film’s explanation of the hedonic treadmill – a human tendency to return to certain level of happiness regardless of circumstances.  How many times has this happened to you?  You think to yourself, if I just got that raise or had that new car…then I’d be happy.  Then, you achieve your goal, you get that new house or promotion and, while you are happy for a while, you quickly return to your previous level of happiness.  This has been frequently observed in lottery winners.  We all assume that if we won the lottery, we would have no more troubles.  We’d be truly happy.  However, the evidence suggests otherwise.  Lucky winners often experience initial exuberance but the effects fade with time.  Essentially, we are all on a treadmill working towards an increased level of happiness, yet mostly staying in place.

            Horseback RidingSo, if achieving our personal and professional goals doesn’t help us achieve long term happiness, what does?  Well, the documentary discussed a study conducted in the 90’s that looked at 1,155 sets of twins over ten years in order to determine just that.  The study found that 50% of our happiness levels come from genetics.  No amount of money or status can affect this 50%. You are born with it.  Another 10% of happiness comes from our external circumstances – those things that we grow up thinking will make us happy – life’s ups and downs.  However, a whopping 40% of our happiness comes from “intentional activity.”  This means that, regardless of your life’s circumstance, you can do a great deal to foster your own happiness.  So, what is meant by “intentional activity” and how can it make us happier?  The documentary explained that happy people generally have two things in common.  The first is that they are part of a community – a group of family and/or friends.  We are social creatures by nature and isolation is bad for our potential happiness.  The second activity is “flow.”  Flow is an activity that that fully engages us.  It’s an activity that we can lose ourselves in.  This is different for different people.  For me, flow comes from cooking.  When I’m working on a dish that I have never made before, I can forget the world and only focus on the task at hand.  Others find their flow surfing, working out, dancing, painting, playing an instrument, yoga, or home improvement.

            For many, Harpole’s Heartland Lodge can be the perfect place to find flow.  If you feel like you lose yourself when you are experiencing the great outdoors – hunting, four-wheeling, shooting clay, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, mountain bike riding, sledding, or cross country skiing – you should pay us a visit and clear your mind by doing what you love.  Oftentimes we feel that indulging in our favorite activities is selfish or a waste of time that could be spent working, cleaning, fixing, etc.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  When you experience flow, you are generally happier and you take that happiness into every element of your life. 

            Many years before this documentary was created or any academics began studying the nature of human happiness, Abraham Lincoln wrote that “most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  If indeed 40% of our happiness comes from factors that are controllable (intentional activities), then Lincoln’s words were far ahead of his time.  So, now that the hustle and bustle of the holidays is behind us, think about how you find your flow, how you find your happiness.  And, if it happens to be doing one of the activities offered by the lodge, then we’d be thrilled to help you rediscover your passion.

Nicole

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