Number 53 in our countdown of '70 Ways Art Improves Our Health' highlights how art can unlock what some describe as ‘the secret to happiness’…

We are all capable of reaching a state of natural concentration and enjoyment called ‘flow.’ Many of us would recognise it, even if we don’t know its name.

Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defined flow as being ‘in the zone’ - totally immersed in and relishing a challenging activity. He also identified it, above money and material resources, as the key to a happy life.

While flow can come from any task that suits our skills, making art is one of the definitive flow activities. In fact, Mihaly's interest in flow actually began when he was trying to understand the absolute focus of a painter. He observed that creating art was inherently enjoyable.

When we are involved in [creativity], we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

And these effects are not just for professional artists. One study about flow in teenage students discovered that, of all the subjects in school, they were most engaged in and motivated by their art classes. Unsurprisingly, their art classes also had the most positive effect on their moods.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates that flow is highly correlated with happiness, both subjective and psychological wellbeing. It has been found that people who experience a lot of flow in their lives also develop other positive traits, such as higher concentration, self-esteem, and even greater health.

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