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Does your space facilitate flow?

People constantly throw around the word “flow” on home renovation shows, but we suspected that flow referred to more than open kitchens and endless hardwood floors.

To find out more, we read up on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who, in addition to having a name that would be an incredible Wheel of Fortune puzzle, happens to be an expert on the scientific study of happiness. In his research, he “discovered that people find genuine satisfaction during a state of consciousness called Flow.” (The capitalization is his, not ours, but we’ll go with it.)

In a state of Flow, a person can be completely absorbed in an activity, especially a creative one, and feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.”

That sounds pretty fantastic. We might call it being “in the zone.” It’s a flawless recipe for productivity blended with peace.

What elements are required in order to be in the zone? Once you’re in it, external stimuli might not matter as much, but it’s very difficult to get in the zone if you’re uncomfortably cold or hot, or the light’s too harsh or too dim, or there’s an incessant din of chatter and phones and keyboard clacking around you, or your chair is scratchy, or you live in a (gulp) open workspace where everyone seems to be glaring at everyone else all the time.

Csikszentmihalyi cites several internal elements that need to be in place in order to achieve Flow, and uses examples of people who can achieve a state of Flow even “in the most barren environment.” But our experiences tell us that setting has a lot to do with flow.

Csikszentmihalyi himself says that yoga and Flow have similarities, and you don’t usually see yoga classes held on a highway median. Ambiance is important.

What does it take to get you in the zone?