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The power of flow

August 1, 2018

The core of the hiMoment app is Flow, a method we created that brings together various cognitive processes to boost your happiness: attend, remember, process & decide what makes you happy!

Flow is a mental state where a person is fully immersed, focused on and fulfilled by what they are doing. People are happiest when they are in this optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where nothing else matters, the ego falls away, time flies and are fully in the moment (Csikszentmihalyi, 1992, 2008). Flow states have been found in sports (e.g. runner’s high), in musicians, in programmers, artists but also at work. Flow states are usually achieved through a balance between challenge and skill: something highly challenging that you accomplish by being highly skilled allows you to experience Flow.

At hiMoment, we are trying to recreate these Flow experiences using memory of your unique hiMoments.

Decision-making is a cognitive process that allows us to evaluate information based on our values, preferences and beliefs and make a choice between two or more options. The way our brain understands our experiences is by using information around us as reference points, to which we can compare and evaluate information. How do these reference points work? As an example, in one study the question was how happy you will be about eating potato chips (Morewedge et al., 2010). Two reference points were created: the experimenter placed either chocolate or sardines on the table next to the package of chips. Intuitively, we might think that you will either be happy about eating chips or not, but turns out, it is not that simple. Participants enjoyed the chips more when there were sardines on the table, but less when they ate them next to chocolate. The chips are exactly the same, but the context that they were presented in (e.g. disgusting sardines or delicious chocolate) affected how much we enjoy them. Whether we are aware of it or not, everything around us influences our experiences, and thus our happiness.

Tversky and Griffin highlighted that the memory of the past is an essential element of present wellbeing because memories give us a reference point to define our present happiness (Tversky & Griffin, 1991). How memories affect our current sense of well-being is complicated though: they can either be a source of happiness or unhappiness. The endowment effect refers to when an event directly contributes to one’s happiness: good things will make us happier, while bad things make us unhappier. Liberman, Boehm, Lyubomirsky and Ross (2009) showed that people who endowed or savoured positive past events, but didn’t endow or dwell on negative past events, reported greater levels of happiness.

At hiMoment we therefore believe that we can use our memories to boost our happiness, if we focus on positive rather than negative ones.

We focus on creating subjective and always positive reference points. That is why in Flow, we present you with two of your hiMoments and you need to decide which is the happier one .

We think that the most important decision to make to boost your happiness is to ask yourself which hiMoment makes you happier.

  • Csikszentmihalyi (1992). Optimal Experience: Psychological Studies of Flow in Consciousness.Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Csikszentmihalyi (2008). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
  • Morewedge, C.K.,  Gilbert, D.T., Myrseth,  O.R., Kassam, K.S. & Wilson, T.D. (2010) Consuming experience: Why affective forecasters overestimate comparative value. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 46, 986-992.
  • Tversky, A., & Griffin, D. (1991). Endowment and contrast in judgments of well-being. In F. Strack, M. Argyle, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Subjective well-being: An interdisciplinary perspective (pp. 101–118). Elmsford, NY: Pergamon Press.
  • Liberman, V., Boehm, J. K., Lyubomirsky, S., & Ross, L. D. (2009). Happiness and memory: Affective significance of endowment and contrast. Emotion, 9(5), 666-680.