Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's research shows that happiness and feeling the flow state of optimal experience isn’t something that just happens. It’s not random or just “luck”. It’s not passive. It’s an active pursuit.
This desired state is not outside of ourselves, it occurs from within, in how we interpret events, our perceptions, and what we do to create circumstances for optimal experiences. It’s something that we work towards, prepare for and learn to cultivate.
Once this discipline is harnessed, we become more aware of information and opportunities that are congruent with our goals and desires. Energy flows more easily. Each time we achieve an optimal experience, a positive feedback loop is created and it can be more frequent. “The positive feedback strengthens the self, and more attention is freed to deal with the outer and inner environment” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 39). The quality of one’s life inevitably improves. “People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us can come to being happy” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 2).
To overcome external experiences that can produce anxieties and depressions, a person must develop the ability to find enjoyment, meaning and purpose regardless of external circumstances. “…It requires a discipline and perseverance that are relatively rare…achieving control over experience requires a drastic change in attitude about what is important and what is not” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 16). Actively participating in creating a flow of optimal experience will create a sense of personal power and an ability to enjoy ongoing experiences. We actively construct how we invest our energy. We can’t consciously reach for a state of happiness. Rather it has to be a by-product of the many details of how we are living and what we are giving our attention to.
Csikszentmihalyi (1990) cited Viktor Frankl’s definition from his book Man’s Search for Meaning:
“Don’t aim at success-the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued: it must ensue…as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a course great than oneself” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 2). It happens when your busy doing life.
Working towards this inner (optimal) experience requires acceptance of situations and experiences that are beyond our control. Once we chose acceptance, we begin from there. We can choose to use our unique abilities and traits to create an environment that works for us. Happiness and optimal experiences are not a passive act. “The bests moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 3). (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 3).
Creating ongoing optimal experiences doesn't start out as a pleasant experience. Getting control of our inner experience and perceptions doesn’t come easily. It requires a consistent effort, an active participation in spending time perfecting a craft, tediously working towards a mindset, goal or activity. “…Optimal experience depends on the ability to control what happens in consciousness moment by moment, each person has to achieve it on the basis of his own personal efforts and creativity” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990, p. 5). It requires leading a vigorous life, pursuing a variety of interests and continuous learning and striving. It’s about learning to enjoy the journey.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York, NY: HarperPerennial.
Long-Term Mild Exercise (ME), such as #running, increases #Adult_Hippocampal_Neurogenesis (AHN) and changes the Transcriptome cells of the Hippocampus
Long-term mild exercise improves (spatial) memory and improves the efficiency of cell function.
Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis AHN explained:
The hippocampus is significant in the formation of (new) long-term memories and special navigation. Aspects of memory are enhanced with long-term mild exercise (ME).
“Exercise increases adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN)…that is a continuous production of new neurons in the hippocampal dentate gyrus…and furthermore, exercise-enhanced AHN is considered an important cellular substrate for the development of hippocampal function”, (Graves, A. R., Moore, S. J., Bloss, E. B., Mensh, B. D., Kath, W. L., & Spruston, N., 2012).
Neurogenesis in the hippocampus is the growth and development of new pyramidal neurons (cells).The process of neurogenesis is experience-dependent. It’s instigated by new learning and experiences, also referred to as experience-dependent plasticity (neuroplasticity). The experience of long-term running promotes neurogenesis. The BDNF up-regulation following the exercise enhances the AHN.
“The hippocampus is the cradle of cognition—a brain structure critically involved in the formation, organization, and retrieval of new memories. The principal cell type in this region is the excitatory pyramidal neuron…” (Graves, A. R., et. al., 2012).
Researchers Inoue, K., Okamoto, M., Shibato, J., Lee, M. C., Matsui, T., Rakwal, R., & Soya, H. (2015) discovered that “…treadmill running training with minimizing running stress is effective in enhancing AHN…”, p. 19. Additionally, “…ME improves spatial memory without the influence of the exercise stress that accompanies IE”, p. 11.
Changes in the Transcriptome Cells:
Exercise-induced DNA changes occur in the hippocampus. Specifically, the DNA analysis showed that ME altered these AHN regulators: lipid metabolism, protein synthesis and inflammatory response. ME significantly enhanced cell survival and neuronal maturation (Inoue, K., et. al., 2015),
Bruel-Jungerman, E., Rampon, C., & Laroche, S. (2007). Adult hippocampal neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity and memory: facts and hypotheses. Reviews in the Neurosciences. Volume 18;2, pp: 93-114.
Graves, A. R., Moore, S. J., Bloss, E. B., Mensh, B. D., Kath, W. L., & Spruston, N. (2012). Hippocampal pyramidal neurons comprise two distinct cell types that are countermodulated by metabotropic receptors. Neuron, 76(4), 776–789. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2012.09.036
Inoue, K., Okamoto, M., Shibato, J., Lee, M. C., Matsui, T., Rakwal, R., & Soya, H. (2015). Long-term mild, rather than intense, exercise enhances adult hippocampal neurogenesis and greatly changes the transcriptomic profile of the hippocampus. PloS one. Volume 10;6, e0128720, pp: 1-25. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128720.
This blog is intended to explore ideas, educate, entertain and expand our thinking. Some posts speak to current trends in the brain sciences, neural benefits of exercise & sports, emotional intelligence and personal growth.