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Finding flow: exploring the potential for sustainable fulfilment
The Lancet Planetary Health, Volume: 6, Issue: 1, Pages: e66 - e74
Swansea University Author: Amy Isham
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Materialistic values and lifestyles have been associated with detrimental effects on both personal and planetary health. Therefore, there is a pressing need to identify activities and lifestyles that both promote human wellbeing and protect ecological wellbeing. In this Personal View, we explore the...
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Materialistic values and lifestyles have been associated with detrimental effects on both personal and planetary health. Therefore, there is a pressing need to identify activities and lifestyles that both promote human wellbeing and protect ecological wellbeing. In this Personal View, we explore the dynamics of a psychological state known as flow, in which people are shown to experience high levels of wellbeing through involvement in challenging activities that require some level of skill, and can often involve less materially intensive activities. By synthesising the results of a series of experience sampling, survey, and experimental studies, we identify optimal activities that are shown to have low environmental costs and high levels of human wellbeing. We also confirm that materialistic values tend to undermine people's ability to experience a flow state. In seeking to understand the reasons for this negative association between materialism and flow experiences, we are drawn towards a key role for what psychologists call self-regulation. We show, in particular, that the tendency to experience a flow state can be limited when self-regulatory strength is low and when people evade rather than confront negative or undesirable thoughts and situations. We reflect on the implications of these findings for the prospect of sustainable and fulfilling lifestyles.
Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council funded Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (ES/M010163/1).