“Happiness is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated and defended privately by each person." -- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Creativity is known to be a central source of meaning in our lives. As leading researcher in positive psychology, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has devoted his life to studying what makes people truly happy: "When we are involved in [creativity], we feel that we are living more fully than during the rest of life."
He is the architect of the notion of "flow" -- the creative moment when a person is completely involved in an activity for its own sake. We get happiness when we are immersed in tasks that we find engaging and challenging.
Thus, creative action can function as a natural antidepressant.
Further research by Dr. Kelly Lambert shows that creating or tending things by hand enhances mental health and can serve to make us happy. Dr. Lambert explored the relationship between hand use, current cultural habits, and mood. Her research concludes that making things can promote psychological well-being.
Confirming Csikszentmihalyi’s research, Dr. Lambert concludes that process is important for happiness because when we create actual, tangible things we feel vital and effective. It isn't as much about reaching one’s potential, as it is about doing something interesting–less ambition, more living. When we are immersed in a deeply absorbing task we lose self-consciousness and pass the time in a contented state.
Research has shown that hand activity is useful for decreasing stress, relieving anxiety, and modifying depression. Functioning hands foster the “flow” in the mind that leads to spontaneous joyful, creative thought.
A few ways our hands can make us happier are:
When we make something we feel productive, and the engagement and exploration involved in the doing can also move our mind and elevate our mood.
Here at DH we're seeing the results of this research in action! Our Delivering Happiness @ Work: Happiness @ Work Survey revealed to us that "skilled" workers (carpenters, electricians, etc.) scored a whopping 50% happier than those in customer service, sales and other "unskilled' work functions. Do you find this to be true in your own life? Tell us about your Happy Hands either in the comments, or on Twitter using #happyhands!