Mental processes involved in artistic practice and the experience of Flow.
In this short article we will discover how artistic practice can lead us to a Flow experience, discovering how mind and body are integrated into this activity, up to being an excellent ally in therapeutic, social and educational sectors.
The Flow experience in artistic practice
Has it ever happened to you to be so immersed in an activity that you do not feel your appetite and lose your sense of time? To be so immersed in the task you are carrying out that you do not pay attention to those who ask you for information, to the telephone that rings or to another task, not so interesting and rewarding? If the answer is affirmative, you were probably immersed in one of those so-called “Flow” experiences. The concept of flow in the field of Positive Psychology was introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in 1975; it is a condition characterized by a total involvement of the individual: focus on the objective, intrinsic motivation, positivity and gratification in the performance of a particular task. The factors that the psychologist identifies, although they can appear independently of one another, are actually combined together and constitute the so-called “flow experience”. Among them: total concentration on the task (ie high degree of attention in a limited field of attention); clear objectives, both in expectations and in the way of reaching them; distortion of the sense of time, that is, the person does not realize his flow; balance between challenge and ability, so the task is neither too easy nor too difficult; sense of control over the situation; intrinsic pleasure; integration between action and awareness, that is, the person is so absorbed as to make the natural action appear. If, as Argenton (1996) argues, “art is the solution of problems, creation of worlds, invention, executive ability, use of intelligence and feeling, aesthetic need, educational means, historical memory, delight, catharsis, suffering, effort, research, imagination, communication, expression of values, quality, ideas, feelings, conceptions, hypotheses and many other things that make it a long privilege of exercise, training, empowerment, manifestation of human cognition. “.. then it is not surprising that art is one of the main main vehicles of a Flow experience.
Mental processes involved in artistic practice.
Artistic practice stimulates, trains and refines, at the same time, our main cognitive processes (including sensation, attention, perception, memory, thought, language, praxis, imagination, communication) and dynamic processes (including the world of emotions and motivations ) through which we experience the environment around us and respond to it in a more or less adaptive way. In this sense, artistic practice becomes a “gym” for our mind and our body. Painting, drawing, playing an instrument, photographing, practicing theater or dance are activities that activate our senses in an integrated manner, require concentration, presuppose the activation of convergent and divergent thinking, analogical and digital language, facilitate internal communication and interpersonal. The world of art is closely linked to the world of emotions and motivation: the intention, motivation and internal locus of control support the activity of the artist, amateur or expert throughout his creative journey.
Promote development through the design of a Flow experience.
Knowledge and self-expression, improvement of communication skills, enhancement of self-esteem, are some of the many reasons why a greater number of professionals in the educational, health, social and business sectors integrate expressive-artistic activities within their interventions with patients, students and clients. As already mentioned in Csikszentmihalyi’s theory, a high level of anxiety, a lack of self-control, a high emotional level, different kinds of concerns, a high concern for external situations, are conditions that can hinder the Flow and in general the well-being in the existence of a person. The experience and support of a professional guidance can be effective in addressing these negative conditions and gradually favoring, in addition to the flow experience, also the success of a complete job in other fields of one’s life. Structuring and facilitating Flow experiences through art allows the client / patient to focus more on himself, to distract from an invasive preoccupation or thought, to become the protagonist of a mind-body experience, to share a positive experience with others.
Designing a Flow experience through art requires first and foremost knowing the target, and leaving space for personal initiatives, making the task editable according to the interests and abilities of the participants. The time factor is fundamental: the activity must be carried out long enough to make Flow possible, but not too long. The difficulty of the task and the skills that are required to perform it must be proportionate: neither too easy nor too complicated to avoid boredom, or vice versa anxiety.
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