Doing an activity we love can make people feel happy and less lonely. TUCHONG
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in lockdown felt lonely and bored. “There is a loneliness epidemic,” said John Dattilo, a professor at Pennsylvania State University, US.
Together with an international team of researchers, Dattilo studied how to reduce loneliness and increase positive feelings during the pandemic.
According to their new study, reduced loneliness has something to do with doing enjoyable activities that require both concentration and skill.
“When people are absorbed in what they are doing, they enter a state called ‘flow’,” Dattilo explained. “Flow can be achieved by doing activities that we value and that require us to concentrate fully to use our skills.”
To achieve a state of flow, there must be a balance between the challenge of the task and your skill level. For example, if you’re trying to create a complex computer program but your skill level is low, then you’re likely to feel stressed instead of achieving flow. On the contrary, if the task is too easy, then boredom will set in and flow will not appear, either.
If you have artistic skills, for example, playing the piano or painting can lead to flow. So can things like skiing, writing and storytelling, depending on who you are.
“When we enter a state of flow, we become absorbed and focused, and we experience momentary enjoyment,” Dattilo said. “When we leave a state of flow, we are often surprised by how much time has passed.”
However, watching television usually doesn’t help people enter flow, according to Dattilo, because there aren’t any challenges.
“Loneliness is very connected to our health,” Dattilo explained. “Psychological, emotional, and cognitive health are all challenged when people are lonely. Loneliness is associated with depression and other mental health challenges.”
“People tend to thrive on healthy activities and challenge,” said Dattilo. “We hope this research will help people live fuller, happier, healthier lives.”