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028: Flow and Loneliness: A Way to Develop Positive Emotions

podcast Mar 19, 2021

On this episode of the High flow Lifestyle podcast, we’re going to discuss a new study done on how flow affects loneliness and how we can use flow to boost our overall well-being.  

This may not be a topic that crosses everyone’s mind but, all people experience and need flow in their lives.  

A recent study done in the Journal of Gerontological Nursing really caught my eye, and made me think of my own situation where my grandmother is living in an assisted living facility. The study is called the Importance of Flow for Lonely Nursing Home Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

An underlying theme of the paper, which is something that applies to all us, is that the detrimental effects of loneliness can be regulated by positive emotions (Newall et al., 2013). Positive emotions, which flow produces, can destroy loneliness.  

Flow in this study refers to a state of optimal experience arising from intense involvement in an activity when older adults have sufficiently high skills to meet challenges from the activity, enables them to become fully immersed in feelings of enjoyment and interest during the activity (Chang, 2020). Because enjoyment and interest are positive emotions, flow may be negatively related to loneliness. This study set out to examine the relationship between flow and loneliness in nursing home residents.  

Through their research, they found that, specifically, an increase in the flow of nursing home residents led to a significant decrease in their loneliness. That’s huge! 

“The results have important practical implications during the COVID-19 pandemic. Receiving social support depends highly on others but experiencing flow does not. Nursing home residents can experience flow by themselves or with others. Because all visits are forbidden, nursing home residents may have insufficient social support to cope with their loneliness during this period. However, they can still reduce their loneliness by experiencing flow.” 

My grandmother is 93 and is still stirring up trouble in an assisted living facility where she has her own apartment, but nurses and doctors are right nearby if necessary. She has led a very active life, walking every morning and going to the gym multiple times a week. My grandfather passed away a few years ago and she has a boyfriend now, who is also quite active. I think both of them have found the social support and flow in their lives that help them continue to live life to the fullest in their 90’s.  

They also have some leisure programs but the necessary responsibility of the program managers to regulate, and increase and decrease the activity challenges seems like a big thing to ask on an individual level. Especially in these times where covid has affected everyone’s life in one way or another, and NY has even dropped the ball with its high rate of nursing home deaths...but I digress.  

“Although nursing home residents may achieve flow in some activities, leisure programs that balance challenges with skills increase their likelihood of experiencing flow. Moreover, flow formation is dynamic. After participating in the same activity several times, they may improve their skills through practice. Such improvement means that the activity provides them with less of a challenge, resulting in boredom. They can experience flow again when managers offer them new challenges that are commensurate with their improved skills. Therefore, to help nursing home residents continually experience flow, managers should dynamically assess their changing skills and update leisure programs.” 

Regardless of whether you are in a nursing home or not, flow affects loneliness. We have all been more confined to our homes and indoors, and many people in nursing homes are experiencing this to an unimaginable level, which is all the more reason we need to explore and find different ways to keep flow in our lives. With flow comes positive emotions, which brings about happiness and well-being.  

If you’d like to explore some of the many flow triggers and flow activities you have at your fingertips, join the conversation with me inside the High Flow Lifestyle membership. You can find all the info you need at  


*Journal of Gerontological Nursing. 2020;46(11):5-6 “Importance of Flow for Lonely Nursing Home Residents During the COVID-19 Pandemic”. Fei-Hsin Huang, PhD; Liang-Chih Chang, PhD 

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