Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Happiness (Het Grote Geluksonderzoek) and the Theory of Flow (or why crocheting/knitting/creative activity can make you happy!)

Hello, my friends!

I'm happy that you are here and reading this! :)

Why? Because I want to talk about Happiness today! I recently had to give a talk in front of the whole class in Dutch (which I am currently learning since I moved to Belgium).

You can imagine that the prospect alone of doing something like this did not make me feel happy. For a start, I had absolutely no idea about which subject I wanted to talk about. Other speakers had talked about their work situation, unemployment, pensions, the obesity crisis and other serious subjects.

I couldn't come up with the right idea. I first thought I might talk about the libraries in Antwerp - but then I thought, how relevant is this really for the people in my class? A lot of them are working full time, they go to night classes once or twice a week as well, how much time would they actually be interested in spending on reading books from the library? (I still don't know the answer to that!)

Antwerpen China Light

By a happy accident I finally found my subject, about a week before I had to speak. I was sitting in a cafe reading the paper! It was DE MORGEN (dated 18.11.14) and the article was titled: "Voordurend gelukkig proberen zijn, maakt ons vooral ongelukkig" which I would translate roughly as 'The continuous pursuit of Happiness makes us mostly unhappy' (my own translation).

After reading the article I began my research.

Het Grote Geluksonderzoek

The article mentioned that there had been a large enquiry/research about Happiness (Het Grote Geluksonderzoek) here in Belgium at the University of Leuven. 7700 people took part!

Some of the questions were:

Why do happiness interventions not work for everybody in the same way?
What role does your own personality play?
Why are some people afraid to be happy?
Why should you do something for the happiness of another person?
Why do perfectionists always seem to be a bit unhappier than others?
Which of the huge amount of advice should you follow?

People were divided into 3 groups.

The first group was emailed on a daily basis and received a number of tips or motivational advice.
The second group was emailed on a weekly basis and received more detailed advice.
The third group had to wait 4 weeks before they received their first advice email.

This happened over a period of 4 weeks and the same people were contacted again after a longer period of time to see in which way these tips had any (lasting) influence/effect over their happiness

Apparently the people who received ongoing tips reported even after a longer time that they were still feeling happier.


Happiness is achievable, but not for everbody in the same measure!

Personal happiness is 50% due to Genetics (Temperament and Personality), 10% due to Circumstances and 40% achievable by your own Actions!

You can find the news article here (in Dutch). (You could use a translation site for your language)

There is also a radio report here (also in Dutch)

The newspaper article that I mentioned above, also went on to say... (Summary in my own words):

An American psychologist (Todd Kashdan) warned against the idea that we should all strive to be continuously happy. We need to be aware that it is perfectly normal to experience negative feelings as well. If we try to hide these emotions, than this would only lead to unhappiness instead. These negative emotions have an important purpose - they can help us to resolve problems by making us think about them.

Professor Patrick Luyten who lead the above research, warned that especially people with perfectionistic tendencies had trouble to accept that they could not always be happy. Good was never good enough for them. These people would benefit from professional help.

However, for the rest of us, receiving small tips or motivational sayings, could contribute to our own happiness, in small measures because it makes us reflect on life. It helps us appreciate the things we got and realizing that good is enough!

My talk also included material from numerous websites, for example: PBS Org which also confirmed the above percentage findings which personally I found interesting!

There Happiness was defined as: (direct quote from PBS.Org)
  • Happiness is made up of pleasure, engagement, and meaning
  • It involves both daily positive emotions and a global sense that life is worthwhile
  • People can accurately report their own levels of happines

Another interesting thing is that people are very good at adapting to new situations. This is why, for example, we do not actually get happier (in the long term), if something happens (once), because after a while we have gotten used to this one time occurrence. Also our expectations can change!

For anybody more interested in this vast subject, there are lots of sources of information, such as the internet, magazines or motivational books.

If you like doing quizzes, here is one for you: Oxford Happiness Questionnaire
It is best to do it once, and then again after a period of time, to see if anything has changed. It is not an absolute measure of Happiness, merely a tool!

In connection with this, there is another informative website: http://www.meaningandhappiness.com/psychology-research/list-of-personal-strengths.html -

which, in turn by reading further lead me to something very interesting, the theory of FLOW!

About Flow and what it means to us creative people...

Even if you feel you do not have enough time to read all the links, I think you should read this one here!!!!!

Why? Because the theory of Flow came about through the famous psychologist Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi who investigated what happens when we give in to creativity and become totally engrossed in an activity.

Read it and see why crocheting/knitting/crafting/any creative activity can make you feel happy!

Wow! I didn't know about this, but I could totally understand how it related to me:

Do you loose track of time whilst you are engrossed in knitting?
Are you concentrated and aware of what you are doing?
Do you know how well you are working?
Are you not paying attention to outside distractions?
Are you not worried about anything going wrong?
Are you not feeling self conscious?
Is your perception of time altered?
Are you enjoying your knitting/crocheting for the sake of the activity itself?

See, I wasn't going to talk in front of the whole class about my obsession hobby of crochet and knitting... but I had to tell them about FLOW, and how creative pursuits could contribute to your own feeling of wellbeing, so yes, I did mention about how much I enjoy making things and that flow does exist, because I myself experiences it time after time again!

Do you know the result of my talk? The class (and my teacher) loved it, and told me afterwards what an interesting subject I had chosen and that they really enjoyed it.

This is why I chose to write about it here (and despite the fact that it felt a little bit of doing my research and homework all over again, going through articles and my own notes). I hope you managed to get something useful (for you) out of this!

It has given me pleasure writing about this (that is despite the fact that I got a most horrid cold that is making me feel ill, but I have to battle against it, because I need to get through my Dutch exams this week!)  :)

I just want to reassure you, I will soon write more about my current projects, today I made something very cute that is very seasonal that I want to share next... so check back again soon!

I look forward to your reactions, please leave your comments below, I love reading them!


  1. Yes, I find it very interesting too! And crochet is GREAT therapy for me. Sometimes I think of nothing but what I'm doing, and other times with more simple patterns, I can let my mind wander and think about other things. I don't know what I'd do without it! Hope you feel better soon!

    1. Hi Pammy Sue! Thanks for your comment. So you find that crochet lets you be 'in the moment' and also helps to reflect! :) xx

  2. This is so interesting. I find crafting, especially when stressed, a great relaxer and mind reliever, so I think that it definitely contributes to happiness!! xx

    1. Hi Amy! Crafting gives relaxation to body and mind for you - I find that also very true. As soon as I sit down and start making something I find it very relaxing, even if I am in an unrelaxing environment (on a crowded bus).
      Like Pammy Sue I also find it helps me to think when my hands are busy crocheting!
      Glad you liked this! xx

  3. Very fascinating post today. I think playing with yarn makes me happy and creating, I feel a sense of peace and accomplishment, even when I screw it up!

    1. Hi Meredith! Having a creative outlet contributes to happiness and gives you peace and a sense of accomplishment - I can also identify with this. I think being creative is almost a need, that wants to be satisfied, but by doing so, it also rewards you with positive feelings afterwards, regardless of the outcome itself. You call it playing and I think that is very true, it is a way of playing and experimenting (what would happen if..) - something we definitely need in our lives!
      Thanks for your thoughts! :) xx

  4. What an interesting and very true post...
    You are so right! I was especially surprised by the fact that 40 percent of feeling happy is in our own hands actually....
    And being creative is such a huge part of feeling good!
    Thanks for this, I am also ill, and still missing Bets, but I have lots to be grateful for... Love from Mirjam.

    1. Hello Mirjam! Thanks for writing! Yes, sometimes we are not even aware of it how much we blame circumstances for thinking we are not happy. Luckily we can do something about it. The idea of flow really struck a great chord with me, glad you feel the same way, too.
      I wish I could do more to help cheer you up. I was utterly shocked when I read about Betsy and at that moment I realized how much joy and pleasure we get from our lovely pets which is something we should be thankful for. Sending you some virtual hugs and hope you get better soon! (I'm sitting here right next to the tissue box and find that at least a hot coffee helps to ease my symptoms a bit!) Love and hugs! xx

  5. I am a great fan of crafting for relaxation and so this makes me very happy.

    1. Thanks for reading, Lorraine! I can see how much you enjoy it! :) xx

  6. What a great blog post, Ingrid, and yes you are so right. I always enjoyed needlework but particularly after I married, had two children right after each other and had no time for myself. Needlework, especially knitting and crochet was always a steady friend, my own way of pleasing myself. Soothing I would say. I will read your post and the links you gave once more. Thanks for sharing Ingrid! hetty@stonehouseworkshop.com

    1. Thank you, Hetty! I also find it soothing, as you say! :) xx

  7. Wel, Ingrid, ik heb je werk niet helemaal in het Engels gelezen, je mag het mij in het Nederlands vertellen ;-))))
    Tot binnenkort! XXX

    1. Hallo Christine! Dat is niet nodig, omdat mijn blog al lang een google translate functie heeft. Ermee kan je elke post in jouw taal lezen - click op de functie en vraag Nederlands/Dutch. Twee van de links (op andere sites) zijn alleen in het Nederlands geschreven!!! :) xx

      For all readers who do not know a lot of English - you can always read my posts in your own language - just click on the google translate icon and search for your language, then click 'Translate'!

      Hope you find this helpful!!! :)

  8. Hi Ingrid - I've emailed you again. Hope you get it this time.

  9. Great post Ingrid, crochet has been my saviour I know that sounds dramatic but it has. I battled cancer and decided to take up crochet. I think I enjoyed the repetitive motion and with every stitch I found I relaxed more and more. You get into a zone and everything seems to be solved one stitch at a time. That's how I live my life one step at a time and I try to appreciate things much more. Despite my health crochet has enabled me to have a new career as a designer. Having my patterns published makes me very happy. In a strange way If I didn't have cancer I don't think I would have been become the happier, thankful person I am.
    Have you read The happiness Project , by Gretchen Rubin.?
    The Happiness Project may not cure cancer or single-handedly rescue you from the paralysis of depression but if you aspire to being more present and better able to savour the little moments of enjoyment that everyday life can reveal, then this book is definitely a great read.
    Ingrid, I really enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing it .Have a lovely weekend

    1. The Happiness Project is indeed a good read. I read it about five years ago and actually passed on my copy to an Australian friend just the other day. :)

    2. Thanks, Helda for your thoughtful comments. I'm really sorry to hear about your cancer, I don't really know what to say, other than I hope that you manage to keep well. It must be a blessing for you to use your creativity in such a wonderful way. Take care! xx

    3. It is interesting how you attribute part of your cancer experience to improving your happiness as a survivor in that you have a new appreciation of life. Did you crochet before your cancer diagnosis or did you develop your crochet design skills as a result of your illness? I am so glad you are well enough now to publish patterns and forge your career. Wishing you many years of better health and beautiful designs. Hugs xxx

  10. What a thoughtful post - thanks for sharing!

    I have thought a lot of happiness and creativity and discovered that they are closely linked (in my case). The happier I am, the more creative I am and at the same time creativity makes me happy. :)

    Take care

    1. Thank you, Anne! Happiness and creativity indeed seem to be connected in a flowing circle! What a great way to describe this!

      Thanks also for recommending the book that Helda mentioned, I will look out for it! xx

    2. I totally agree with you Anne. We all need an avenue for self-expression.

  11. I thought I commented on this post a few days ago. I guess I didnt get through the cybersphere...
    I have read the Happiness Project too and It was very throught provoking.
    I love to be happy. I know we have times when we are not happy, but I love ordinary happy days

  12. What a lovely post :) Definitely food for thought!! xx

  13. Ingrid, firstly so sorry for my late catch up, I read your post but just haven't been here to comment.
    A very lovely post too, so pleased we are making ourselves happy with our craft and some points raised that need thought, we all learn everyday but largely we take the knocks and focus on the good-count your blessings as we say.
    Hey well done on speaking to an audience and in another language, proud? you should be Ingrid.

  14. Hi Helen, Thanks for your nice comments, you are right, I was dreading my public speaking, but thankfully it went ok...Phew! Hope you have a nice weekend! :) xx

  15. Hi Ingrid, thank you so much for leaving a comment on my blog which I have only just seen as I have neglected it over the last few weeks! I'm glad you enjoyed my post, I had a great Fair thankyou!
    This posy of yours has been really interesting to read and I bet your talk was brilliant, such a great subject! It sounds like you put a lot of work into researching it, and how interesting about FLOW! It was also interesting to see the breakdown of genetics, circumstances and own actions contributing to happiness.
    Well done for having the guts to give the talk, its an unnerving thing to do anyway but then to have to give it in another language.....!!!!
    Have a great Christmas Ingrid, and I look forward to having a proper look at your blog soon!
    Gill xx

    1. Hi Gill! Thanks for your nice comment, much appreciated! Have a nice time before Xmas, there is so much to do still! :) xx

  16. This is a great post, Ingrid, and very appropriate for the season, which is very happy for some and not so for others, depending where you are in your journey.
    I find happiness in many things and crafting is certainly one of them, it is a constant friend that goes everywhere with me.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Amalia xo

    1. Hi Amalia! Thanks for your thoughtful comments! Hope you have a nice Christmas!! xx

  17. Ingrid, this is fascinating. I do know that making things with my hands, particularly hand sewing or crocheting, relaxes me when I am feeling anxious, and always brings me peace. x

    1. Glad you found it interesting, Gillian! I would like to wish you a lovely Christmas!!! xx

  18. A fascinating post, Ingrid! Think you for sharing this, I am going to read the flow link in a moment. I know from my own experience of a life being creative how important it is to my happiness. It is good to spread the word and help everyone enjoy the benefits of being creative in whatever way suits them.
    Happy weekend!
    Helen xox

    1. Thank you, Helen! Have a nice Christmas!!! xx

  19. Whether it is sketching or crocheting or listening to music, getting lost in something you are passionate about is such a healthy thing to do. I find it very calming and my brain seems to work in a different way - less intellectual and more instinctive. I never knew that it had a name. It is only in the past year that I have heard of this state referred to as 'flow'.

    The researchers are right about the losing a sense of time and about the calming qualities. Yesterday was a prime example when a friend visited me at 15:00. She brought her knitting and we sat on the couch crocheting, knitting and nattering about our craft and other news. It is a busy time of year so close to Christmas with lots of other jobs to do so we decided we had better stop and get on with the rest of the day. We thought it was about 16:00-16:30 but when we checked the clock it was 17:45! I had been tired and stressed all day but after my friend's visit I was much more settled and felt better able to cope with the demands of my week.
    Your statistics were very interesting and surprising. I expected temperament to be a large part (50% genetics) but was surprised that circumstance was only 10%. I do believe happiness comes from within a person and not from any material things alone.
    Thank you for such an interesting post.

    1. Dear Jodie!!! Sounds like you are living proof to all these theories, then!!! I knew it!!! ;) Hope you are well and ready for Christmas - have a lovely time! xx

  20. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Thank you soooo much for the gift in the mail! I was waiting for a postcard for yarn! I love the colors, have blogged about it today.
    I will for sure make something nice of it. Thank you again. Have a nice week end.

    1. Thanks, Monica!!! Enjoy!!! ;) Wishing you a happy Xmas! xx