Friday, February 25, 2011

Flow: Naked Housecleaning (Part 1 of 3)

The October 15, 2010, episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” asked the question “Are you normal?”  The entire episode was dedicated to audience and national polls on a wide range of lifestyle questions ranging from “Do you brush your teeth at night?” to “How many times a day do you pick your nose?”  In the last segment, the show profiled a Virginia housewife and mother of three, Cherie Spisak, as she was cleaning her house in the nude.  She said she enjoys it and looking in the mirror keeps her mindful of her form.  When the final question to the audience was posed, “Have you ever cleaned your house in the nude?” almost 25% surprisingly said yes.

According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of the book, Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life, housework is a maintenance activity that tends to be considered “generally negative or neutral along all dimensions.”  In the case of Cherie Spisak, she found a way to remain mindful of her present physical state while turning what is typically considered a mundane task into a more optimal state of engagement. For her, the ultimate reward was being able to take off her existing clothes and put them in the laundry so when all of her housecleaning was done, not even one piece of clothing was dirty in the house.

Csikszentmihalyi, who pioneered the concept of flow, describes it as, "the holistic experience that people feel when they act with total involvement.”  Spisak’s flexibility and openness allowed her to override the penchant for boredom that often results from the engagement of automatic behaviors.  Doing her chores without wearing clothes provided a way to cultivate awareness, reduce her sense of self-consciousness, stay more focused and on task, thereby improving her experience doing everyday activities.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New  York: Basic Books.

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