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Share Your Stories: Are We Coming Out of Quarantine with a Flow Cohort Effect?

by Gary Gute

A cohort effect happens when people experience a significant cultural event at the same time and, because of that shared experience, they emerge different from those who did not have the experience. It's well documented, for example, that people who lived through America’s Great Depression of the 1930s emerged more frugal, more leery of financial institutions, and more resourceful because of their shared, profound experience.

For the last few months, much of the world has been living under some level of quarantine. Recent events have opened up new sources of anxiety about the economy, health, and our social cohesion. But, could increased flow be a more positive unintended consequence—a cohort effect—of the Coronavirus quarantine?

We'd love to hear about your experience. At the end of this post, we’ll explain how you can share.

For me, time at home has meant refocusing attention on a massive to-do list on our 1874 restoration project.

Here's another example.

Creative COVID University

Friend of the Flow Channel Tina B., who contributed to our recent video blog "You, Family, and Flow," has been reflecting on her own quarantine experience. She tells us she’s been getting creative with rhubarb; learning with her son about the cool history of the toilet; and diving into readings on flow.

At times, she’s felt isolated. She’s experienced a process of grieving for lost opportunities to travel, see friends, and do creative work for her community bank. According to Tina, she was just experiencing the same realignment of attention as many of us who couldn’t run around being busy in the same way as before. As she put it, she was forced to be with herself and look for new sources of purpose.

Under quarantine, Tina found a new routine of weekly Zoom meetings with her friend Lora, a theatre professor at Creighton University. Since they were immersing themselves in explorations of all things creative, their sessions needed a creative name. They dubbed their Zoom meetings, what else, but . . . Creative COVID University, and they (the only members, so far) of Kappa Kappa COVID. They talk, laugh, and inspire each other. For Tina, Lora is her "culture club." Time disappears, and goals are met. She likens it to the idea of the Sense-Making Squad she learned about in a Community Development training session.

Tina explains, "We try to make sense of ourselves, our lives, our relationships, our education, what's next.” New goals emerge organically from these conversations. A costume designer working with a museum, Lora and her students are collecting images for a COVID quilt. Quilts often stitch together remembrances of experiences past. Using the AIDS quilt as inspiration, the COVID quilt will commemorate experiences interrupted: graduations that didn't happen, weddings cancelled. Sharing ideas like this, Tina explains, gives her important boosts that make her realize “how important connection is, and how important it is to keep our sense of humor when we're in dire straits. We have to stay creative. The way to do that is to find ways to experience flow.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihlayi has always argued that this is the most essential function of flow: Bringing order to our own consciousness so we can determine our next best moves.

Your Experience: Did You Find Flow in Quarantine?

We’re gathering stories focused on the following:

· Did you find yourself deeply engaged in a skill, a project, a talent, etc., where time and self-consciousness disappeared?

· Did you return to an old interest?

· Did you venture into something entirely new?

· How would you describe the experience?

· What did it mean to you?

· Did it boost your confidence or help you discover a new purpose?

Please share your stories, photos, and videos in one of these three ways:

On Facebook: Share your response to this blog post at

On Twitter: @garygute #FlowInQuarantine

We will share your stories in our upcoming blog post exploring research conducted during the COVID-19 lockdown in Wuhan, China. The study compared flow and mindfulness as coping strategies during the strict lockdown period. Results are intriguing for anyone curious about the power of flow to reduce the negative emotional and physical consequences of highly stressful situations.

Gary Gute, PhD, is the Director of and host of the soon-to-launch Flow Channel Podcast. He is an Associate Professor of Applied Human Sciences at the University of Northern Iowa, where he researches flow and creativity. He teaches the undergraduate courses Creativity and the Evolution of Culture and Foundations of Positive Psychology, and the MBA course Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning.

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