The Secret to Happiness


The Secret to Happiness

by Anna Clifton

How’s your flow?

Don’t worry. You haven’t stumbled into a post about men’s prostate health. Nor am I referring to ice hockey hairstyles or rap rhythms. I’m talking about the other kind of flow—the flow you experience when you’re so completely absorbed in an activity you love that you not only lose track of time, you lose the ability to get up and walk away.

You may not have heard of flow. I hadn’t heard of it myself until recently. But the moment I did, I recognised where flow could be found in my life—within my passion for romance fiction. I wonder whether it’s the same for you too.

The champion of flow theory is an American Professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (if you ever want to say his name out loud try ‘me-high/cheeks-sent-me-highly’). This surname-challenged psychologist is known for his pioneering work around human happiness, fulfilment and creativity. He says that central to human happiness is flow, when the emotions are ‘not just contained and channelled but positive, energised, and aligned’, when spontaneous feelings of joy and even rapture can overwhelm us.

The best thing of all? No drugs are necessary!

Apparently flow can arise from all sorts of activities: golf, decoupage, mechanics, amateur theatre, reading, writing, music, swimming. Almost any task where the challenge is perfectly balanced against the positive feedback it’s giving you and your rock-solid conviction that what you’re doing is worth doing for its own sake.

I’m pretty sure that most of you will have at least one flow thing happening in your lives because let’s face it, the human psyche has quite a lot to put up with. Even on a good day juggling a demanding to-do list can be challenging. Pile on some work hassles, money worries or family upsets and the stress levels can skyrocket. No wonder we humans are instinctively drawn to our flow, not just to switch off but so that we’re happier, more together and more resilient across all facets of our lives.

As I said, romance fiction is where I find my flow. Whether reading or writing it I’m in a state of blissful suspension where nothing else matters. The house could be burning down and I’d still be reading or tapping away at my computer, muttering ‘Yes, yes, I’ll call the fire brigade—just as soon as I finish this chapter.’

In my stories I generally try and give each of my characters some flow space too. I figure they need all the help they can get as I push and shove them through the emotional wringer. In my third novel, New Year’s Promise, Justin Murphy’s flow space is the beach. But for his surfing he might never have made it through the trauma he endured over his brother, Sam, during their childhood years. More important still, without his flow he might not be able to get his act together for the love of his life, Ellie Halligan.

I’m relieved to say, not much gets between my flow and me. Annoyingly though, as a romance author my faith in my craft is occasionally rocked by expressions of eye-popping disapproval when I tell people what I do. Even more undermining is the slow-drip contempt of some web and media commentators as they try and elbow the entire romance genre down the literary rubbish shoot.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that every novel written within the romance genre is perfect. Nor would I claim that gender messages within the genre shouldn’t continue to evolve even further than they already have over recent decades. But unless and until those commentators mount a halfway convincing argument for their relentless derision of the entire genre, I ask just one thing: please don’t get between my flow and me. In fact, while they’re at it, I’d rather they didn’t get between the approximately twenty-nine million avid romance readers out there and their flow either!

So what is your flow? What is the one activity that you love with a passion and turn to when daily life absolutely must be transcended for a while? If it’s reading or writing romance fiction (as I’m guessing it is for many of you) then no matter what happens—no matter what anyone says—don’t ever let it go.

This post originally appeared on the Australian Romance Readers Association blog.

22580They’ve been colleagues, allies and best friends forever, but he wants more — and he’s not above using the magic of the Christmas season to get it.

When Business Development Executive Ellie Halligan is offered the job of a lifetime in Paris, it seems her chance to live a fairytale adventure has finally arrived. Her only hurdle is convincing legal eagle Justin Murphy — her boss and friend since childhood — to wave his boss’s wand and waive her four-week resignation period so that she can start her adventure by Christmas.

But Justin proves to be a demanding fairy godmother. He’ll let her go early, but not unless she spends time with him over the festive season up until New Year.

Ellie doesn’t know what to do. Is Justin finally looking at her romantically after all these years, or are far more threatening dynamics at play? Justin has a secret, and he seems to want to pull her back into a past she’d rather forget. But delving into that old pain might be the only way to move forward — and for Justin to finally be free.

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