"Why do you like woodworking?" This is a question I hear a lot, and I'm sure you get it, too. In response, I usually mumble something about how I like to work with my hands, or like the smell of wood, or the atmosphere in my shop. But I've never really been very happy with my answer. Well, guess what? There are actual, clinically verifiable reasons why you and I like woodworking, according to University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and explained in his book, "Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience." See if these "elements of enjoyment" describe your woodworking "optimal" experience.
1) You like woodworking because it's a challenging task. It's not simple enough to get boring, and it's not complicated enough to create anxiety.
2) Merging of action and awareness. You're just in their doing it. You're not conscious of yourself standing in your shop "woodworking." You are simply a part of the process and the woodworking happens.
3) Clear goals. You know exactly what you want to build, how you want it to look. How many other things are this clear cut in your life?
4) Immediate feedback. You look at what you're doing and you know that it's right (or wrong), the joint fits or it doesn't.
5) High degree of concentration. You're absolutely into it. Most things that would distract you go unnoticed.
6) Altered sense of time. I'm not really aware of how much time has passed until my wife comes down to my shop and says, "Are you EVER coming up to dinner?"
There are other elements of optimal experience, and you don't have to experience all of them to enjoy woodworking. And this sort of analysis can explain why you find happiness in other activities besides woodworking. But when I read this, I recognized something that I think applies to most woodworkers. So the next time someone asks you why you like woodworking, you can say, "There are several reasons I like woodworking, six of them to be exact. First, it's a challenging task..."