Flow state is the ultimate expression of human focus and performance, and the activities which trigger flow are as varied as human beings themselves. When you find yourself in flow state, you are capable of achieving amazing new levels of performance and exceeding your goals.
What is flow state?
It might sound a bit new-agey, but the term “flow state” is used to describe what happens when someone gets lost in the moment because what they’re doing is so enjoyable. In flow state, the brain and body shake off the distractions of the outside world and don’t even notice fatigue or the passage of time as a person enjoys being “in the zone.”
Why is flow state important?
In the early 1990s, psychologist and happiness researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published a book on this phenomenon aptly entitled, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. In the book, he outlines the mindset factors that induce flow, the chemical processes that take place during flow state activities, and the resulting short- and long-term psychological and physiological benefits people experience because of it.
In short, Csikszentmihalyi concluded that reaching flow state is the fastest way to improve skill, performance, and long-term mindset. His research has led to new studies of the long-term effects of flow state activity on the brain. What researchers hypothesize, in a nutshell, is that flow state allows the brain to let go of outside influences, doubts, distractions, and negativity long enough for the brain to experience its highest level of functioning. Flow state releases dopamine and allows the brain to communicate and think creatively without interference from the prefrontal lobe, which temporarily takes a break from self-reflection and memory.
How can I experience flow state?
You may think that flow state is only possible through quiet, contemplative activities like yoga and meditation, but your personality and mindset are the keys to determining what activities and circumstances can be flow triggers for you. Flow can be experienced anytime your mind experiences positivity, focus, and internal control as you perform a task you enjoy.
Here are a few physical activities you can try to induce your own flow state. Just be sure you set yourself up for success by limiting distractions and getting rid of negative self-talk.
Yoga and meditation
While quiet and contemplative activities aren’t the only way to experience flow, they might be a great introductory activity to try if you’re a normally quiet and thoughtful person. Try out the theory and see if you can induce flow by attending a Restorative Yoga class with Kara on Thursdays at 6:45 p.m. You can use these breathing exercises during quiet meditation to help focus and calm your mind and let go of distractions.
The focus and breath control required for swimming allow full concentration on stroke performance and speed through the water.
Again, a runner understands the importance of letting go of self-talk and thoughts to focus on breathing and enter the “zone,” which is flow state. Challenge yourself just slightly for optimal flow achievement, and if you’re an over-thinker, try listening to an audiobook or music to tune out any negative thoughts.
This is one of Csikszentmihalyi’s favorite flow-inducing activities. He found that many climbers experience just the right balance of physical exertion and mental challenge to experience flow state that transcend time and fatigue.
Find your flow
What you enjoy and are good at will ultimately determine what activities induce a flow state for you. Whether it’s golfing, gardening, playing or listening to music, as long as your activity provides a bit of a challenge that you’re confident you can handle, you can achieve flow state and experience true happiness doing what you love.
Keep in mind as you seek your ideal activity that a shared flow state can be truly transformational: if you’re part of a group with similar skills, goals, and positive energy, the benefits of flow state can be exponentially greater and longer-lasting than going it alone. Try out Advanced Adult Training to experience group flow for yourself and crush your individual performance goals with the help of a team of like-minded peers.