Cultivate the effortless approach with the art of flow states

March 29, 2022

Wondering what a flow state is? Read on for the art of accessing a state of the art and how it can support greater focus and innovation.

Do you know this feeling that you are fully committed to working towards a goal and the rest of the world seems to be fading? When you focus exclusively on the task you have and feel an almost effortless sense of impulse? If so, you may have experienced flow states.

What is a flow state?

A state of flow is a state of mind that can lead to greater perception and focus. Many have described it as a feeling of “being in the area” or as a state of “maximum human performance.”

Flow states generally involve six factors:

  • Rationalized and intense approach to a given task
  • The perfect fusion of consciousness and action (where “being and doing become one”)
  • Our sense of time is distorted
  • Disinhibition of self-control and self-awareness that can slow down decision making
  • Feeling of personal control or agency over the situation
  • The experience is autotelic, meaning the process itself is intrinsically rewarding and your satisfaction does not depend on the outcome.

In a state of flux, you are completely in sync with the present moment, paying attention only to the challenge before you. Your mind becomes impervious to distractions and it may seem like time passes slowly as you get lost in the activity.

Flow state

A brief history of the flow

The idea of ​​”maximum performance” has been observed and explored since the 1800’s. However, the concept of “flow states” was formalized in the 1970s by the positive psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

Csikszentmihalyi had embarked on one of the largest psychological surveys to date, interviewing people from all over the world. It started with experts, from dancers to surgeons and chess players. He then addressed people from all walks of life, including Navajo shepherds, older Korean women, and members of Japanese motorcycle gangs, to name a few. [1].

Csiksentmihalyi’s main goal was to know the moments in his life when he felt and did his best.

Time and time again, he came across answers that indicated a common state of flow, where each decision and action led smoothly and effortlessly to the next. Many described the experience as resembling being guided by a river, inspiring Csiksentmihalyi with the term “flow.” [2]

The research behind the flow states

Since Csiksentmihalyi’s initial observations, advances in brain imaging technology have provided us with a better view and understanding of flow states.

Research suggests that there is a radical change in the processing that takes place in our brain when we access the flow states. Normally, during everyday life, we operate from a place of conscious processing, which involves a rather slow and expensive energy system. When they are in flow, our brain begins to work from the much faster and more efficient intrinsic processing of our subconscious minds.

Flow states in the brain

In 2008, a Johns Hopkins neuroscientist, Charles Limb, used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to explore the flow state of improvisational jazz musicians. He found that the area of ​​the brain known for self-control (the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) was almost completely deactivated. [3]. Self-control is associated with our internal doubts, so it makes sense for this region to close to facilitate decisions in a split second and without hesitation.

The neurochemistry behind the flow

Research has found that norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and anandamide, all neurochemicals known to increase pleasure and increase performance, are also related to flow. [1]. These neurochemicals and endorphins help with everything from pattern recognition and creative problem solving to focus and muscle reaction time.

Flow state and brain waves

During the day, our brains tend to show faster-moving beta waves, which are associated with waking consciousness. When we induce flow states, ours brain waves it changes at a slower pace at the boundary between the alpha and theta waves [1]. Alpha waves occur while we sleep awake, while theta waves appear just before we fall asleep and REM sleep. Both alpha and theta waves are associated with increased creativity and decreased self-control.

Flow state

What causes flow states?

Researchers have credited scientific advances, world athletic feats and gold medals, and prolific performances and creativity in the arts. So if you’re curious about how you can cultivate a state of flux in your life, you’re not alone.

In the course of his work, Csikszentmihalyi found that flow states often only occur under the right set of circumstances.

  1. Have extremely high levels of focus.
  2. Stay in an open and creative state.
  3. Work on a task that suits our abilities, something that challenges us but is still within reach given our abilities at the moment.

This means that an activity must be intrinsically rewarding or something you enjoy doing. In addition, the task must be difficult enough to require all your attention and stretch you to the limit of your skills.

Csikszentmhihalyi suggests that the human mind cannot process more than 120 bits of information every second [4]. When our mind reaches this level of processing while we are engaged in an activity that we love and in which we are skilled, a state of flux often occurs. All this to say, flow states not only improve our work, but can fill us with motivation, accomplishment, and purpose.

How to start cultivating flow

If you want to induce your own flow state, there are some essential things to keep in mind.

  1. The activity should be the one you care about and the process should be enjoyable.
  2. The activity should challenge you, but not be so hard to discourage you.
  3. The task is within your skill level, but it stretches you to the best of your ability.

Beyond these circumstances, there are many ways to train your ability to access the stream and produce states of maximum performance.

# 1 Explore Mindfulness

Mindfulness it is a state of being, where our focus is exclusively on the present moment. In this state, we can experience an increase conscience of our thoughts, feelings, and physical condition. Consciousness exercises usually include meditation, but may also include other conscious practices such as deep breathing, body relaxation exercises, gratitude practicesconscious eating and more.

# 2 Practice meditation

Meditation is a practice that can help raise awareness and train our brain to stay in a state of flow. He benefits of meditation they include increased awareness and attention, two key factors in flow states. Meditation involves paying attention when your mind wanders and guiding your attention without judging. This type of mental training can give us more freedom and choice to keep our focus and keep us flowing.

# 3 Design a flow state ritual

It can be difficult to access the flow when we are stressed or we care more about the outcome than the process, as is often the case with work. That’s not to say it can’t be done! Instead of focusing on the task, create a ritual that allows you to access a state of flux. Your “flow state” ritual can help reduce stress and make it easier for you to enjoy the journey. striving to the destination.

This ritual should involve doing something you enjoy, where you can challenge yourself and use the full extent of your skills. You want it to be something where you can stop thinking and immerse yourself in work. Activities that can trigger a state of flux can include: singing, dancing, playing, playing a sport, math, writing, playing an instrument, creating art, and cooking. Choose what engages you and challenges you and practice it whenever you want to induce the flow.

# 4 Choose one task at a time

Part of the key to flowing is to devote all your mental energy to one task at a time. This means that there is no multitasking. You can help ease your own flow state by prioritizing your larger task and giving it your full attention. Multitasking can stretch our mental resources too thin, making it impossible to cultivate a state of flux.

# 5 Create a distraction-free zone

Distractions will get you out of the flow states, so do your best to minimize them sooner. Leave the phone in another room or, if needed, set the phone to “do not disturb” mode. Turn off text and email notifications that may appear on your computer; you can check them once you’re done. If you know you enjoy being distracted by social media or your favorite websites, download website blockers or apps so you can’t access them until later.

Access to Flow with Muse

If you’re excited about accessing streaming status and want to get started, we’re here to help! Meditation and awareness facilitate focused attention and awareness that keep us engaged in the present moment. Our Muse Mind biofeedback experience can help you notice your thoughts, bring your wandering mind to the present, and help you cultivate focus and flow.

Tap Flow with Muse>

References:

  1. Read on The science of maximum performance with the New York Times HERE >>
  2. Explore flow theory and the best experience with Science Direct HERE >>
  3. Read John Hopkins neuroscientist Charles Limb’s study of jazz improvisation HERE >>
  4. Find out Why is it so hard to pay attention, according to Science HERE >>


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