Immersing yourself into the flow state is an extraordinary experience. Each of us has the capacity to reach the flow state, and likely, many of us have already been there. The flow state is the moment of immersion into life that we want to live again, to recreate, to use to achieve our highest goals and feel our greatest joys. These experiences can seem random or fleeting, but they are not. Once we learn about the flow state, we are able to recreate conditions in our lives to intentionally immerse ourselves again. Let us start by learning about what exactly the ‘flow state’ is.
The Flow State: Explained
The flow state is an optimal state of consciousness. Within this state, you both feel your best and perform at your peak. Moving into the flow state is a complete absorption into what you are doing, which results in the loss of a sense of space and time. While in this state, you may end up asking yourself, where did the time go? In some instances, time speeds up, and in others, time slows down.
The main way to identify the flow state is by sensing when you are so focused upon the present moment, that everything else, happening around you, disappears as a result of it. Even your sense of self, also known as the ego or self-consciousness, fully disappears.
All aspects of performance increase exponentially throughout this process. This is the optimal experience. A deep level of gratification can be felt while in this state.
What the Flow State Feels Like
Now, you might be asking yourself: all of that is great, but what exactly does the flow state feel like? Here is a short description of how it feels, which can differ by individual.
- You are hyper-focused on the present moment
- You are ecstatic
- You have clarity of purpose
- You have a sense of timelessness
- You experience serenity
- You are inspired
- You feel unstoppable
- You feel like you are invincible
Entering the Flow State with Intention
If you want to immerse yourself into the flow state, there are a few things that you can do to intentionally bring yourself there. Let us examine what you can do both internally, with your mindset, and externally, with your environment, to arrive there.
Four Internal Strategies
The four internal strategies that you can implement to get yourself into the flow state include:
- Intense focused attention
- Setting clear goals, as well as purposes for these goals
- Receiving immediate feedback
- Embracing challenges as a build-up for skills
Setting your internal world to achieve flow state can be augmented by crafting your external environment to meets your goals.
Three Environmental Invitations to Flow
These three methods can be utilized to create an environment that invites, or triggers, the flow state response.
First, there must be a significant level of risk associated with triggering the flow state. This is an environment where there are great consequences or rewards. This fully activates your survival instinct and causes you to focus intently.
Second, a rich environment with a high level of uncertainty and complexity to it invites the flow state. This environment encourages focused attention more so than a predictable environment where you could zone out. This focused attention can trigger the flow state.
Third, deep embodiment within yourself triggers flow. The state of being deeply connected to all five of your senses, as well as to your sixth sense, proprioception, immerses you into the flow state.
What Happens in the Flow State?
We have defined and described the flow state and examined how to enter the flow state. Now, let us explore the query: what exactly happens once you enter the flow state?
For a deeper understanding of this, we look to neuroanatomy.
During flow state, your prefrontal cortex shuts down, releasing that energy into other areas of the brain. The internal critic quiets within your mind. Your propensity for risk-taking increases. Time starts to feel distorted, as that is a function of the prefrontal cortex. Your reflexes are heightened.
The medial frontal cortex is engaged, which is the part of the brain responsible for creativity. Your feeling of pain is almost completely dulled.
There are a total of five performance-enhancing chemicals released during the flow state including:
These chemicals are naturally released within the brain in response to stimuli. These ‘feel good’ chemicals can be released by the brain naturally, causing a natural high, like a ‘runner’s high’, that athletes experience when great physical exertion leads to the release of endorphins. Chemicals can increase learning and memory by 230-500%.
Example of Flow States
Athletes provide clear examples of the flow state being realized. Athletes in extreme sports can reach the flow state via environmental factors, when life and limb are on the line, such as in skiing, surfing, and even mountain biking.
Many Olympic gold medalists and winners of championships attribute their success to entering the flow state. Other examples of those in the flow include scientists who have found major breakthroughs, artists, musicians, teachers, writers, and top executives. Programmers are also exceptional in terms of productivity when they enter this flow state. The flow state can be reached across many disciplines and endeavors.
The flow state, the optimal state of consciousness and performance, is the playground of great achievement and unparalleled happiness and contentment. While it may seem an experience in the distance, it is truly available to each of us. Setting our minds and crafting our environments to experience the flow state is a real possibility. You can invite the flow state into your life by employing the four internal strategies and seeking the environment conducive to its realization. Athletes, artists, scientists and other “high performers” are experiencing their flow, you have the ability to experience yours as well. You don’t need anything to flow except your own intentions and choice of environment. Once you find your own unique flow, enjoy!
Information provided by Arootah is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should consult your physician or other licensed health care professional before starting any diet, exercise plan or regimen, or any other fitness or wellness program. This is particularly true if you or your family have a history of high blood pressure or heart disease, or if you have ever experienced discomfort while exercising. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information made available through our Programs and Services.