In this post, we’ll unpack all you need to know about flow, defining exactly what it is, how it impacts the brain, the benefits of it, how to achieve it and more.
What Is Flow?
Coined by a Hungarian-American psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, flow is defined as an optimal state of consciousness. In other words, it is the experience of being “in the zone.”
When we are in this state, thinking and feeling becomes fully integrated and synchronised, with neither one controlling the other or taking prominence.
While referred to under many different names, flow has been recognised as a phenomenon across many different cultures throughout history.
Flow is the prerequisite to peak performance.
How It Impacts The Brain
Flow triggers the release of a highly potent cocktail of neurochemicals in the brain which create the conditions necessary for optimum performance.
Firstly, dopamine which is associated with focus. Secondly, anandamide which is associated with bliss. Thirdly, noradrenaline which is associated with arousal. Fourthly, serotonin which is associated with mood regulation. Fifthly, oxytocin which is associated with love. Finally, endorphins which are associated with euphoria.
The Benefits Of Flow
There are countless benefits that are associated with a state of flow. These include:
- Decreased Stress
- Increased Creativity
- Increased Emotional Regulation
- Increased Focus
- Increases Happiness
- Increased Fulfilment
- Increased Intrinsic Motivation
- Enhanced Performance
How To Achieve A State Of Flow
Flow is a skill. Therefore, it can be cultivated, developed and ultimately mastered with practice.
Ultimately, the key factor to achieving a state of flow is to pursue experiences that exist on the boundary of one’s current level of capability. If skill outweighs challenge, we become bored. If challenge outweighs skill, we become anxious.
Moreover, it is important to remember that flow is a dynamic and ever-changing state. Thus, as your skill levels increase, you will need to continue to adjust the level of challenge that is needed to achieve it.
In summary, flow refers to a cognitive state where one is fully immersed in an activity. Benefits include superior mental, emotional and physical performance.
The key to experiencing flow is to pursue activities that sit right on the cusp of our current capabilities.