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Discover and Cultivate Your Creative Flow State

Updated on September 7, 2017

What Is Flow?

Flow State is the condition in which we give and live our very best performance. It's a state od deep and intense concentration, creativity, and smooth performance. It's the state that Jazz musicians call "in the pocket" or professional athletes call "in the zone". Steven Kotler, the author or "The Rise of Superman" has put lots of effort to research peak human performance and together with many other studies, he starts to make a link to a state that he calls "flow". The Mind and Body function a little bit differently when we are in deep flow states. Thanks to some neurochemicals that are released while in flow, we can get the most out of our performance, feel less pain and learn faster. It's the body's natural drugs that are moving humanity forward.

Activities That Can Get You in Your Flow State

Flow isn't some mystical power, in fact, most people spend at least 10% of the time of their professional engagement in flow, some professions more than others. Usually, the activity that is most likely to get you in flow is one that is very engaging, an activity that you feel skilled and competent to do, but at the same time, it's challenging you. If an activity is not challenging enough, it won't demand enough resources to be committed, in a way, it's boring and you can't dedicate yourself to do it. On the other hand, if an activity is out of your skills level, you will just feel frustrated and stressed out. Knowing this, we can say that it's different for everyone. It's when a musician plays his instrument; when a football player is on the field; when a scientist is making a breakthrough; when a monk is meditating. However, some negative habits and addictions can be a way for a person to enter flow, like gambling for example but over a period of time they can be very destructive so one has to be cautious about these things.

Why Do We Keep Coming Back to Flow States

When we are in flow, the body releases feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and many more others that in the appropriate mix are reducing pain and giving us pleasant feelings, increased reflexes, better strength and learning. It can be speculated that it's the natural reward system of the body that is encouraging activities and development of the mind and body that is directed towards survival. Flow states are also relaxing, those are the moments when we have overcome the stress and fear of performance. It doesn't have to always be a very dynamic activity, meditation is also considered to induce flow states. At the same time, it's a great state to be for the immune system and the nervous system, they get a chance to regenerate and stay healthy.

Flow Triggers

Although a person can enter a flow state almost in any conditions, there are certain triggers that tend to be more inductive to flow or another way to say it - activities that are based on flow triggers are more likely to get the performer into this state. According to Steven Kotler, there are Psychological, Environmental, Social and Creative triggers.

Psychological

  • Intense Focused Attention
  • Clear Goals
  • Immediate Feedback
  • The challange/skill ratio

Environmental

  • High Consiquence
  • Clear Goals
  • Rich Environment
  • Deep Enbodiment

Socal

  • Serious Concentration
  • Shared, Clear Goals
  • Good Communication
  • Familiarity
  • Equal Participation(skill level)
  • Risk
  • Sence of Control and Competence
  • Close Listening
  • Additive Arguments (always start with Yes)

Creative

  • Pattern Recognition
  • Risk Taking

How Flow Works - The Flow Cycle

The Flow state is not a constant state, in fact, most of the time we're not in Flow. It's difficult for the organism to produce the necessary chemicals and energy that are required to sustain the state. The Flow state has 4 cycles: Struggle, Release, Flow, and Recovery. The first phase, is difficult and it may be stressful, but the next phase should be relaxation or simply getting away from working on the problem which. The release state opens room for needed hormones to enter the body, and the "flow" state follows. After the flow state, the body needs time to recover, or in other words, to produce the hormones again. It's important to be aware of the Recovery phase, because the performer may feel a very significant drop in performance after the flow state.

Closing Thoughts

It's very helpful if you are just aware of the flow state as a phenomenon. You will be less frustrated and understand what is happening to your body and mind. Furthermore, you are able to practice and plan which activities and times you are performing the most or experiencing the most. Use your best hours wisely, they may be 4 to 5 times more valuable than the rest of your time of working or performing. Remember that the body needs these states, and if you don't choose where and when they happen, it's very likely that you will unconsciously form habbits, and potentialy harmfull habbits, so be carefull. Meditation is a great way to enter flow, withought much or any phyisical effort, so if you are a non-sports person consider it.

Comments - What Are Your Favorite Flow Inducing Activities?

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    • Filip Stojkovski profile imageAUTHOR

      Filip Stojkovski 

      16 months ago

      Mary Wickison - indeed, I've been practicing Aikido for years and really liked the concept and ideas, because so much of the practice was intended to develop something I had no words for and after reading about flow states, it became much clearer. What's even more amazing, it's soo universal and influential in human behavior. I'm glad you liked it.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      16 months ago from Brazil

      Although I had heard of the flow state, I wasn't aware of the different cycles or the possible triggers.

      It is a fascinating subject.

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